Money does not always bring happiness, but it can. The amount of money people need to be happy came in at between $60,000 and $75,000 a year, according to researchers analyzing a Gallup World Poll survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries. That's probably less than you'd expect.
In reality, how much money anyone needs is a moving target based on their own perceptions. Even a concept that sounds easily definable, "financial security," means different things to different people.
That's where the Financial Capability Scale (FCS), developed by the Center for Financial Security and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, comes in. It establishes a baseline for financial security, and helps sort out the differences between how people feel about their finances and the reality of those finances. Using the FCS, Comet Financial Services surveyed over 1,000 people and analyzed those who achieved financial security in order to figure out what they had in common.
What habits do financially secure people share?
While there's no universal trait that's shared by all financially secure people, the Comet study did identify some areas with a high correlation. For example, 78.8% of financially secure respondents reported they are either within their budgets or exactly on budget. That compares to 57.1% of those with low financial security.
In addition, only 21.3% of those with high financial security reported being over budget. That's well below the 43% of moderately secure people, and the 42.9% of low-financial-security respondents.
The study also showed that there were some non-financial habits shared by more people who rate as highly financially secure. Highly financially secure people, for example, make their beds 17.4 times a month -- compared to 14.8 for the moderately secure, and 12.9 for those with low financial security.
Highly financially secure people also take better care of themselves than those who are less secure. They work out an average of 14.5 times a month compared to 10.9 for moderate scorers, and nine times for those who score low. The highly financially secure are also less likely to smoke and more likely to take vitamins or supplements.
The survey also shows that people of all levels of financial security eat out just over six times a month, but the highly financially secure make impulse purchases less often (2.3 times a month compared to roughly 3 for low and moderately secure people). High and moderate scorers also spent less time online (54.2 and 53.1 minutes each day) than low scorers (68 minutes).
What does it mean?
Achieving financial security isn't all about money. Clearly using a budget helps, but having good habits in general seems to lead to financial security, albeit indirectly.
Making your bed, for example, has been called a "keystone habit," something that can set the tone for a productive day. "The same philosophy can apply to your finances -- think about creating a budget and using it to track all of your incoming and outgoing funds," says the Comet report.
There's no one way to achieve a high level of financial security, but it appears that having a general sense of discipline helps. It makes sense that people who keep to a budget, control their impulses, and waste less time generally have better finances. That may not provide a direct roadmap for others to do the same, but it could get you a lot closer.