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Money Improves Quality Of Life, Up To A Certain Point

A bigger paycheck could buy you a better quality of life, according to a Marist poll released on Tuesday.

The study found that American households that bring in less than $50,000 per year were more likely to say that they are "not very happy" and are concerned about becoming a financial burden to family members.

Households that earn more than $50,000 have a better quality of life than households making less than $50,000 per year, according to the study. Incidentally, more than half of all American households make less than $50,000 per year, according to the Census.

The well-being of Americans making less than $50,000 per year is 12 percent worse than the well-being of Americans making more than $50,000 per year, according to the Marist poll. Americans with household incomes below the $50,000 threshold are less satisfied with their health, work, housing, finances, free time, neighborhood safety, social lives, and family lives, among other things.

Just one-quarter of Americans making less than $50,000 per year call themselves "very happy," in contrast to 34 percent of Americans with household incomes higher than $50,000 per year, according to the Marist poll. Americans with household incomes of less than $50,000 per year also dread aging more, according to the poll.

Can money buy happiness? That depends on how much you make. A study by Princeton University in 2010 found that higher pay translated to increased happiness, up to $75,000. After surpassing that benchmark, money had no affect on happiness, according to the study.

Of course, how far your dollar goes depends on the cost of living where you live, as the Wall Street Journal points out. The threshold for achieving happiness in New York City was $163,000 in 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, while in Fort Smith, Ark. and Pueblo, Colo., one only had to earn $62,000 to achieve happiness.

Americans' median household income was just $49,445 per year in 2010; 2.3 percent less than what it was in 2009, according to the Census.

And Americans can't expect much of an income boost anytime soon. With unemployment high, companies are squeezing more productivity out of their workers and letting their inflation-adjusted wages fall. The median wage in 2010 was just $26,364 per year.