Happiness By Age: Stay Away From 35-60 Year Olds

Everybody wants to be happy all the time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unhappy and lonely people all around us, especially post pandemic. This post looks at happiness by age.

It's interesting to see how much happiness changes at different points in our lives. Thankfully, we tend to get happier as we get older.

How Happy Am I Currently?

We should all ask ourselves how happy are we currently.

Today if I were to rate my happiness on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being deliriously happy, I would give myself an 8. Historically, I'd say my happiness probably fluctuated between a 5-7 during my high school years, a 7-9 in my college years, and a 6-8 in my 20s and early 30s.

High school was stressful because I knew so much of my future was riding on getting good grades and SAT scores. Combine academic pressure with athletic demands and peer pressure to be “cool,” I wonder why more kids don't fall into the deep end, especially with absentee parents working all the time.

College was pretty exhilarating due to all the sudden freedom. Food was plentiful and the parties outrageously fun. Being able to date so many people was a blast. Oh yeah, and learning new subjects was a nice benefit too.

The only real pressure from college came from the expectation of finding a good job. Spending four years of time and lots of money only to end up with nothing would be a great disappointment.

Peak Happiness

The relief of actually getting a full-time job catapulted my happiness to a 9. But the happiness didn't last due to the 70+ hour work weeks. Getting in before sunrise and leaving after sunset got depressing after a while. My happiness tumbled to a 6 when I realized all my work in college had led to one big endless grind.

Even a generous promotion at age 27 only made me a 9 level happy for a couple months. Then it was back to being a whipping boy for clients and playing corporate politics. By 2011, my happiness again dropped to a 6. The financial crisis had taken its toll and I was tired of doing the same crap.

It was in October 2011 while drinking an overpriced Mythos beer at the top of Santorini, Greece that my happiness rocketed to a 10. 

I was overlooking the crater on a sunny 78 degree day and had just earned $1,200 via Paypal from an advertising client in the span of 30 minutes. It wasn't the money that made me happy, it was the realization that I found a way out of prison.

Then Happiness Came Tumbling Down

Ever since I engineered my layoff in 2012 at the age of 34, my happiness level has stayed between 7-8, with only brief moments of 9-10.

I attribute my happiness to an incredible wife, the growth of Financial Samurai, good health, and a bull market. But one day my happiness took a tumble, and it stayed around a 5 for about three weeks.

What happened?

During these three weeks, I experienced tremendous lower back pain – pain I hadn't suffered in over 15 years. Online, I was being judged by non-parents regarding my insurance plan for my son's future.

Offline, I was tired because I stubbornly kept a rigorous posting schedule despite now being a full-time dad between 8am – 10pm every day since birth.

Having children creates so much joy. But children also bring about misery due to constant exhaustion and worry.

Check out the best reason to retire early where I talk more in detail about my happiness journey.

Happiness By Age Across The World

As any rational person would do, I began researching whether something was wrong with me. Here are some interesting charts on happiness and age I found. Can you see any patterns?

Happiness by age chart
American Survey
Happiness by age in the United States, UK, Germany, Russia, China, and Latin American countries
Happiness by age in European Union

Well what do you know. At the age of 45, I'm in the beginning stages of “the trough of unhappiness.” In America, we experience a dip in happiness between the ages of 35 – 60.

Even in the European Union, where many of the happiest countries in the world are located, there's a trough of happiness between 35 – 60. If you can live past 60, the good thing is that happiness generally improves until death.

The only country where you don't want to live is Russia, where from birth happiness is on a continuous decline! No wonder why the Russians like to meddle with other country's politics and go to war with its neighbor, Ukraine. They wanted out of the motherland after realizing how good others got it.

What Happens Between The Age Of 35 – 60 To Cause Unhappiness?

You would think that being financially independent at 40, owning a sustainable lifestyle business, receiving regular positive feedback from readers, and having a family would give me maximum happiness.

But it has not due to three main reasons.

1) Hedonic adaptation.

The beautiful thing about the human spirit is that even in dire situations, we have the ability to keep hope alive. At the same time, even if you have every thing you want, the happiness boost never lasts long. We always revert back to our steady state of happiness over the long term.

Think about all the good things that have happened to you: getting into college, getting a job, getting a promotion, getting a raise, finding a partner, finally feeling rich, buying your dream home, having a baby, making a best friend etc.

Each event might give you a 1 or 2 point boost, but sooner or later, the boost will fade as responsibility kicks in. It's kind of sad really.

2) Sandwiched in the middle.

As a new father, I feel the strains of taking care of my little one. His mom and I are his guardian, physical therapist, educator, and caretaker all-in-one. At the same time, our parents are over 70, and they can no longer walk, climb stairs, drive, remember, and think as they once did.

Folks between the age of 35 – 60 are dealing with the responsibility of caring for two generations, while usually also managing their careers. Financial strain may come into play due to the cost of healthcare, day care, and assisted-living care. My wife had to fly to Japan to help deal with her deceased aunt's estate. My wife was stressed out for two months!

Our steady stress comes from being 5+ hours away by plane from both sets of parents. We worry about basic things like whether they'll be able to safely maneuver the stairs without falling.

It would be amazing if they all came to the Bay Area so we can check in on them every week. But they are set in their ways, so it's up to us to move as soon as our son can become a little more independent.

Below is a great chart that shows how happiness dips for parents. Parents are least happy when their kids are 5 and in their teenage years. After the children leave the nest, happiness returns! Before having more children, really think about this chart.

Happiness by age post children

3) Fading Health.

After turning 40 I suffered back pain for the first time since my 20s, sprained my left ankle playing tennis, and tore muscles in both quadriceps playing softball. What the hell? The left ankle sprain happened even though I was wearing an ankle brace.

We were 2 hours, 10 minutes into a match when I went the wrong way guessing for an overhead smash. Both quads were strained because I had not properly warmed up. I hadn't gone from a standing position to a full sprint after hitting a ball in over a decade.

Our bodies rarely keep up with our minds because most of us are no longer manual laborers. My mind is strong because I exercise it every day thanks to this site. 

But my body is weak because I don't work out, don't stretch, and only play a sport at most three times a week. Nothing is worse than being injured or sick, especially when it rarely happens.

Happiness by age largely depends on your mental and physical health. I got to say, when I retired, a lot of my chronic pain went away within six months. The health benefits of early retirement are priceless. But so is greater happiness due to retiring early!

Below is a chart I drew that showed the best reason to retire early: greater happiness sooner for longer.

best reason to retire early, greater happiness, biggest benefit of retiring early

Money Is Just One Part Of Happiness

Definition of happiness

To be a truly holistic site that helps people, going forward, it's important Financial Samurai focuses more on Relationships and Health instead of just wealth creation. After all, we can have all the money in the world and it will mean nothing if we don't feel good and have nobody to share it with.

Let's optimize for happiness by building incredible friendships, staying in great shape, and building passive income so we have the freedom to choose our lives.

The next time a 35 – 60 year old makes you feel bad, give them a pass, including myself. And if you want to really get a happiness boost, find some 70+ year olds to hang out with. They might even teach you a thing or two about living a wonderful life.

Let's try to improve our happiness by age at every age. If we get our finances and our health right, our happiness should increase.

Recommendation For Greater Happiness

If there's one thing the pandemic has taught us, it's that life is not guaranteed. Uncertainty causes unhappiness. We must do everything we can to protect our children while they are still dependents.

As a result, please get life insurance if you want to boost your happiness. Not only should you get enough life insurance to cover your liabilities, your life insurance term should last long enough to get them through college.

Getting life insurance provides mental stress relief. With less stress, comes more happiness!

The best place to get life insurance is through PolicyGenius. PolicyGenius will help you find the best plan for the lowest price tailored to your needs. PolicyGenius provides free, no-obligation quotes so you can get the best rate.

In the past, you would have to get a life insurance quote by applying to individual carriers – the process was completely opaque. Now, you can have multiple qualified life insurance carriers compete for your business after applying on PolicyGenius. It's so much more efficient!

Both My Wife And I Are Set

After eight years of owning life insurance, my wife decided to check on PolicyGenius for free to see if should could do better. Lo and behold, my wife was able to double her life insurance coverage for less money. All this time, she thought she was getting the best deal with her existing carrier.

If you don't have life insurance, please get life insurance before you need to. Life insurance gets more expensive the older you get. If you get sick, depending on the severity of your sickness, you might not be able to qualify.

If you do have life insurance, I highly recommend checking PolicyGenius to try and get a better deal. Chances are high you're not getting the best terms. Let's protect our family!

More Suggestions

Pick up a copy of Buy This, Not That, my instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. The book helps you make more optimal investment decisions so you can live a better, more fulfilling life. 

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site. Please share, rate, and review!

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 65,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

93 thoughts on “Happiness By Age: Stay Away From 35-60 Year Olds”

  1. Your comment about Russia made me laugh. I would happily live in Russia over much of the world. Africa? Central America? Pakistan? India and most of the middle east? No thanks!

    Russia ” interfered” in our election? Lol. What by posting memes or Facebook posts? Russia did not force anyone to vote for Trump. He will probably win again with the total whack job candidates the Democrats put up.

    Ukraine interfered in our election too. I am sure others did, too. The US interfered in Israel’s election under Obama but we all know the American press is overwhelmingly Democrat and covered for Obama.

    On a side note this is a good site. You do a good job.

    The Russian thing gave me giggles. I would for sure take Russia over living in much of the world and for sure would take it over living in some American ghetto cities….as most Americans would.

    1. Nick, the fact you could relate anything to politics and use whataboutism is truly both amazing and pathetic. But keep giggling.

  2. Sam – Articles like this show that you are a very insightful person, and I think you should really be the next Oprah as you like to help people, and you just have a ton of insight on the human condition, as well as being very self-aware.

    I’m guessing you do not actually want to be the next Oprah (because of the fame it would bring), but I think you’re really doing a service by writing for a general audience on your web site to help all of us reach our goals.

    BTW, thanks for the podcasts. I listen to them as I drive to and from work, and I learn a lot.

  3. I am trending at around an 8 right now. I finished my master’s degree a month ago, and my husband and I make enough to where we can do updates on our home that we believe improve our happiness. Plus, I have a good job and I really like my coworkers. Working 40 hours a week and then going to school in the evenings SUCKED… I must have been at a 4-5 happiness level back then. Granted…I am an 8 because I am putting off studying for the Certified Public Accountant exam… I know that once I start studying for that beast, my happiness level will certainly drop.

  4. Excellent article. I’d agree with the cheeriness happening around 60+. My parents were bubbly and cheerful when I had my third child at 36. I was tired, achy, and not so cheerful with the duties of managing a family. It was weird that we were so different emotionally, but your article does a wonderful job of explaining the reasons. My parents were active and not longer in the sandwich generation – freer to be adventurous and zestful about life. And I was beginning to enter the tougher age of life with its multiple responsibilities for younger and older family members.

  5. This is a great thread- because all things, money, happiness, and health are correlated to a certain extent. I would agree with the curve going higher post high school. Once you are able to work, save, invest and do things you like the curve goes up. I hit my highs at 36 and 42 as I got to do both items on my so called bucket list through sheer luck- I’m booking marking this one- to check in with myself- the one thing I need to do is excercise more.

  6. I have absolutely both observed and felt this fluctuation with age. But this graph, with a range from 6.2 to 7, over exaggerates this variation. What I find remarkable is how well we adapt to our circumstances at any age. As I wrote in a letter to my younger self: relax, kid – you’ll be fine.

  7. Statistically within your real life social circle how many couples are still married vs divorced as a ratio in your demographic today?

  8. Interesting take on things, Sam.

    I have to wonder if this pursuit of happiness over all is wise, though.

    As the data shows, the time when babies show up and parents shuffle off is a time of considerable unhappiness. But I’d argue that unhappiness is necessary. It gives you something to beat down, something to live up to.

    It’s not fun being a great parent all the time, but I’ve never heard anyone honestly say they wish they didn’t have to do it. Meaning is much more important.

    I guess I don’t know much of anything being in my twenties still. But I notice two things about happiness vs meaning. You can meet people who have difficult yet meaningful jobs like nurses or volunteer firefighters that, despite somewhat regular gripes, could never give it up. And, you meet people with what are, on paper, cushy gigs that ultimately lack meaning, and those people usually get more and more unhappy and resentful over time.

    I don’t like making websites or studying grammar or watching charts. I don’t like exercise or waking up early. I don’t always even like my job. But all these things have meaning because they’re integrated into my personal story. They give my life meaning and a direction. I wouldn’t trade that to live in the 10-moments forever. As you said, hedonic adaptation is a thing, and when it kicks in AND you lack meaning to keep you pushing through, you’re in trouble.

  9. Very interesting stats! I’ve never seen happiness described that way before.

    I hear you on the hedonic adaptation. No matter what good things happen to us, we always get used to it after a period of time. What I found is that meeting new people and travelling has helped a LOT in changing things up so I don’t get into a rut. Things are always changing and I never feel bored. Ditto with passion projects. There’s always a new set of challenges to face and the feeling of building something never gets old.

    Health is definitely something we shouldn’t take for granted. No matter how much money you have, if you don’t have health, you can’t be happy.

  10. Hey, Sam,

    Speaking from the trough of sorrow here in my 40’s! And my case is not bad! Maybe a 7-8. I don’t have everything I want, but I am immensely grateful for what I have. I don’t just KNOW that I am lucky, I FEEL that I am lucky to have the life opportunities that I do. I feel lucky just being able to feel lucky because I know that’s where much of my happiness comes from. Your happiness is always going to correlate with how much gratitude is in your heart.

    Meanwhile, I’m guessing that the reason why people come out of the trough in their early 60’s is that they’ve been figuring out the kinks in their lives, building on their self-esteem, letting go of the petty unimportant issues. It’s not that they’ve passively existed from 35-60 and magically come out on the other side.

    Don’t forget the importance of getting a good sleep in terms of taking care of yourself.

    BTW I love that you have podcasts now. I’m usually so busy, that I don’t have time to read. All my news intake is through my ears as I use my eyes to do my work, so this format is a win for me. Also, with your style of writing, I’ve always felt like you were in conversation anyway. Podcasts suit you :)

  11. Interesting, I am 39 single and no kids. Dad is 75 y.o and has had an open heart surgery couple of years ago, so obviously that’s my biggest source of worry. But its easy for me to spend one whole day every week with him and doing his favorite activity. Which is walking and discussing the current world affair. I have to say that these are some of the happiest times of my life. I have enough resources and time to do whatever I want to do and care for my loved ones as well, in that sense I feel very fortunate since I have no idea how long dad will be with us. I could see how having children would take away a lot of resources and time from me.
    I see my friends and my sister who have to make very different choices in life comparing to me because they chose to have children. But I guess life is all about give and take. Obviously my sister can’t imagine her life without my nephew and that means that she has to cut back on spending time with our parents. I guess there are different sources of joy and love in life and the good news is that there is enough to go around for all of us in different forms.

    1. I live a simple life and avoid complications. When I was younger I was trying to survive and was mostly unhappy because it was never ending stress. Because I live simply (and remember very clearly what survival mode felt like) I’m happy at least 80% of the time. I find others sense this and it puts them as ease. I avoid a high overhead, save aggressively, am very careful in preserving my health, have no kids and don’t define myself by my (romantic or otherwise) relationships. When I have moments where I’m not happy I realize it is an emotion and I don’t let it define my reality. I ask myself if I’m hungry, tired, etc. and if so I fulfill my need, which resets my balance. If I’m sad or unhappy I focus on something else and find it quickly fades.

  12. Jim Dougherty

    A fun book “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” helped me to understand that your happiness level drops about 10% after first kid, a further 1.5% upon the arrival of the second and even after that, no matter how many kids you have. The book also has simple tips on how to remain sane and happy during the early years. I recommend it for any young parent feeling overwhelmed. It is an easy read too.
    My other tip regarding older parents is to strive to get some help in place before a health disaster. Even if it is someone just checking on them a couple hours a week or doing some small task and checking on them without them really know they are being checked on. It can at least lower stress a day or two a week for a out of state relative. Yes, it may take a couple people to find the right fit but it is better then waiting until they are getting discharged and scrambling to find someone and paying double by using an agency. This of course if you have the extra money although it might only end up being a couple hundred dollars a month. The task could be anything and if you find someone with past medical degree going with them to medical appointments can be valuable. I work in healthcare and surprised how many patients who are just a little bit confused come in alone and sign up for a fairly big surgery.

  13. Christine J Quinn

    Love this post and all of the comments. I’m impressed by everyone’s ability to measure their happiness on the 1-10 scale. In general I’m a pretty happy person, but it does give me pause to put a number to it. Sometimes I find myself way to critical about things (by product of a career as a management consultant always trying to problem solve). Have periodically found myself on the lower end of the scale and struggling to find a different perspective. BEST THING I did was a simple exercise from some self help book. Draw a horizontal line and from your earliest memory until now write all of the good memories above the line and all of the bad memories below the line (in chronological order). I quickly found that vast majority of the happy memories were in my teens and early 20s and the negatives crept in significantly once I started my career. I realized that I let work create a new dynamic vs. building off the things I love – being outside, being active, being in group/team settings, etc… Made several changes and that made all the difference!

  14. Interesting chart on the Happiness vs Per Capita Income.
    My 1st was born when I was in SF. When my wife was pregnant, she couldn’t stand the smell of food. Our eating became a difficult task, I’m not that great in the kitchen. My wife developed frizzy hair for the first time in her life after the baby was born. It was us handling the whiny kid, feeding him in the middle of the night, warming his milk bottle at 3 am, standing in the kitchen. Damn, it was hard. My 2nd was born in Pune (India). We decided to hire a cook (more affordable). Kitchen issues sorted. It’s always a full-time job to handle a kid but having kitchen worries reduced 80% was a huge help. Once in a few months, a grandparent visited. We welcomed the short breaks and the useful advice on how to take care of the baby with less stress.

    I felt that even though I was 37 when the 2nd came (as opposed to 32 for the 1st), I had more energy left to play with him and enjoy him. The baby too, seems to me, to be a happier child. Perhaps lesser stress on the parents is one factor that contributes to your own happiness levels later in life?

  15. Overall I feel my happiness level has increased every year. It’s changed in many ways over time but I do feel pretty darn happy and I’m really grateful for that. I try not to let too many things bother me, maybe that has something to do with it. Sure there are things that could be better in my life that would bring me more happiness but I just feel lucky every day so I really can’t ask for more. There will always be somethings that could be better but I’ve been trying to let go of hoping for perfectection bc that simply isn’t realistic. I try to make the most of what I have even though I know my ability to get things done has really taken a nose dive in the last year and a half.

    Really insightful charts btw. I’m surprised the elderly are so happy! I look forward to that! :)

  16. So true about the sandwich generation. Having 2 young kids, dealing with work, and having older parents with health issues is tough. So carefree and stressfree when I was in college…for the most part. Both my wife’s parents and my parents are local so we can check up on them. I love my parents and don’t want to sound like a horrible son but having them local can be stressful at times as well. The weekdays are filled with work and pretty much every Sunday my mom wants us to come over so she can see the grandkids. My MIL…we visit as well but not as often. With that as well as kids’ activities and household chores/errands…the weekend is pretty much shot. I guess I need to reach FIRE to free up some time!

    1. Ah, the downsides of having the parents live so close! What if you just tell her “not this weekend” and highlight how so many folks only see their parents once a quarter or even once a year? Will she be supremely offended? What about just dropping the kids off for an hour or two? :)

      1. Haha, I was contemplating highlighting how my cousins don’t see their mom (my mom’s sister) EVERY weekend. My mom is pretty good at laying that Asian mom guilt on thick though…or maybe I’m just very susceptible to it =)

  17. Thank you, Sam! This is by far one of my favorite of your posts! I used to have chronic lower back pains even AFTER i became financial independent since 2012 (~$5M net worth, grown to $8M since). My pains only stopped after I stopped interacting with corporate slaves around me at work – I stopped small talks, exchanging meaningless pleasantries, ignoring them when passing in the hallways, and make sure they know I have the FU money and i don’t give a fuck about them. I only hang out with young 25 years newly grad and senior 55+ folks who’ve already made it, and that has cured my back pains like nothing else (and i’ve tried them all: physical therapy, chiro, acupuncture, massage, core training, you name it, i’ve tried it).

    I’m absolutely convinced it’s the people that we interact with EVERYDAY that determine our happiness.

  18. My mood fluctuates throughout the day. At age 51 and plagued by the “M” word, I’ve realized that both sadness and happiness are feelings that come and go, sometimes without cause or warning. I think this happens to most people, and throughout our entire lives, but when we’re younger we have so much more on our plates (building careers, raising children, homes, BILLS) that our minds are less focused on ourselves and our fleeting emotions.

    With more freedom on my hands, I find I am happiest when I’m working on home reno projects. Redesigning houses is my passion, and I enjoy the physically demanding work. (Painting = Meditation, in my book.)

    When I’m at my lowest during the day, when pesky thoughts of personal failures, fear of the future, or troubled relationships enter my head, I put everything aside and pick up a great book. I know not everyone has the luxury of taking a hundred-page time out, but it seems to work for me. Currently I’m reading “What She Knew”. It’s a page-turner that has the power to make me count my blessings.

  19. Tyler Carter

    I’m hoping that I’ll have the food budget at 35-45 to be able to eat four grass-fed steaks everyday for dinner (like Dr Shawn Baker) so that I can kill two birds: fight inflammation(and aging) while keeping all of my cooking and eating each day down to just an hour instead of the usual 3-4h. Saving time and avoiding joint pain seems worth an extra $100 a month to go fully carnivorous, and might bump that meh 7/10 score to an 8.

  20. Totally agree with health and relationships. The best is to continue engaging ourselves in active activities for our physical and mental upkeep. Some of the stuff they say on TV is true I believe that when you look good you feel good. And with relationships if you unfortunately are physically unhealthy then having people who care for you and love you definitely helps to offset some of that unhappiness.

  21. Hey, Sam. I’ve always been fortunate when it comes to happiness. My default happiness setting is 8. Very few times has my happiness dipped below that. And when it did, it was usually because I wasn’t learning or creating something. It never dipped below 8 because of money, or better, yet, the lack of money. I’m 56 now, and can’t complain about the things that really matter–comfortable shoes, great whoopie, and a warm place to go to the bathroom. If I had to peg my happiness now, I would say 9.5. Life is good.

  22. As a freshly minted 40 year old in a demanding dual-career dual-carer household with three little kids, and our ageing parents who live in different countries, these statistics reveal that I should be a lot unhappier than I am. So, it was worth reading the article and the comments.

    I try to practice gratitude everyday. What matters most is a cosy little family we have put together here, and the rest of the set-up (good intellectually inspiring careers, living close to the ocean in southern california) isn’t bad either. I miss my family (parents and sister) who live abroad and that’s the only thing that makes me sad. But I am close to them, we love each other, and none of us have any financial constraints that prevent us from seeing each other when we want. How many people have that?

    As long as our loved ones and healthy, we should be happy. I cannot say I am a solid 10 because I do fear losing that state (everyone I love being healthy and safe). The rest is fine.

    1. If your parents are healthy now, please don’t go borrowing trouble. Worry about your parents if you must but please don’t let them know. As my 89 year mother told me when I was worrying about her unnecessarily, I’ll tell you when you need to worry and until that time what you are doing is insulting. Since then she tells me if something is wrong, or she tells my brother and he tells me. She doesn’t feel as if we are waiting for the dreaded call and we, in turn, don’t wait for the dreaded call. We’re all good.

      1. True. But accidents can happen. Anything can happen. And we can lose our loved ones or our health in the split of a second. A truly happy person who has reached the state of peace will not have his/her happiness depend on that. But that possibility rattles me.

        Which is why, even financial independence is an ephemeral state, and we should have a realistic expectation about the possibility of losing that too.

  23. I think what it takes to have an 8-10 happiness level in your younger years changes as you age. Also what makes you happy changes at different points in your life. So I would say having a career you love, good friends and finding love are happiness generators early on, but as one ages an entirely different set of factors may affect happiness. I am 61, and at this point, feeling good each day, not getting an awful diagnosis, and just watching the life trajectory of my children gives me the most happiness. If my children are doing well and are happy, and I have no major health issues, I am a 10!

  24. I believe in this case you are misreading the data. People do not become happier as they age it’s just happy people live much longer. Harvard has been doing a long term happiness study for decades now which is worth reading.

  25. I feel as if I need to comment here. Both my husband and I are 66 years old. We bike, hike, play tennis more than once a week at the 4.0 level- not your level but not bad. We take care of our 1/2 acre lot ourselves and do many, many other outdoor activities. Next September my brother and I, with our families, are taking our mother hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park for her 90th birthday. Unless your parents have been couch potatoes for the last several years, they will probably be able to string a sentence or two together while walking up steps for a nice long while! Whew!! Glad I got that off my chest.

  26. Damn Millennial

    I am sitting in the solid 7-9 range. I am working hard but really enjoying life along the way. Happy, healthy, and have lots of love. Life is great! If it ever snows more in Colorado I can have some 10 days coming up. I think a 10 is a state of euphoria. My friends and I always ask each other if we are going to have a 10 day today and then we do! No one lives on 10 at all times but you must enjoy all aspects of life.

  27. Thanks for the great blog, Sam. Although my thinking isn’t aligned with yours on every article, I really enjoy the different perspectives (which push me to really think through and solidify/change my own beliefs).

    Anyway, first time posting after following you for a few months. Your article reminds me of something I read, regarding life & wisdom –

    “Spend more time talking to and learning from people who below 7 years old or above 70 years old.”

    At first I took it superficially, but after I had put it into application and experience it personally, I feel that is great wisdom behind it.

  28. I’m working on getting to the point where I can say that I am higher on the scale of happiness. It’s the uncertainly in my life right now that is keeping me from the maximum. As long as I am working to construct my life puzzle piece by piece, it will eventually come together. Hopefully in a year or two I can reflect back and appreciate a slump in life that is really little more than a first-world problem.

  29. Excellent, excellent article!! I think that unlike some of the happier countries, we de-emphasize being close to family or building a close knit tribe. As happiness begins to tank we are starting to reach the height of the rat race and struggling to obtain material things to prove that it’s all for something. I’m definitely taking away from this article that I need to pay much more attention to my tribe which includes my Day 1s (thanks Drake) and all the amazing new people I’ve met in my journey!!!

  30. An interesting take on happiness. I wouldn’t dare to assign numbers to such a state. Today I don’t know what happiness is anymore. The only time I was happy was when I was young and free, ideally in the 1970s. No real worries beyond being self-conscious, and missing my favorite TV show. A good yet small family to watch over me. After that, Worries and Anxiety began to fill my life. The Real World intruded via bullying, the death of loved ones and pets, having to find a job And hold on to it, the multiple little recessions of the 80s (thank you, Reaganomics!), followed by slander and character assassination. Alienation then took over with the gentrification of America via the rise in inequality and the consolidation of power among the televangelists and the Right. It accelerated with the dumbing-down of Americans thanks to the rise of Celebrity Worship and such powerful authors like Rhonda Byrne sanctifying the slow deterioration of critical reasoning and scientific thought.

    Despite being financially independent today, I’m alone and an empty shell with no friends or family left.
    I’m not happy but neither would I consider myself Unhappy.
    I do know that I’m better off than 90% of the people on this planet (regardless of social isolation) and I’m happy for that! Yet I think I would surrender it all for a functional time machine.

    I smell bias, especially coming from an “American Survey” of all things: Russia isn’t all that bad (I have a contact there). Americans are retro-viewing Russia as the USSR with a taste of the Red Scare mixed in. It’s not quite up to American standards in the rural regions but it’s come a long way from bread lines. In that regards, America is the world’s #1 BS country and master of propaganda. That’s probably the real reason the USSR fell: the Russian people were convinced that each and every one would own a home with a 2-car garage if they adapted Capitalism!

    For me, personally at least, the Worst place to live would be in any Islamic country, unless you truly value the Stone Age. There are a dozen Islamic countries where being an Atheist guarantees the death penalty–via beheading! And I don’t want to think about living conditions where an odd number of stones (as per the Holy Koran!) are used to wipe your ass!
    Perhaps running neck and neck with Arabland would be North Korea, and we all know That story…

  31. Hey Sam-

    I personally think it is about responsibility and money. In general, when someone is 25, they have very little responsibility (entry level job, no spouse, no kids, no big expenses) and although they don’t have a lot of money, they aren’t worried about it. Now take someone who is 45-50 – they have much more responsibility in a more senior level job, more family obligations, and most likely have lots of money stresses (paying for house, college, etc). Then, as someone gets into 70s, they theoretically have little responsibility, and the most money (retirement) they’ve had. Happiness spikes.

    I am 28 and most of my peers are broke, single, and seemingly have no cares in the world. I can almost predict for certain that in 15 years they are going to be struggling big time with money and all the responsibilities they will have in mid 40s. That’s why I’m sacrificing a lot in my 20s to try to prevent that dip in the 50’s as I think money can help alleviate a lot of the issues that cause the dip.

    The only things that confuse me are – someone in their 50’s is generally at their peak earning potential, so you’d think they would be most happy then? Second, I don’t have kids but everyone who has them says it is the best thing in the world, so why the drop in happiness?

    1. I’m 51 and my husband is 52- age does not look kindly on the working person. My friends all talk about it- they’re exhausted and Corporate America wants them gone by 55. So there’s work stress in terms of being “let go” before you are ready. Plus, how do you find a job at 55? There’s also the stress of paying for college- which is crazy expensive and now maybe you’re worrying about your sick parents. 50’s are a tough age.

      I’m curious…why are your friends in their 20’s taking on little responsibilities? In our 20’s, we started a company, got at MBA and worked our butts off! Thank God we did because you have no energy as you get older in life. Tell your friends that…

  32. What do you think the chart of North Korea would be? Maybe happiness is a mindset that is subjective.

  33. I think right now, at 38, I’m the happiest I’ve been since I got married at 25. It’s hard to put a number on it because my mood ebbs and flows throughout the day, but underneath it I feel very content and grateful.

    Our kids are in elementary and middle school and are healthy and get good grades. We finally got out of a bad living situation a couple years ago that involved horrible neighbors and we are now living and something that comes very close to our ideal home. My mom passed away about 7 years ago but our remaining parents are able to care for themselves and are actually friends with each other. My husband no longer suffers from a chronic illness and we have all the money we need if maybe not all we want. It was my late twenties and early thirties that were bad. Thank God, He gives and takes away.

  34. Sam, I love your blog, especially the incredible depth of self knowledge you possess. Sorry for the pain but even in that you give to us, your reading friends. Oddly, I’ve hung in the 8 to 10 range for my entire adult life except for years 58 to 60 which preceded my pulling the plug on a 38 year career, I’m back in the 9-10 range years 60-62 with nothing but fun ahead. Bumps happen, but you are so solid you have so much great life ahead!

    1. Thanks. I try to make lemonade with all the difficult situation. The good thing about blogging is that there is a perpetual amount of content to write when there is a perpetual amount of feedback.

      Great to hear your happiness is at such a steady high state! Perhaps the worry between 35-60 never really materializes as bad as we think, hence why the uplift in happiness at 60+.

  35. At 40, probably give myself a 5. Maybe 4 on a bad day. Employed, decent health, although recent bloodwork revealed some areas I want to improve. Most likely culprit is that I have yet to find myself on any sort of upward trajectory career/financially – hence why I’m reading your blog – trying to improve that by making some changes. I hesitate to claim a full-fledged mid-life crisis, but I definitely need to make some changes. Thanks for all the content, great stuff.

    1. It’s OK to accept the mid-life crisis phase. I have, through some of mid-life crisis posts. Face the fear and keep on going. I’m certain I’m in a mid-life crisis or am hitting mid-life crisis bumps!

  36. Ms. Conviviality

    The least happiest time in my life actually led me to being consistently super happy (level 10) thereafter. After my first husband died 9 years ago it put into perspective that people I love is all I really need in life. This isn’t to discount basic needs like food and shelter but I’ve never been in a situation where my basic needs were threatened. Actually, 3 months ago Hurricane Irma did flood our house and totaled my car but that didn’t impact my happiness much because everyone was safe. It also helped that my current husband kept up his sense of humor in the aftermath. Being handy people we knew we could fix anything. Without a car, I took the opportunity to ride my bike to work which I had been wanting to do for years. It’s been 3 months and all the cycling has made me the fittest I’ve ever been. I initially told myself that I couldn’t purchase a replacement vehicle according to Sam’s 10% rule but I’m now thinking I don’t even need a car! A big part of my happiness is knowing that most things are fixable. Even if I was laid off, I have skills as an auditor, florist, and baker to build up my life again. As long as the people I love are healthy then there isn’t anything I can complain about. As Marco stated above, I am in a place of true appreciation so EVERYTHING is good.

    1. That’s pretty amazing that one of the most tragic things to ever occur has lead you to being the happiest ever. What was your happiness rating before your husband passed?

      Maybe you can share your story one day? I would think most people, including myself, could not bare to go through and survive the death of a spouse. But maybe we are all stronger than we think.

      1. Ms. Conviviality

        This might come as a surprise but my happiness rating from college through age 30, two years after my first husband died was a 5. I was over the moon in love with my first husband whom I met when I was 19. He was extremely intelligent, idealistic and had values that I admired but, unfortunately, he made sure people knew his thoughts regardless if it would damage relationships. My family, whom I’m close to, did not like him so there was always an internal battle for me to try to make everyone happy. The thing is, they never got to really understand the sweet and thoughtful man that I loved (for instance, he would celebrate our first date anniversaries and surprised me with a swimming with the dolphins encounter because I once mentioned a whale watching field trip during the 6th grade where a school of dolphins passed by and I wanted to jump into the ocean to swim with them). I was not mature enough at the age of 19 to handle the conflicts like I could today at the age of 37. Though I am at happiness level 10 today, it took 4 years of being at a level 2 after the loss of my first husband before I started living life again. For those of you who are keeping up with the math, my first husband and I slit up when I was 26 because he fell in love with another woman but I was not able to move on until two years after his death.

  37. I love your future focus on relationships and health! What a great idea! You can have all the money but zero friends…what good is that I say??!?

    In Oprah’s words…you have to be GRATEFUL every day! Every night think of 3-5 things you are grateful for…it really changes your outlook.

    Your doing a great job Sam!!!! As a dad and a financial blogger.

  38. 38 yrs old, perpetually injured, great wife, family and friends, no money issues, yet I can’t say I’m hitting consistent 8 and 9’s on the happiness scale. I do find meditation to be helpful in my pursuit of 10s.

    Sam – I’m interested to see how this “happiness” content continues to evolve. Happiness, an inside job, is always so close to us yet so elusive.

  39. This is terrible news for someone like my husband who just turned 30 a few days ago. Parents are a big worry for me because my parents are broke (but they’re the kind of broke that won’t admit they’re broke and think they have money.) I don’t want to be sandwich between children and aging parents but it’s not going to get any better from here. Just thinking about that makes me nervous and sad.

  40. Thanks for the insightful article Sam and I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family. I find it challenging to put a number on my happiness. Much like the market, I find my emotions overreacting to everyday variables around me, mostly work related. I tell myself, the good times are never quite as good as they seem and vise versa on the downside. I’ve always been a very happy/positive 6.5-8.5ish, yet no longer feel that way. I am married to an amazing women, have my health, live in this amazing country, have a loving family, dear friends, and a very good job on my surface. I have saved around 2M by age 32, but work for someone and much of my happiness is tied to my performance at work and my relationship w boss. I suppose I have to do a better job of letting go at times, but challenging. Thanks for all of your content!

  41. Wow, those stats are depressing. I’d like to think I’m beating the curve, though perhaps it’s relative.

    As a child growing up in a bad situation, my happiness level was 1-3 dipping to a 0 at times as a teenager. As I’ve grown up, left that situation behind, and focused on my own personal growth and those of my wife and child, I can say at 35 I’ve never been happier – probably a solid 7-8 most days, reaching a 10 even when I was standing on the deck of my my over-water bungalow in the French Pacific.

    For me, life has continually gotten better after it started terribly.

    1. I have the same story. My worst days as an adult, are always happier days than my childhood memories.

      I will give this advise. Don’t do what I did. I raised three children. Trying to make up for all my childhood pain; I went overboard trying to make life happy/easy for my kids. As adults they struggle with happiness.

      1. Hi Hannah,

        Can you elaborate what do you mean? What are examples did you go overboard trying to make your kids happy? And what are some examples of why they are struggling as adults as a result?

        This is really important for me to understand. Thank you

    2. Hi Matt – The great thing at starting at 0 is that there’s only one way to go but UP! Now imagine if you started at a 9…. and that’s all you knew. I’m not sure life would be better because it’s hard to appreciate how great life truly is.

  42. Hey Sam,

    You really made me think about my life in a different perspective. I’m on this never-ending chase towards success, yet I realized how much I don’t spend focusing on my relationships & health. Yes, I go to the gym 4 times a week, but I don’t eat as healthy as I should.

    Being a 25-year-old man, I still feel young and full of energy. I guess at this age we don’t think how fortunate our energy and health are at this point in time. I’m excited that Financial Samurai is focusing on these other important factors of our lives.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.


    1. How time changes your experiences is truly unique. Only you can experience the change in yourself, and I hope it is a good change!

      The people willing to look into the future and learn from those who’ve been there find greater success and happiness in my opinion.

  43. I’m pretty good these days and my level is at about 8 to 10. The sandwich thing really sucks, though. My mom is getting older and she is starting to get senile. That’s causing some stress for me, but life is still pretty good in general. It’s tough for the whole family to adapt to the decline in mental function.

    Take it easy and relax a bit. Enjoy the holidays.

    1. Joe have you heard of Dr. Dale Bredesen? He has developed what is now known as “The Bredesen Protocol” He trialed 10 of his Alzheimer patients on his protocol. This protocol reversed 9 out of the 10 patients. Look him up.

      There is hope! :)

  44. I’m at a 10 always regardless of my situation. I’ve promised myself and signed a contract that stipulates, “I will live in pure happiness, joy and godly appreciation in every moment of my life regardless of what is happening.” In other words I’ve 100% removed any dependence on the situation, whether it’s people, places, things, work, my body and all events going on in my life. There are always things happening in our lives, as that’s life. Let go of judging things right and wrong, good and bad and you have more than happiness, you have true inner peace. Once you’re there, EVERYTHING takes care of itself. Even when I have emotions of sadness and moments of anger, there’s an underlying happiness that I GET to experience these emotions and it passes right through me and then back to peace, love and appreciation. Like everything, the more you do this the better you get at it. Start with daily journaling, by hand.

    1. Wow! I’ve never met a person who has experienced perfect happiness before. Can you describe the feeling? What goes on in your mind during tragedies in the world and unfortunate events that happened to you?

      Do you have any desires or regrets? How do you manage them? Thanks

      1. You are experiencing perfect happiness anytime you are in a state of appreciation. It’s a trick you have to play on yourself. I used to have tons of regrets and feelings of inadequacy and after reading Ram Dass’ Be Here Now and deciding to experience life for what it truely is, I realized you can chose and totally recreate your life for no ther reason than feeling like doing it and as long as you’re ok with the consequences, rock on! For me, it was letting go of the need to follow rules and norms, such as having to have a house, a car, a spouse, good looks, being interesting, being an entrepreneur, and the list goes on. I love my life, teaching Tennis, making the smallest salary, living in dorm-like rooms, eating well, being healthy, connecting with people, and being OK with whatever happens next. I only regret it took me this long to realize it and yet I even let that go as our timing is always perfect, especially the stuff you most regret. Until you can not really care that much about all the stuff you love, including your life, you’ll be miserable and in pain. Yes, love life and everything about it, your wife, kids, money, career, at the same time be authentically OK with losing it all tomorrow. That’s 100% happiness my friend. It’s also physics. And by the way, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

        1. Amazing, Marco! Really like your ‘state of appreciation’. Recently read a book by Dennis Prager, “Happiness is a Serious Problem” and he also attributes gratitude for a state of happiness. His point is that it is impossible to be unhappy when you are being thankful. And he asks the reader “have you ever met an unhappy, grateful person?” Exactly! Thanks for the share, I’m working on it myself!

          1. Awesome! Love that you love it. Remember, your situations are 100% created by your thoughts. Remove whining, complaining, and judging from your life and things will start flowing. Pick all the people, places, situations, things you most dislike and start finding hilarious ways to actually like those things. Lighten up! At the very least remove “I don’t like” from your vocabulary. It serves you no purpose other than creating low frequency vibes in your aura and makes people avoid you. Consider writing these words down, by hand, for the next month, every morning and see what happens: I am here now, love, peace, joy, and one with everyone and everything. Thank you God for everything.

            1. Thanks guys for sharing. My wife and I have a gratitude list on our fridge wall we recite every morning. We also review the things we are grateful for before going to bed each night.

              Great thoughts on never meeting an unhappy person who is thankful.

              Maybe I’ll put together a “The Secrets Of 10/10 Happiness Folks”!

    2. I love this! You are so right about focusing on appreciation instead of situations. I’m working on this now because my dips in happiness are way too dependent on circumstances and can last a while.

    3. That is a terrific outlook! Sounds like the teachings of “Unteatheres Souls”. Thanks for sharing and hope your outlook can be inspiration to many. While on he topic, I am a 9. I am 41 years young. For me, meditation and exercise lifted me from a 7 to a 9!

  45. I’m probably sitting at a 6.5 (the .5 because it’s Friday). When Christmas is actually here next week I’ll be higher but I have a way too long to-do list to get through before then so I’m stressing more than normal.

    I think my happiest years were probably high school with university as a close second. I coasted through high school pretty easily but the work at university was a bit of a shock, it was still lots of fun and I enjoyed learning about things I was actually interested in. After graduating into the real world there are just so many more things you have to be responsible for that I find it hard to hit those peaks as often.

    1. I’m surprised you chose HS over college for happiness! HS was such a weird, uncertain, awkward phase for most folks, including myself. But college.. what a blast.\

      The real world is a grind. I hope you and others can escape… but there is really no escape!

  46. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

    – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  47. My happiness gradually increased through high school, college, grad school. I was happiest as an early career engineer, learning new things and traveling with my girlfriend/new wife.

    The happiness has taken a step back, now like a 7, because of the demands of a 2 year old and settling in to the same old career/feeling like I should be getting promoted and accomplishing ever more. It is a bit of a tough time, but I am hoping that older me will derive a lot of happiness from the work put in today.

    1. I hope so. I’ve met a lot of folks who looked back on their careers and realized all that time and stress was for nothing because their careers didn’t do anything positive. Can you imagine working 20-40 years and coming to the realization after you should have spent the time doing something more worthwhile?

      I’d like to somehow bring some guest posters on who are OK to admit this to help others not make the same mistake.

      1. The best decisions we all can make right now are…
        1. Make a commitment to be happy no matter what. Life will always have ups and downs. Dont sweat over the small stuff. Quite often, our troubles are temporary anyways.
        2. While it is great to have big goals and dreams, dont ever forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
        3. Dont ever settle for any lousy job for longer than you must. I have personally made a commitment to surround myself with as many positive and happy people as possible and that includes people at work(and they are the easiest to replace , if needed. Recently I quit a job where being miserable and negativity was the norm and now I got a job where it is the opposite, and a bit better pay as well, so go for it!!

  48. I tend to stay between a 4 and a 6 all the time.

    I tell my girlfriend, “You ever have a meal that is just so great you can’t believe it? Like it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever eaten? I haven’t.” And on the opposite side, when I have to work through a vacation day because there was an emergency, I have to tell her that it only bothers me a little because it’s just part of the job.

    Nothing is ever too good or too bad.

  49. Yeah I think I’m rolling at about 7 these days. Tough having a kid and working all day while she is at daycare. You rush home with only enough time to feed her and put her to bed. We are working on changing this situation.

    Happiness peak was probably senior year of college or the second year of marriage. College was great because of all the reasons you listed. Second year of marriage was great because we had all are debt paid off, our jobs weren’t stressful and we were only saving 15% of our income while blowing the rest on traveling and stuff.

    1. Here’s something interesting I just realized. If you get to experience an extended of period of time with your little one, it might bring your happiness down knowing how happy those times are if you have to revert back to going to work.

      Hence, it often may be better NOT to know what heaven is like. Because nothing can get better.

      1. That is a really good point. Kind of an ignorance is bliss sorta thing.

        When looking back my peak happiness comes from a feeling of winning and freedom. 3 years ago I thought saving 15% of your income was hardcore winning. Then I met you and a hundred other bloggers that made me realize I need to aim for at least 50%.

  50. Sam–

    Pain is awful and I hope you are feeling better soon. I’d rate my happiness at about a 6 right now. On the plus side, I live closer to my family and feel better now that the ulcers that we plaguing me last year have healed. On the negative side, I was laid off last week (good thing I have an emergency fund and a spouse who’s working with excellent insurance) and I’m waiting to hear back about tumors that may have caused the ulcers. So it’s a mixed bag for me at age 37.

    Regarding midlife and happiness, Jonathan Rauch at the Atlantic wrote a long essay about it. I think you’d be interested: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/the-real-roots-of-midlife-crisis/382235/

    1. Mike @ Balanced Dividends

      I’m 33 and have a few friends with some similar ups and downs so far only into our mid-30s. Hope you hear positive news soon and best of luck to you, Hubbard.

      Thanks for sharing the reference to the essay as well.

    2. It was a tough three weeks, but thanks to hedonic adaptation and LETTING GO, I’m back to an 8. I was too structured with my work. Now, I’ll make work fit to my lifestyle and not the other way around.

      To new beginnings for you in 2018! Hope you find the work you love and the health that will keep you happy for a long, long time.

      1. Kathy Abell

        Congratulations on making your work fit your lifestyle, rather than adjusting your lifestyle to fit your work. You’ve worked so hard to achieve your current lifestyle – enjoy it while you are young and healthy! Your wife and son (and any future offspring!) will love you all the more for spending time with them rather than stressing over living up to your self-imposed commitment to publishing three thoroughly researched, well written posts (plus podcasts!!!) per week. :)

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