The World's 10 Happiest Countries

Across the world's 10 happiest countries we find a lot of familiar faces, and at least one surprise.

Jan 19, 2014 at 8:00AM

Are we among the world's 10 happiest countries? Well, I'm a pretty happy guy, and most of my friends seem happy, too -- but apparently we're doing it wrong. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, The United States hasn't even cracked into the world's 10 happiest countries. While many of the leaders are from the usual gang of smiling, frozen democracies, there's one that might surprise you.

Smiling, happy, and well educated
The OECD rankings cover the its 34 members plus Russia and Brazil, so don't expect North Korea to show up on the index anytime soon. Instead of "happiness," the organization uses "life satisfaction," which is a measure of subjective well-being. OECD's ranking is an indication of how people in these countries view their own position, not how their income, job status, and housing should make them feel.

Across many countries, the OECD found that education level had an effect on overall life satisfaction. The organization proposes that education doesn't make someone happy on its own, but that it has a large impact on health, income, and other factors that do contribute to happiness.

The bottom five
Without further ado, here are the rankings, starting with the first half of the top 10.

10. Mexico
9. Austria
8. Canada
7. Finland
6. Netherlands

One of these jumped out at me -- Mexico. The OECD uses an interesting little flower thing to represent each country, with each petal size determined by a different factor. Most countries have a relatively balanced flower, but Mexico is not most countries. The country's flower is a handful of small petals -- sometimes hard to even see -- with one huge petal representing life satisfaction. In nine of the 11 rankings, Mexico falls in the bottom 10. In the survey, 85% of Mexican respondents reported having more positive experiences than negative ones on any given day.

Mexicans gave their overall satisfaction a 7.3 out of 10, putting them firmly in 10th. Compare that with the Netherlands, where the average score came out at 7.5. So across all the countries, the range was fairly tight. The OECD reported about a three-point range across the 34 members.

The top five
Finland and the Netherlands set things up for the top five. Of these five countries, three touch the Arctic Circle.

5. Denmark
4. Sweden
3. Iceland
2. Norway
1. Switzerland

Scores range from 7.5 for Denmark to 7.8 for Switzerland, with 82% of Swiss respondents feeling more positive than negative on an average day. It's probably not surprising that Switzerland is also in the top 10 for four other categories, including a No. 1 slot in the jobs category. Of course, none of that mattered to 10-year-old me, who wanted to move to Switzerland because they had cheese, chocolate, and snow there. I'll bet it plays into people's responses.

The U.S. falls short
I mentioned the small range of scores that countries reported, and America falls pretty close to the middle. In life satisfaction, Americans gave themselves a score of 7.0, putting us at 14th on the list. Education plays a big role, and people with only a primary education give their lives a 6.1, while further education pushes the scores up to 7.4.

The report strikes an interesting balance, sort of the way that poker does between skill and luck. Sure, the scores are self-reported, subjective, and open to broad interpretation, but the same countries end up in the finals year after year. Maybe next century, we'll find ourselves at that table.

Give yourself the financial freedom to be happy
Millions of Americans have waited on the sidelines since the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, too scared to invest and put their money at further risk. Yet those who've stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal-finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information

Compare Brokers