Don’t think that buying a McMansion will make you happy

A new book titled Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending suggests buying a nice home does not lead to greater happiness:

What could possibly be more satisfying than ditching that old starter home you and your spouse moved into during your broke newlywed years?

Two studies cited in “Happy Money” prove otherwise.

When researchers followed groups of German homeowners five years after they moved into new homes, they all wound up saying they were happier with their newer house. But there was one problem: They weren’t any happier with their lives. The same was true in a study of Ohio homeowners in which it turned out they weren’t any happier with their lives than renters.

“Even in the heart of middle America, housing seems to play a surprisingly small role in the successful pursuit of happiness,” Dunn and Norton write. “If the largest material purchase most of us will ever make provides no detectable benefit for our overall happiness, then it may be time to rethink our fundamental assumptions about how we use money.”

Regardless of whether someone owns a McMansion or not, this goes against a lot of the American Dream. Critics argue McMansions aren’t great purchases because of their poor design, environmental impact, poor community life, and other issues, yet people have continued to buy larger houses in recent decades. At the same time, some of these critics would tell McMansion owners to buy homes that better fit their individual needs. What unites these approaches to homes is the idea that people are better off having purchased a home. Perhaps they are in the eyes of society – indeed, people once argued homeownership would keep people from taking an interest in communism. But, if this research holds up, then perhaps we should retire the argument that individuals will be more satisfied as homeowners and stick to making a civic or community-oriented pitch for homeownership.

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