Compared with a homeless person on the street, you're probably relatively wealthy. You probably have a warm home, some food in the fridge and comfortable clothes.
But you probably don't feel rich. If you were truly well off, you figure, you'd be able to afford that new flat-screen TV. Or a new car. Or maybe one more dinner out each week.
"Just a little bit more" is how John D. Rockefeller famously answered the question, "How much money is enough?" But if you're always chasing more, you'll never be able to enjoy what you have. What's 'enough' to you?
So how do you know when you have enough money to make you happy? I believe there's a four-step formula you can use to calculate your "enough" number, get smarter about reaching it -- and enjoy it once you're there.
But first, some background on the money-happiness relationship (or lack thereof). Over the past several decades, studies have shown, economic growth in almost all developed societies has brought only a very modest rise in subjective well-being.
Take the United States: Richard A. Easterlin, an economics professor at the University of Southern California and a former Guggenheim Fellow, has done extensive research that "found no significant relationship between happiness and time over a period in which GDP (gross domestic product) per capita grew by one-third, from 1972 to 1991." Slide show: See 4 things getting cheaper
"Two economists, Andrew Oswald at Warwick University and David Blanchflower from Dartmouth, found that there's no improvement in happiness in either the U.S. or Great Britain as income rises," Easterlin explains. "If you follow a single person over time as they move from lower income to higher income, you find no increase in their happiness."
Similarly, Eric Weiner notes in "The Geography of Bliss" that America -- "the wealthiest nation in the world" -- is "three times richer than we were in 1950, yet no happier."
Talk back: How much money do you need to be happy?
And the phenomenon isn't limited to America. In 1958, Japan had an average per capita income of about $3,000. By 1989, Japan was one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but there had been little discernible change in subjective well-being (a mere 3% increase over 30 years).
You might protest that these figures are societal averages: Surely the most affluent members of society feel like they have enough? But I've spent 13 years as a certified financial planner, and my financial-planning firm, Abacus, works with many high- and ultrahigh-net-worth individuals -- and I can tell you emphatically that money does not buy happiness. What money buys
In fact, in a study of members of the Forbes 400