Here's What Your Checking Account Says About You

by Daniel Barna

If you happen to find that your mood fluctuates depending on how padded or depleted your checking account is, well, you’re not alone.

A new study from the journal Emotion found a glaring link between how much accessible cash we have and how happy we are. Researchers unearthed the correlation after analyzing data from nearly 600 customers of an anonymous U.K. bank.

In fact, money that’s readily available to us is so important to our well-being that it trumps large annual salaries and paralyzing debt.

“No matter how much the customers had or earned, no matter how much debt they had, having a buffer of easily accessible cash was associated with greater happiness,” said Peter Ruberton, University of California, Riverside, doctoral candidate and the study’s lead author.

Why do we prize the money in our checking account above all else? Our obsession with liquid wealth might have something to do with our tendency to value the present over the future, which Dr. Fuschia Sirois, a psychology professor at the University of Sheffield, England, has called “temporal myopia.”

This “temporal myopia” might also explain why researchers noticed that the link between our checking account balance and our happiness tends to fade the more money we have.

“That first $1000 is more important than the next $9000,” Ruberton added. “The hedonic benefits to your happiness will be experienced once you save enough to feel comfortable with your finances, but saving above that point buys you relatively little in terms of well-being.”

Read Daniel Kahneman’s New York Times best-seller Thinking, Fast and Slow for advice on how to properly manage your finances.

What makes you happiest: checking or savings? 

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