I’ve just taken Australian Unity’s Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) test – and discovered I am, well, pretty happy, actually. In fact, I am happier than most – and many Australians are a very happy lot.

The average score of the Index, developed with Deakin University as a measure of our general feelings towards life, is 75. So we are three quarters satisfied with our lot. Not bad, considering all the gloom and doom that assails us every day.

The index scores your feelings about work, relationships and financial security. It’s quick to take, but telling, nonetheless. And contains a few lessons for those thinking about their money.

They say money can’t buy happiness and the Index bears this out. But security and financial control does make us happy, and that’s an important point.

Perhaps you won’t be surprised that the correlation between increased happiness and increased income is greatest in lower income groups. The richer you are, the less money affects your wellbeing.

In hard cash terms, the report states: “To shift wellbeing by one point for those in households earning $15,000–$30,000 annually, an extra $18,750 of income is required. But for households earning $150,000–$250,000 an extra wellbeing point will cost more than $147,000.” In other words, as the rich get richer, they don’t necessarily get happier. But as the poor get richer, they do.

“The power of money to affect wellbeing lies in its capacity to alleviate stress and create an environment for happiness.”

Women hit the normal level of wellbeing at lower income levels than men ($15,000–$30,000 versus $31,000–$60,000). Overall, the wellbeing of those earning more than $100,000 is about four points
higher than for those earning less than $100,000. But the really important factor is control.

To quote the report: “The wellbeing of people who earn less than $100,000 a year, but rate themselves at least eight out of 10 for being in control of their finances is higher (76.48) than those who earn more than $100,000, but assess themselves five or below out of 10 in terms of financial control (73.06).

“The power of money to affect wellbeing lies in its capacity to alleviate stress and create an environment for happiness. Accordingly, people can achieve
normal levels of wellbeing even with low income, so long as they feel in control of how they spend it.”

And Australians are an existential lot, it appears. “More than a third of those in the September 2014 survey answered their best days are ‘right now’. This group reported wellbeing scores considerably above the normal range.

“Average PWI is one thing, but what PWI is okay and what isn’t? We believe there is a wide so-called normative range, between 60 and 90, as people are inherently different, some more positive, others less so.

“However if a person’s PWI is below 60 and stays that way over time, it is a signal … they are at risk of depression.”

So where did I fall? A rather smug and complacent 83.4.

Find your PWI by taking the survey here.

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