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Money and Creativity Satisfy Differently

There are numerous studies on the relationship between emotional well-being and salary.  The conclusion is that while emotional well-being increases as your salary goes up, it plateaus at $75,000.  I think this conclusion is simplistic, but in my experience, it's directionally true.

Why is this the case?  And why do we think that despite this, more money is the answer to most problems?

Paul Millerd wrote a great essay on the history of Maslow's pyramid.  Maslow said that there are different needs that we need to fulfill.  He actually never came up with the concept of the pyramid (read Paul's essay for the details), and his later writing grouped needs into the "B-Realm" and the "D-Realm".  

Adapted from Paul Millerd

The B-Realm is your "being needs" and the D-Realm are your "deficiency needs".

Kahneman's paper and Maslow's realms fit together neatly.  Fulfilling your D-Realm needs is easier the more money you make.  But money is less effective in fulfilling B-Realm needs.

When you start your life, you only see D-Realm.  These are the concrete needs, food, clothing, and shelter.  You either need money or a lot of time and specific skills to meet these needs.  Even the higher level D-Realm needs are facilitated by money - a feeling of belonging, security, and safety.  The years it takes to satisfy these needs comfortably condition you to believe that money can solve any problem.

The B-Realm is more abstract.  Flow states, ego transcending experiences, and meaning aren't things you can buy.  You're not even aware of their value and you don't even know their importance.  

The act of creation is about satisfying the B-Realm needs.

We feel that we can fill the B-Realm through consumption and attaining status.  We focus on making more money to accomplish those.  And then we wonder why we're not happy.

You have two holes to fill and you can't fill them the same way.