Happiness and Economic Growth Go Hand in Hand

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This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.

When I read the headline of this FastCompany blog post, I immediately thought of all those freelancers out there who have made the switch from an unhappy existence in their full time job to freelance freedom.

The saying that “money can’t buy you happiness” is true. I know plenty of well-off people who are miserable. But can happiness really mean increased economic growth? Some people think so.

Happiness economics is a new term to me. What it is is the quantitative study of happiness—the positive and negative effect it has concerning economics. These happiness economists measure happiness using subjective measures, so the accuracy and reliability of responses to, say, a survey, is always a concern.

While money can’t buy you happiness, studies show that richer nations are also happier nations. According to the Easterlin paradox, it’s been found that once wealth reaches a certain level, it’s effectiveness to make people happy is diminished. A 2010 Princeton University study found that higher earners generally reported better life satisfaction but their day-to-day happiness only rose until they reached an income of $75,000.

Happiness in America peaked in the 1950s. The Great Depression was over and the soldiers were home from WWII. Europe was also rebuilding from the war. Television made its way into homes and the space race was on between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. There seemed to be a lot to be excited about. But that was 60 years ago. We need to get to peak happiness again.

Where do we start? How about in our daily lives?

How many of you reading this post are (or were) stuck in a job you weren’t happy about? Maybe you have a terrible boss or feel creatively stifled. Maybe there are no growth opportunities in your present job, that you aren’t being challenged, and you feel like there should be more out there for you.

Being a freelancer is a great way to take control of your own happiness.

Being a freelancer is a great way to take control of your own happiness. Why put in 110% for someone else’s bottom line when you could be doing it for yourself?

The great thing about freelancing in the 21st century is that you can work no matter where you happen to be. Many freelancers work on the road thanks to technological advances in broadband, wifi, and portable devices. And the influx of these devices in the market are making them more affordable than ever.

I remember the father of my best friend in high school had a car phone. It was one of those huge things that plugged into a box stashed under the seat. We weren’t allowed to use it because it was so expensive. Today, you can get a new phone each year if you feel like it—and sometimes it costs as little as a couple of pennies.

Setting up a home office is an investment that could change your life. Unfortunately, small business lending has barely picked up from it’s low in 2010, so don’t quit your day job to start up freelancing full time without a little cushion. Make a list of all the things you will need to get started, including the software you will use. Open Source software is a great, free alternative, but depending on the nature of your business, you very well might need the most recent version of Adobe Creative Suite.

You will also need to think about how you want to handle your finances. Will you get a business credit card or separate business bank account? Find a good accountant who can tell you what receipts you should save and what sorts of write-offs you can take on a home-based business.

Sure, it sounds like setting up a freelance career is a lot of work—and it is—but for many, the benefits are well worth it. All it takes is some logistical and financial planning, as well as the courage to say “bye bye” to your current job.

We’ve all had that miserable job at one time in our lives or another. And when we look back on it, quitting that terrible job becomes a highlight in the rest of our lives. You might not get rich on being a freelancer, but your happiness index has the capacity to skyrocket.

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