Inside Wealth

Who Says Wealth Doesn't Buy Happiness? The Wealthy Do

Farhad J Parsa | Photolibrary | Getty Images

Benjamin Franklin defined a rich man as "he who is contented." Who is that, he asked? "Nobody."

Many of the wealthy, it seems, would agree.

A new survey from Spectrem Group finds that only 20 percent of affluent and wealthy investors agree that "money can buy happiness." Nearly half disagree with the statement and the rest didn't agree or disagree.

(Read more: What's 'Rich'? Depends on How Old (And Rich) You Are)

Does Money Buy Happiness?

The results, however, depend a little bit on how much wealth you already have. So-called "affluent" investors – those with between $500,000 and $1 million in investible assets – were less likely to agree than the wealthy investors, or those with $5 million or more. Only 16 percent of the affluents said money can buy you happiness, while 20 percent of the wealthy agreed.

So the truly wealthy are more likely to say that wealth can buy happiness – and they would know.

Age also matters. The older you are, the less likely you tend to believe that wealth brings happiness. More than a third of those under 40 said money can buy happiness. But only 18 percent of those age 60 or more agreed.

The Spectrem study adds to a growing field of research on wealth and happiness. Countless studies have now shown that more money does bring more happiness – but only up to a point. Research conducted by the Princeton economist Angus Deaton and Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that added income brings a measurable impact on day-to-day contentment – until you get to around $75,000. After that the happiness effects of added income are minimal.

(Read more: A $95 Million Apartment, With $60,000 Monthly Fees)

The study found that a different measure of happiness – overall "life assessment" or broader satisfaction with one's place in the world – does increase with money. People who earned $160,000 a year, for instance, reported more overall satisfaction than people earning $120,000, and so on.

So while giving people more income beyond $75,000 doesn't boost their daily mood it can make them feel better about their overall life.

How much money do you think you'd need to feel both kinds of "happy"?