The Unexpected Ways a Big Raise Affects Your Happiness
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The Unexpected Ways a Big Raise Affects Your Happiness

Getting more money often leads to immediate satisfaction. The good feelings might not last.

By JOE PINSKER
Mon, Jan 15, 2024 9:03amGrey Clock 4 min

Up and down the income ladder, people say more money would make them happier. When they actually get it, that isn’t always the case.

Some people who have gotten big raises recently say the money hasn’t changed their day-to-day life or hasn’t provided them as much joy as the things in their life that have nothing to do with money. Others were hoping for a bigger raise or felt conflicted about making more money.

Jess Tapia, a 28-year-old accountant in Hoffman Estates, Ill., thought for years that $90,000 was a salary that would make her happy. When a raise of about $20,000 pushed her pay to that level last February, it did—at first.

To celebrate, Tapia booked a vacation to Germany the next month. The good vibes soon wore off.

“By the time I came back from that trip, it kind of fell flat for me because it was just back to normal, back to the routine,” she said.

The past few years have been good ones for workers seeking higher pay. Median year-over-year wage growth hit a recent peak of 6.7% in summer 2022, after mostly staying below 4% for more than a decade before 2021, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve. Many of those who switched jobs, or threatened to, made substantial salary gains.

And people with higher incomes do tend to be happier, many studies show. Research looking at lotteries and random cash giveaways indicates that additional money can make people happier for months or even years.

But moving up the income scale, it takes more money to generate the same good feelings, said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, an economics professor at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford who studies well-being. The proportion of the increase matters.

“If an employer moves somebody from $15,000 to $30,000, that will have an impact on people’s life satisfaction that is the equivalent of them moving somebody from, say, $60,000 to $120,000,” De Neve said.

More is more

A pay increase that takes someone from financially stressed to financially stable often leads to more happiness. At the low end of the earnings spectrum, a higher income is associated more with squashing negative feelings than producing positive ones, according to a 2021 paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Randeep Chauhan, a 30-year-old nurse in Ferndale, Wash., went from making about $45,000 in 2021 to $90,000 in 2022 after completing a one-year nursing program.

“Doubling my income didn’t double my happiness, but it came close,” he said.

For Chauhan, much of the happiness boost came from being able to stop worrying about being able to cover his family’s monthly bills. He said his blood pressure dropped to a healthy level after his change in pay, which he attributes largely to the drop-off in financial stress.

If you get a raise, don’t just spend it, said Neela Hummel, a financial planner and the co-CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners.

“The worst thing that can happen with a raise is that that money gets immediately folded into cash flow and a client doesn’t even notice it,” she said.

Many people also jump ahead to how nice a car or how big a house they could afford with a new paycheck. Instead, Hummel advises, take the raise as an opportunity to up your savings or pay down debt.

Chauhan said he has avoided lifestyle creep, putting money toward retirement savings and student loans instead of buying a new computer or phone. “There’s a weird rush in making money and not spending it,” he said.

Austin Benacquisto’s pay has rocketed upward over the past few years. The 29-year-old commercial debt broker in Atlanta made roughly $60,000 in 2019, $110,000 in 2020, $180,000 in 2021 and $325,000 in 2022, including bonuses.

His steps up to $110,000 and $180,000 felt better than the one up to $325,000, he said.

“The last 50,000 I made in 2022 just was for stuff in my house that I wanted,” he said.

Benacquisto’s pay fell to about $200,000 last year as his industry slowed down. The drop felt worse than the recent increases felt good, he said.

“This being the first decrease, it definitely stings,” he said.

The paycheck next door

People’s happiness with their pay is strongly tied to how it compares with the pay of others around them, say researchers who study compensation. Sometimes, those comparisons rankle.

A 30% raise made Ryan Powell less happy at work.

Powell, a 38-year-old finance director for a manufacturer in western North Carolina, received that pay bump in 2022. He had been hoping for more based on the salary information he had heard from recruiters, peers in the industry and his M.B.A. cohort.

The initial thrill of the raise lasted about three months, he said.

“The further I got into it, the more I was realising that I was anchored to the higher number,” he said.

Executives are more likely to leave their companies if their pay is low compared with other top bosses, according to a 2017 study in the journal Human Resource Management.

Comparisons matter closer to home, too. Living in an area where people tend to make more money than you is linked to being less happy, according to a 2005 paper in The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

One reason that Tapia, the accountant in Illinois, isn’t happier after her raises is that she feels guilt about making more money than her parents ever did. Her dad works in construction and landscaping.

“I work from home mostly, I’m comfortable and I’m always indoors. During summertime, he’s sometimes outside working 10 hours in 100-degree weather,” she said.

Tapia recently got another raise of roughly $10,000. She again booked a vacation to Europe but is hoping to extend her joy further this time.

“I’m starting to feel like this is going to plateau, so let me try and make the feeling last a little longer with this trip,” she said.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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