Given the choice between more money or more time, which would you choose?
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) posed this question to 4,400 people. Participants’ answers to this seemingly simple question proved to be a measure of something deeper: their happiness.
The majority of participants (64%) said they would rather have more money. But those who yearned for more time were generally happier, the researchers discovered.
This finding -- which held true even when the team controlled for the participants’ time and money -- suggests a ‘mind over matter’ type of association between the amount of resources people have and their level of happiness.
In other words, a person’s level of happiness depends on what they consider important.
Happiness linked to value
"What matters is the value people place on each resource," the researchers explained in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. "Beyond the amount of these resources people have, happiness is linked to the resource people want."
Older participants were the most likely to covet time, Vox reports. This could be because older participants were more likely to already have money as a result of having spent more time working. Older participants were also more likely to have children, and children aren’t known for giving parents an abundance of free time.
The married and wealthy also tended to be more likely to choose time over money -- a finding that the team believes warrants further research.
The key takeaway: if it's happiness you're after, set your sights on time rather than focusing on the amount of cash in your wallet. While both are resources in high demand, only one of the two can't be earned back once it's gone.