Money provides a lot of what can make you happy, including peace of mind, a sense of success and the freedom to live your life the way you please. That's according to a new survey from Boston Private, titled "The Why of Wealth," which surveyed 300 respondents worth between $1 million and $20 million to determine how wealth affects quality of life.
When asked what wealth is, 54 percent say, simply, happiness. And money grants one thing even more prominently than happiness, 65 percent of survey respondents agree: peace of mind.
While money itself cannot manufacture happiness, contentment or success, it can facilitate a lifestyle that makes satisfaction more likely. "Aside from the intangible emotional and psychological benefits, people view wealth as an enabler — it enables them to have freedom, a happy family life and to pursue social and leisure activities they enjoy," the survey reports.
When asked what their wealth enables them to do, 70 percent of survey respondents report that it permits them financial independence and freedom. Half of respondents say that it allows for a happy family life and 44 percent say that it grants them the ability to travel extensively.
For some, wealth means the ability to be your own boss. That's the case for Tom Aley, an entrepreneur whose affluence allowed him to leave a high-paying job and start his own business. "The whole guiding principle was, I liked to be independent. I could do more things. I didn't have to be beholden to anyone," Aley tells The New York Times.
For others, money means being able to be a force for good. Elizabeth Galbut Perelman chose to use her resources to start a company that invests in women-run businesses. "For me, at an early age, wealth was about being able to create the change you wish to see in the world," the 29-year-old tells the Times.
However, attaining a high level of wealth also comes with regrets. Nearly half of all respondents of Boston Private's survey say the No. 1 thing they would have done differently is spend more time with their families.
"Wealthy individuals may feel they owe an emotional debt to their families," the survey reports. "Here we see the emotional interplay of regret, guilt and compensation."
Other popular regrets include taking better care of their health (27 percent); following their passions and dreams (24 percent); and pursuing higher education (22 percent).
But even for those who aren't multi-millionaires, how you spend the money you do have can contribute to higher levels of peace and happiness. "In terms of our happiness, time is really the fundamental currency," University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn tells CNBC Make It. "What really matters for your day-to-day moods is what it is you're doing with your time."
While splurging on material items such as new clothes might not not bring you happiness, spending money on things that feel like they add more time back into your day can help you feel less stressed.
In a study Dunn co-authored and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and also ran an experiment in which they gave people $40 for two weeks.
One week they had to buy something material and then, the following week, they used the money to buy themselves more free time. Some examples of time-saving costs include hiring someone else to mow your lawn or clean your home, ordering take-out, taking cabs over public transportation or shopping online.
People reported feeling happier when they used their money for time-saving services than when they spent on material things. So, before you reach for your card, ask yourself: "Will this purchase change the way I spend my time on an average day?"
"If the answer is no, then maybe consider not spending the money and saving it," Dunn says.
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