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Money: how many euros would we need to live our ideal life?

Lotto, sports betting, slot machines… One out of two French people bet money to try to win colossal sums. Beyond the hope of becoming wealthy, we amass wealth that motivates us to accomplish our projects, but it is not always enough for the eternally dissatisfied that we are. What if money brought happiness? And if the dream life had a price, what would it be?

From the psychoanalytical theories of Freud to the sociological works of Marx, our relationship to money has always been a determining psychological indicator. No society, even the most communist, can be conceived without an economy. Through its symbolic or more concrete function, money influences the sphere of social life and the disposition of the mind of each individual. In today’s modern society, ruled by money and power, living your dreams can be expensive. However, a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability points out that we would not be so determined to see our bank account receiving billions of euros. It would seem that the human being is less venal than his reputation suggests. To live his ideal life, he would need a very specific sum, far from the ten-figure amounts offered in the lottery, refuting the economic belief according to which we are eternally dissatisfied.

Our relationship to money, a great history of psychoanalysis

Take it easy while sipping cocktails by the pool… Who hasn’t dreamed of that? Or maybe you prefer to shop without ever being limited by any budget? Or devote yourself to a project that requires a considerable amount of money? Like everyone else, you have dreams, the project of an “ideal” life, but to achieve this, a major obstacle often stands in your way: money. If it can block your quest for happiness, it can be just as life-saving.

“Money has a very powerful symbolism”, told us Marie-Claude François-Laugier, psychoanalyst and author of How to settle accounts with money.

“For many, it is synonymous with power, strength, absolute pleasure. It also allows some to exercise power over others, in the couple, in the family or within the company, ”she continued. If it is above all synonymous with protection, security and comfort, money is a source of pleasure for Man. But a pleasure “which can sometimes take on an unhealthy dimension”, warns Marie-Claude François-Laugier.

Nearly 25,000 euros per year to satisfy us?

Imagine a fortune falling on you. You could still be thirsty for wealth or, on the contrary, be satisfied with the amount received, or even to use only part of it. If you had to choose the amount to winning the lottery, what would it be? Because to satisfy your desires does have a price. But which one? To study the behavior of homo economicus -theoretical representation of individuals analyzed by economists- and their relationship to money, British researchers asked the following question: “Who wants to be a billionaire?” “. While one would tend to think that societal consumerism would drive people to demand unlimited resources, scientists at the University of Bath in the UK have challenged this belief. To arrive at this inference, Dr. Paul Bain’s team from the Department of Psychology surveyed nearly 8,000 people in more than 33 countries, including those less used in cross-cultural psychology such as Vietnam, Tunisia, Uganda, Saudi Arabia or Nicaragua.

To assess the average amount you need to achieve your dreams and live an “absolutely ideal life”, the researchers asked participants to choose the amount they would have liked to win in the lottery, between 10,000 dollars (9,870 euros) and 100 billion dollars (98.8 billion euros). Their responses were surprising to say the least. Most respondents declined the largest sum offered to them. In 86% of countries, most people believed they could achieve their goals with US$10 million or less, or €98.6 million, and in some countries as little as US$1 million, or €986,985. If the sum chosen remains astronomical, the majority of those questioned refused unlimited wealth, which is revealing of our mode of consumption.

However, for a 38-year-old person with a life expectancy of 78 years, earning 1 million dollars is equivalent to only 25,000 dollars per year, or the equivalent of 24,600 euros, notes the study.

Break free from trivialized consumerism

“People with unlimited desires have been identified in all countries, but they have always been in the minority,” the University of Bath press release points out.

The most greedy were younger and urban, and placed more value on success, power and independence. Also, unlimited desires were more common in countries that were more accepting of inequality and in countries that were more collectivist: more focused on group responsibilities and outcomes than on individuals.

Another interesting fact that emanates from these results is how some cultures normalize consumerism. “The ideology of unlimited wants, when presented as a nature of being human, can create social pressure for people to buy more than they really want,” says lead author Dr Paul Bain. of the study. “Discovering that the price of the ideal life is finally moderate would allow people to free themselves from this consumer society and help save the planet”, continues the researcher.

While this finding is good news for the environment, it also reveals a discrepancy between people’s consumption patterns and government economic policies. “The results are a stark reminder that majority opinion is not necessarily reflected in policies that allow the accumulation of excessive amounts of wealth by a small number of individuals,” warns Dr. Renata Bongiorno, co-author of the work. of research. And to continue: “While most people strive for limited wealth, policies that support people’s most limited desires, such as a wealth tax to fund sustainability initiatives, may be more popular. than it is often described”.

How can money make us happy?

While the study highlights that social causes represent a motivation among people who opted for the largest sum of money, it does not mention any criteria defining the ideal life of the participants, leaving it to them to characterize them themselves. . However, the authors point out that the majority of respondents intend to use the money for individualistic purposes.

In addition to their research on a large panel of participants, the researchers also drew on previous studies exploring the links between money and happiness.

According to the study, greater wealth is linked to greater happiness, but only up to a point. From previous research on which the British researchers relied, they concluded that there was a limit beyond which money would no longer provide any pleasure. In the United States, this threshold corresponds to an annual household income of 105,000 dollars, reveals the study.

Having sufficient resources to meet basic needs such as food, shelter or financial security can contribute to people’s happiness or peace of mind. While financial problems are a source of stress and anxiety, “middle class” people who want more money to achieve their greatest aspirations are actually more comfortable but not extravagant, the study concludes.


Study : Evidence from 33 countries challenges the assumption of unlimited wantsNature Sustainability, June 2022.

Press release University oh Bath: “Who wants to be a billionaire? Most don’t – which is good news for the planet”.

For further

TEST – What is your relationship to money?


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