When wealth is the real happiness truth


Act always as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference. — Buddhist saying

Pharrell William’s phenomenally successful song Happy wants us to “clap along” if we feel like “happiness is the truth”.

Economists say happiness can be found from making money, physiologist from a person’s sense of well-being. In 1974 the Easterlin paradox confirmed there  “was no link between income and happiness … beyond a certain point”.

So which philosophy is the truth?

Justin WolfersIt depends on who you talk to. This year US economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson have taken Richard Easterlin’s theory to a new research level releasing findings that suggest there is indeed a relationship between income and happiness, for individuals and nations.

On leave from the University of Michigan and the Brookings Institution, Wolfers — better known as a 40-something surfing self-styled Aussie ex-gambler and current US import happiness guru – has been doing the media rounds talking up the findings of their joint paper Growth in Subjective Well-Being and Income over Time.

An abstract released by the National Bureau of Economic Research says Wolfers and Stevenson’s re-assessment of the Easterlin paradox has established a “clear positive link” between average levels of subjective well-being and GDP per capita across countries.

Their research found “no evidence” of a saturation point beyond which wealthier countries had no further increases in subjective well-being and that economic growth was associated with rising happiness.

Happiness-Hands1The findings will come as no surprise to those on struggle street. A widening gap between the haves and have-nots is a recurring theme throughout history and often linked to the cause behind civil unrest.

But on a very basic level, being unable to afford to pay your way in life is demoralising. It’s not about societies moving towards becoming welfare states but economies that can help all citizens contribute.

In a recent interview with Money, Wolfers responded to the question: Does money actually make you happier? “When I say rich people are happier than poor people, I don’t know if it’s the money that’s making them happy. When I say rich countries are happier than poor countries, I don’t know whether it’s the greater money that makes the average American happy or whether it’s the greater opportunities.”

For most people’s money, having access to opportunities is key to well-being, it’s akin to psychology theories about having “control in the workplace”. 

Both produce more productive people and the more productive employees are the more money they make for companies, and themselves. And don’t forget that old proverb money begets money, or in modern English “nothing succeeds like success”.

Wolfers seems to agree. He told Money his research looked at ­surveys, including the Gallup World Poll, of 155 countries covering 95 per cent of the world’s population and “it turns out that … as countries get richer, they get happier”.

Of course, it’s not going to come without effort. And while not everyone agrees you can put a dollar value on what makes one person happy compared with another, perhaps most of us can nod along with Aha CEO Brian de Haaff: “Whatever you value, you are rich if you have an abundance of it.”

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer and blogger is currently in Panama City in pursuit of happiness and money to make her world go round.

Ain’t that the berries, travelling down South

The chance to see Nicole and Keith at the 2014 CMA Awards in Nashville may have slipped through our fingers given we arrived the weekend after filming but, as luck would have it, the concierge at the hotel secured seats at The Grand Ole Opry in its traditional home at the Ryman!

It seems everywhere you travel across America’s South, there’s always something special to discover: Southern hospitality at its best and, of course, all those Southern sayings!

aa3ce5b0777e76b465c8b5a4ff7c9444Forget the twang and the dropped “g” because almost every one of those slow-talkin’ folks know how to charm. It was 94-year-old Little Jimmy Dickens who had the full-house crowd cheering at the Ryman. Guest artists Chase Bryant knew how to impress with guitar riffs, and few will forget the haunting songs performed by Hank William’s granddaughter, Holly. It was left to Opry inductees’ Old Crow Medicine Show to bring the concert home and get everyone up on their feet. And they did.

Of course, there were some highs and lows travelling down South. For the uninitiated to Memphis, Graceland is an “exhibition holding room” where Elvis fans are forced to congregate in long lines beside souvenirs for sale before being driven across the road to the real deal. More fun can be had at BB King’s “original” Blues Club where the regular All Stars Band won’t disappoint.

Elvis may have left that building but further south in a little town outside Georgia, Atlanta, an impersonator was swaying to the beat of the Cloud Springs Gospel and Blues Association monthly meet. This Elvis was a bit worse for wear but rockin’ the same outfit and upstaged by new singer of the year James Spearman. The lunchtime audience swelled to 20, maybe 30 but no one cared, it was what the South does best: seein’, laughin’, singin’, eatin’, meetin’ and partyin’! James travelled close to 145 miles [nearly three hours from Gatlinburg, Tennessee] for a chance to sing at the Georgia event.

ChooChooSIGN_JWIf there’s one place not to miss it’s Chattanooga. The historic Tennessee Choo Choo Station is a must-see for every visitor from Australia, especially Novacastrians and Newcastle City Council members who could bring an end to the “rail” debate if only they had the foresight to adopt the same outcome for Newcastle’s historic terminal.

ChooChooGardenJWThe 1909 terminal was saved from demolition in 1973 by a group of local investors after the trains stopped running in 1970. This year Chattanooga’s Choo Choo is getting a $US8 million makeover. Its magnificent 85-foot free-standing dome is the focal point of the 24-acre historical property, which includes hotel accommodation, dining, tourist shops, family entertainment and soon-to-open comedy venue.

On the ride back to Chicago, Illinois, along Interstate 65 drop into Louisville, Kentucky, not for the fried chicken but to visit all the antique shops. One thing for sure is no matter where you go down South, you’ll find a little piece of Australiana tucked away. It could be that Kangaroo Opal Pin that found its way into a vintage store, or the Nanny Goat Strut Laneway to an Aussie vendor popping up in the least place you’d expect.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer and blogger who has enjoyed all the Southern hospitality to be found travelling through Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky.

For every rejection there’s another connection


Every dog has his day. ~ Miguel de Cervantes

The saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is limited by those who believe they can’t be retrained. We’re not talking individuals here but companies’ perception and value of older workers and their ability to learn.

Sure, individuals can be held back by their own negative beliefs but when that extends to external challenges outside their control, it makes things all the more difficult.

It’s been three years since the Centre for Skills Development surveyed 8000+ employees across G7 countries. The Older Learners in the Workforce study found more than one-third expected to continue working in some capacity during their retirement. It also confirmed demographic changes meant the use of older talent would need to be maximised.

The report cited four popular age stereotypes: Older workers do not want to learn; Older workers cannot learn; Older workers have great difficulty learning new technology; and Investment in training older workers provides a poor return. Motivation was also mentioned as a significant barrier, and perceptions around older workers’ inclination to learn were more negative than around their ability to learn.

The report cited four popular age stereotypes: Older workers do not want to learn; Older workers cannot learn; Older workers have great difficulty learning new technology; and Investment in training older workers provides a poor return. Motivation was also mentioned as a significant barrier, and perceptions around older workers’ inclination to learn were more negative than around their ability to learn.

Barking up the wrong tree: Despite findings revealing skills development of older workers would hold long-term benefits for employers and society, it seems few companies globally have embraced the necessary changes to cope with an ageing workforce.

In fact most appear to be winding older workers’ contributions down, or out.

You have to forgive companies. Many organisations are still struggling to understand this demographic change. The study explains why companies favour youth over experience. No surprise it is a misguided bottom line assumption based on the belief younger workers have longer in the workforce to provide a better return on investment.

And yet the same report revealed that many workers 50 and older are at the height of their career, not at the end of it, and could continue to contribute. Moreover they wanted to.

So of course it is disheartening to be fighting for recognition among such a huge throng. You’ve been there and done that. Back then it was being noticed among a pool of young upstarts. You might have been the biggest upstart of them all. You worked hard early in your career to gain that edge, now you have to do it all over again!

Chasing your tail gets you nowhere:  Why in 2014 are companies still turning their backs on an ageing workforce? In 2011, the study put the reason down to employers not having access to information or data on the productivity and return on investment of older workers, hence a leaning towards the traditional model of valuing younger workers which prevails today.

Crazy at a time when workers 50+ are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and numbers in this group will continue to grow until 2030. Crazier still when stats show generation LIKE are groomed to pop in and out of as many as 10 to 20 jobs in their lifetime, showing there’s merit in maintaining loyal older workers.

Trust that those age stereotypes being held within organisations WILL fall by the wayside. Sheer scale favours such an outcome. While older workers wait, fill in the time to upskill, reskill and learn new tricks until companies catch up. The power of technology to tailor one’s own e-learning can only enhance the experience until firms come round to providing older workers access to training and employment opportunities.

Believe the stats showing organisations in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand putting incentives in place for older workers are the trigger for change. After all, the study also suggested the flow-on effect from innovation in HR practices and within organisational cultures most likely would dispel the misconceptions of older workers’ abilities and worth.

So now is not the time to give up. Do what it takes to retrain and be part of shaping the new workforce because every dog has its day and for every rejection there is always a new connection. As fellow blogger and motivational speaker Jeff Moore — My Everyday Power — says, there are three things to consider:

  1. Recalibrate who you are.
  2. Look at what strengths make you the best version of you.
  3. Let the past be the past.

Good advice. 

Judy Wilkinson is a blogger and freelance journalist who has spent quality time since 2012 upskilling, reskilling and trying out new tricks.