Are you motivated to strengthen your community, clean up our environment or otherwise make a positive impact on others or society? If so, don’t squelch this desire to contribute for fear that you’ll neglect your own financial wellbeing. Research by Anthony Burrow from Cornell University (my alma mater!) and three other academics found the opposite to be true: purpose, defined as acting to make contributions to the world beyond ourselves, modestly increases wealth (see full research report.)
Burrow and team studied over 4,500 individuals between the ages of 25 and 74. Those with a sense of purpose had roughly $2,600 higher income and $15,000 higher net worth that could not be explained by educational levels, personality or other variables but instead resulted directly from the purpose. What’s more, purpose appears to have a cumulative effect on wealth. Approximately ten years after collecting the above data, the purpose-driven income boost had broadened to roughly $4,500 and the net-worth boost to roughly $21,000. These figures suggest that purpose generates a six percent income gain and seven percent net-worth gain.
You might be skeptical that something as abstract as purpose yields concrete monetary benefits. This finding, however, is a logical extension of what we know. Studies have long established that purpose makes us happier, healthier, less likely to miss work, and more engaged and productive at work (see posts on the purpose link to happiness and performance). Given this plethora of positive impacts, how could purpose not make us wealthier?
How might we apply this finding? Is there a way to ignite purpose in jobs? Fortunately, there is. A practice called job purposing helps you make a positive social impact through everyday work, regardless of where you work. Job purposing might entail hiring individuals who are disabled, sourcing from small local businesses or helping customers adopt healthy behaviors. The point is, whatever your job, you can flex it towards good. For six simple ways to do this, see a prior post.
That leaves you with just one problem. How will you spend your $21,000?
This post was originally published on LinkedIn on the post date and reposted here in January 2018 when this site launched.