Let’s start with a teaser. What would you guess is most important to a person when it comes to predicting their financial success?
- A person’s IQ.
- The income and education level of a person’s parents.
- A person’s warm, loving, relationships.
If you answered (3), you’re correct, according to Harvard’s 79-year (and still going) study to discover why some people are healthy and happy—and others aren’t. This and other related studies are proving that warm, loving relationships may be the primary determinant when it comes to happiness, health, longevity, and wealth.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development
Known originally as the Grant Study, named after its original benefactor, this research project began tracking 268 Harvard sophomores from the classes of 1939-1944. The subjects were interviewed extensively and repeatedly so that virtually every aspect of their lives could be measured and documented.
19 of the original men (only men attended Harvard at that time; the study has been expanded for many years now to include women as well) are still alive and participating, now well into their 90s. Four decades ago, the related Glueck Study began to follow an even larger group of inner-city men in a similar manner. And some of the patterns that have emerged have been unexpected.
The research demonstrated that loving relationships are correlated with both health and happiness to a greater extent than the researchers imagined – an issue we at Everything Retirement have covered in the past.
For instance, the Grant Study and numerous other papers and studies that now comprise the larger Harvard Study of Adult Development show that satisfaction with relationships at age 50 is a better predictor of physical health than cholesterol levels, and highly correlated with longevity.
Loving Relationships & Financial Success
The research also showed a strong link between loving relationships and financial success. Whether the relationship is with a parent, a spouse, grandparents, children or friends, people who love well are inclined to build more wealth.
In his ground-breaking book Aging Well, Harvard research psychiatrist George Valliant found the following (averages):
- Brotherly love: Men with one or more close relationships with a sibling made $51,000 more per year than men who had poor relationships with their siblings, or no siblings at all.
- Stable homes: Men who grew up this way took home $66,000 more per year than men from unstable homes.
- Caring mothers: Men whose mothers were warm earned $87,000 more than men whose mothers were uncaring. The men’s boyhood relationships with their mothers (but not with their fathers) were also associated with effectiveness at work.
- Home run relationships: The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made almost $150,000 more per year than the 31 men with the worst scores!
- Unhappy childhood? Men who were not close with their parents or siblings in their youth could overcome that disadvantage by developing warm relationships (successful marriage, friendships) in mid-life. By doing this, they could rise to the top in happiness and success in their later years.
Marriage & Money
According to Ohio State’s Jay Zagorsky, who authored Marriage and Divorce’s Impact on Wealth, research on marriage and money shows that married people save more and build wealth faster than single people, unmarried couples, and those who divorce:
- People who get and stay married each have about double the wealth of single people who never married. In other words, a married couple will have about 4x the wealth of a single, unmarried person.
- Married people experience net worth increases of 77% over single people.
- A married couple increases their wealth an average of 16% each year of marriage.
- After ten years of marriage, couples report an average net worth of $43,000, compared with just $11,000 for people who stayed single.
- Divorce wreaks economic havoc on individuals, often erasing the gains of marriage. This is not to say you should stay in an unhappy marriage—rather, to acknowledge the financial burden a separation may cause.
Relationships clearly enhance our wealth, and if we wish to live a fulfilled life, our wealth must enhance our relationships. So, the next time you consider cancelling on a friend to work late, fueling a family feud instead of seeking harmony, or giving up on finding the person you wish to spend the rest of your life with, remember to choose love. It’ll pay off in more ways than one!