In our first ever Cash Happy report – a study focusing on the nations' spending and saving habits –SunLife reveals that money does make us happy; at least, having some spare cash each month to spend however you wish does.
SunLife surveyed 3,388 people responsible for household financial decision making and found a strong link between spare cash - money a household has left after all regular outgoings are taken care of - and happiness1.
The research revealed that, on average, UK households have £381 spare cash a month – which equates to £166 per adult each month2, or £38 a week per person.
SunLife also found that (after all other influencing factors on happiness were removed) UK households need £713 in spare cash per month or £71 a week to be amongst the happiest 10% in the UK.
This shows that, although not attainable for everyone, being cash happy is much more achievable than people may think. Instead of striving to be a multi-millionaire, on average we need to find an extra £33 a week – less than £5 a day – in spare cash to be among the happiest in the UK.
About the report
Every Autumn, SunLife releases ‘Cost of Dying’, a well-established study which tracks changes in funeral costs over time. Cost of Dying is widely recognised sector-leading research and over its eleven year history, it has made important inroads in highlighting the benefits of funeral planning.
Following the success of Cost of Dying, this year, SunLife has commissioned Cash Happy, a new research report that tracks trends in the nation’s spending and saving habits. Cash Happy, which will be released on an annual basis, will focus particularly on discretionary income and the impact it has on overall happiness and wellbeing.
The Cash Happy study found that the average monthly household take-home pay in the UK is £1,970.
Out of this comes rent (average of £433) or mortgage (average of £450), loans (average of £250) or credit card payments (average of £120) and other regular monthly payments.
Then there are all our other monthly costs such as transport, clothing and food – at the end of which, the average spare cash per is £381 a month per household. Per UK adult1, that becomes £166 a month, which is £38 a week.
This means that on average, 81% of the money we earn is already earmarked for our regular outgoings, leaving just one pound in every five we earn as ‘spare cash’ to spend however we want.
But that it still enough each week to take the family bowling, get a takeaway for four or to take a trip to the cinema and enjoy some popcorn!
The survey reveals that, the more spare cash we have, the happier we are, however, the rate of the increase in happiness appears to slow down once average happiness is reached, which means being ‘cash happy’ is more realistic than people may think.
In fact, after all other influencing factors on happiness were removed, we need £71.54 a week – that’s £10.22 a day – in spare cash to be among the 10% happiest in the UK.
Dean Lamble, SunLife’s Managing Director commented:“Our research shows that having spare cash – money that you haven’t already got earmarked – is really important for happiness. Perhaps the bigger story here is that it shows how beneficial it can be to budget, to try and give ourselves a bit left over at the end of every month. It also shows that financial happiness could be more attainable for many people than they might think, with the average person needing to find an extra £33 a week – less than £5 a day – in spare cash to be among the happiest in the UK.”
Where to find happiness
SunLife’s Cash Happy survey discovered that although incomes are highest in London and the South East, outgoings are higher too, so they have less spare cash. In fact, Londoners have an average of just 17% of their income as spare cash, below the national average of 19% and well below that of the happiest people – the Scots – whose spare cash accounts for almost a quarter (23%) of their income.
Meanwhile, the least happy were people in the East Midlands who also have one of the lowest levels of spare cash in the country.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’ seemed important too: regardless of region, those who thought they had more spare cash than their peers were happier than those who believed they had less.
Effect of comparing your spare cash with your peers:
As well as having spare cash, SunLife’s Cash Happy report also found that how we spend our money can make us happier too – and it’s not about simply ‘buying more stuff’.
For example, those with insurance and pensions are much happier than those without, even if this means they have less money left over as a result. Those with a private pension were happier than people who just had a pension provided by their employer. Saving had a significant effect too; putting some money aside for a rainy day contributed to people’s overall happiness.
Effect of pension on happiness:
Effect of savings on happiness:
The report also found that those who budget– whether it is formally or informally – are happier than those that don’t, with the happiest people budgeting via an online tool.
Dean Lamble, Managing Director at SunLife concludes: “This research is really encouraging, showing how we can budget to have more spare cash and so be happier. In fact, our Cash Happy report shows that the happiest people in the UK also formally budget, and check their bank balance regularly.
“They ensure they have some ‘spare cash’ to spend however they wish, and generally they are happier when they have savings and insurance in place. The good news is out: you don’t need to be a millionaire for money to buy you happiness.”
1To calculate happiness, respondents were asked the following three questions and asked to scale them between 1 and 10, with 1 being not at all satisfied/happy and 10 being extremely satisfied/happy:
- All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays?
- How happy did you feel yesterday?
- Thinking forward to the next 5 years or so, how happy do you feel about your future?
The results were then combined in a statistical modelling process called a factor analysis, to give an overall happiness index scaled from 1 to 10.
2Based on 2.3 adults per household, according to the ONS.
SunLife rebranded in 2014 but has been around since 1810, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in the UK. The company is a direct-to-consumer financial services provider, offering a range of straightforward and affordable products across insurance, savings and protection.
SunLife’s customer satisfaction score is 97%*. It was the first company in the UK to offer life assurance without a medical and is the market leader in over 50s plans**.
SunLife also conducts regular, rigorous research across financial services and the later life market, and owns the annual ‘Cost of Dying’ report which has been one of the most significant pieces of ongoing research in its field for the last five years.
The company’s ambition is to ‘democratise financial services’ – giving everyday customers access to products that can give them a brighter financial future.
*SunLife new customer satisfaction survey, rolling 6 monthly performance figures, surveys Mar – Aug 2014 for policies taken out between Dec 2013 – Mar 2014.
**Most popular whole of life guaranteed acceptance plan bought directly. ABI statistics up to 31st December 2014.
Survey consisted of 3388 on line interviews among UK adults aged between 18 and 70 undertaken by Charterhouse Research between 26th March and 22nd April 2015