The optimal NZ salary is more than three times the average wage - study

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A US study has found there's an optimal earnings point that makes individuals happy.

In New Zealand that "optimal" salary is $171,000, according to research from Purdue University in West Lafayette.

Lead author Andrew Jebb says advertisers indicate there's no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but "we now see there are some thresholds".

Researchers found substantial variation across world regions, with "satiation" occurring later in wealthier regions for life satisfaction.

That satiation point occurred at $171,000 in New Zealand and Australia, according to

That's compared with $137,000 in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and $103,000 in North America.

In 2017, Statistics New Zealand reported New Zealanders were earning an average $50,000 in salaries and wages.

The Purdue University research is based on data from the Gallup World Poll, which surveyed 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries.

"It's been debated at what point does money no longer change your level of well-being," Mr Jebb said.

"We found that the ideal income point is $130,000 (US$95,000) for life evaluation and between $82,000 and $103,000 for emotional wellbeing.

"Life evaluation is an overall assessment of how one is doing and is likely more influenced by higher goals and comparisons to others."

The study found that once the threshold was reached, further increases in income tended to be associated with reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of wellbeing.

Mr Jebb said this may be because money is important for meeting basic needs, purchasing conveniences and maybe even loan repayments, but to a point.

After the optimal point of needs is met, people may be driven by desires such as pursuing more material gains and engaging in social comparisons which could, ironically, lower wellbeing.

He said the findings speak to broad issues of money and happiness across cultures.  

"Money is only a part of what really makes us happy, and we're learning about the limits of money," he said.