Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 467-515

First online:

Financial aspirations, financial success, and overall life satisfaction: who? and how?

  • Carol NickersonAffiliated with Email author 
  • , Norbert SchwarzAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan, Institute of Social Research
  • , Ed DienerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • , The Gallup Organization

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Nickerson et al. (2003, Psychological Science 14, pp. 531–536) demonstrated in a longitudinal study that the negative relation between aspirations for financial success and subjective well-being found by other researchers was mitigated by high household income. The present study first refined the analysis in Nickerson et al. (2003) and then explored two additional issues: (a) who aspires to financial success? and (b) how is financial success achieved? Analysis indicated that individuals with strong financial aspirations are socially inclined, confident, ambitious, politically conservative, traditional, conventional, and relatively less able academically, but not psychologically distressed. Financial success is achieved via the job and, for women only, via marriage. Financial aspirations influence job income both by influencing choice of occupation and by influencing job income within occupation; however, achieving financial success depends on having the personal resources to do so. Women with strong financial aspirations tend to marry for money (or money-making potential) regardless of their work status; men with strong financial aspirations do not.


financial aspirations financial success goal achievement goals income life satisfaction mate preferences materialism moderators money subjective well-being values