Health and Wellness

Americans say this is the most important thing for overall happiness – and it isn't health or money

@Elisall | Twenty20

When asked to rank the most important factor for overall happiness, Americans said relationships are No. 1 – even over health and money, according to Charles Schwab's 2020 Modern Wealth Survey.

That was the top answer both before the pandemic, and now amid the pandemic.

The Schwab survey included 1,000 Americans aged 21 to 75 and was conducted in two waves: the first from January 9 to January 16, and the second from June 25 to July 2. 

When surveyed in June and July, 39% of Americans ranked relationships as the No. 1 driver of overall happiness; 27% said health was most important; 17% said money, 14% said lifestyle; and 3% said career, according to the survey. In January, the order of results were similar.

When broken down by age group, results from both millennials (ages 24 to 39, according to Schwab) and Gen X (ages 40 to 55) followed the same order of importance.

But from January to June, boomers (ages 56 to 74) had a small change of heart about what was most important. 

In January, before the pandemic in the U.S., relationships (40%) and health (40%) tied for the most important factor driving happiness for boomers, with money in second place (11% said it was most important). Then in June, amid the pandemic, relationships became the top driver mentioned, with 44% saying it was most important. Health fell to second place, with just 34% saying it was most important, and lifestyle (13%) came in third, displacing money (9%). 

The idea that relationships, health and lifestyle are more important to happiness than money is logical, experts say.

"At the end of the day, we're humans and we struggle with existential issues like, What's the meaning of life? And, Who am I?" Brad Klontz, a financial therapist and psychology professor at Creighton University, previously told CNBC Make It. "And those sort of questions don't go away when you get a bunch of money."

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