Valuing Time Over Money Predicts Happiness After A Major Life Transition: A Pre-registered Longitudinal Study of Graduating Students
Ashley Whillans, Lucía Macchia & Elizabeth Dunn
How does prioritizing time or money shape major life decisions and subsequent well-being? In a preregistered longitudinal study of approximately 1000 graduating university students, respondents who valued time over money chose more intrinsically rewarding activities and were happier 1 year after graduation. These results remained significant controlling for baseline happiness and potential confounds, such as materialism and socioeconomic status, and when using alternative model specifications. These findings extend previous research by showing that the tendency to value time over money is predictive not only of daily consumer choices but also of major life decisions. In addition, this research uncovers a previously unidentified mechanism—the pursuit of intrinsically motivated activities—that underlies the previously observed association between valuing time and happiness. This work sheds new light on whether, when, and how valuing time shapes happiness.