The Unexpected Ways a Big Raise Affects Your Happiness - Kanebridge News
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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 9:50amGrey 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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Savvy travellers who plan their trips around dining at their destination’s most in-demand restaurants know that securing a reservation at a top Paris eatery isn’t an easy proposition on any given day.

Come the Olympics in July, when the city is flooded with tourists, one would expect the jockey sport to snag a table to be that much more intense. But that’s not necessarily shaping up to be the case. As of mid-May, Parisian insiders such as hotel managers, restaurant owners, and local luxury concierges reported that inquiries at sought-after spots were no higher than usual, foretelling a potential opportunity for visitors looking for a fine-dining experience during the games.

The time to book falls over the next few weeks given that many top spots don’t take reservations until one month before the dining date.

The Michelin-starred Jean Imbert Au Plaza Athenee and Le Relais Plaza, both at Hotel Plaza Athenee and helmed by the renowned French chef Jean Imbert, are two examples.

Francois Delahaye, the COO of the Dorchester Collection, a hospitality company that includes the Plaza Athenee and a second Paris property, Le Meurice, says that his regular guests who are visiting for the games and Parisians who frequent the restaurants know not to call too far in advance of when they want to dine.

Further, he doesn’t foresee reservations being a challenge at either venue or at Le Meurice’s two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse.

“Booking for the restaurants won’t be an issue because people are planning meals at the last minute,” Delahaye says. “Also, the people who are in Paris specifically for the Olympics are here for the games, not to eat at restaurants. They’re not the big-spending clientele that we usually get.”

Delahaye doesn’t expect the kinds of peak crowds that descend on fine dining during Fashion Week each spring and autumn, for example, when trying to land a seat at the three eateries is nearly impossible. “People are fighting to get in,” he says. “You need to book through your hotel’s concierge, have an inside source, or be a hotel or restaurant regular.”

Several Paris luxury concierge companies echoed Delahaye’s perspective

Manuel de Croutte, the founder of Exclusive & Private, says that Paris regulars probably aren’t planning a trip when the Olympics transpire—from July 26 to Aug. 11—because they want to avoid the tourist rush. “We’ve gotten some reservation requests from people who’ve heard about us but not nearly as many as we usually get when the very wealthy travellers are here,” he says.

During peak periods like the French Open or Fashion Week, de Croutte says that his job entails making bookings for travellers who don’t have any other way to get into buzzy or Michelin-starred establishments.

“You’re unlikely to get a table at a see-and-be-seen place without knowing someone,” de Croutte says. “No one picks up the phone or answers email.” He says his team has established relationships with managers and owners of many of the hot spots in Paris and often visits them in person to land tables.

Exclusive & Private’s Black Book of Paris restaurant recommendations for Olympic visitors span a broad range, from casual bistros to fine-dining.

Michelin eateries include the three-star Le Gabriel at La Reserve, the two-star Le Clarence near the Champs-Elysee, and the two-star Le Taillevent.

Spots without a Michelin star but equally notable are also on de Croutte’s list: L’ Ami Jean offers traditional and flavourful southwestern French cuisine, Allard is a brasserie from Alain Ducasse, and Laurent serves French food to a fashionable set.

“My favourite neighbourhood for restaurants is Saint Germain de Pres,” de Croutte says. “You’ll find unassuming but chic names with excellent food and a great vibe. You can book with these places directly if you’re here for the Olympics, but don’t wait until the last minute because they will get filled.”

He also cautions that some Paris eateries are asking for nonrefundable prepayments for reservations during the Olympics.

“Be sure you want to go before committing and ask about the refund policy if you are charged,” he says.

Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu Paris, says her bespoke travel company charges a lump sum of about US$750 to make all the restaurant bookings for the Olympic period, though the price varies depending on the dates and the number of restaurants that a client requests. “Reservations around the closing ceremony are harder to come by because that’s when more elite travelers are coming to Paris and want the chic restaurants that are always difficult to get a table at,” she says.

Meanwhile, chefs at some Michelin-starred restaurants share that they have tables available during the Olympics and welcome travellers to their establishments.

Thibaut Spiwack, for one, behind the Michelin-starred Anona, serving modern French cuisine, and the culinary consultant for the popular Netflix series Emily in Paris , says that he is open for reservations.

“My team and I look forward to sharing a culinary experience with new clientele that I hope will remain in their memory,” he says.

Spiwack suggests that travellers check out other worthwhile restaurants where he himself dines. For terrific wine, there’s Lava, and for Italian, he likes Epoca where the pastas are “divine.” Janine is the best bistro in town, and Prima wins for a pizza fix, he says.

“You have a lot of restaurants in Paris to pick from,” Spiwack says. “You just need to determine where you want to go, and book as soon as you can.”