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Happiness research inspired one business owner to implement a minimum salary
Dan Price, who owns Gravity Payments, will make $70,000 the base salary at his company. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Seattle business owner Dan Price has a unique understanding of the minimum wage. Instead of basing it on market forces or existing budgets, he ties his own company's base salary to happiness research, which is why all 120 of his employees will soon earn at least $70,000 per year.

"The market rate for me as a CEO compared to a regular person is ridiculous. It's absurd," Price told The New York Times. He cut his own nearly $1 million salary to make room in the budget to offer raises to other workers at Gravity Payments, a credit card payment processing firm.

In the study that inspired the shift, which was published in 2010, researchers tested the old adage "Money can't buy happiness," determining that perhaps it can, at least to a point.

"Emotional well-being rises with (income), but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of around $75,000," the researchers concluded.

Price said the findings echoed something he'd heard again and again from friends and family members: It's incredibly difficult to live on a low salary.

"I hear that every single week," he told the Times. "That just eats at me inside."

Deseret News National recently addressed the same research in an article about coveting for its Ten Commandments series. While acknowledging that pay raises are shown to boost satisfaction, the article noted that money isn't the only way to boost well-being.

Connections with friends and neighbors, a sense of purpose in everyday life and fun hobbies to fill free time can also increase happiness, Deseret News National reported.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a similar collection of ideas to measure happiness. To explore the impact of taking vacations or living in certain areas on overall well-being, Gallup researchers ask respondents about five "essential elements" of a life well-lived: purpose, loving relationships, financial stability, community support and physical health.

Annual salary, then, is only one part of the equation.

In the Times article, Price admitted that there were other social issues he could have addressed in order to boost his employees' well-being, perhaps by paying for community-building programs or improving vacation packages. But he said said pay raises "seemed like a more worthy issue to go after."

The raises will take effect gradually over the next three years, the Times reported. Currently, the average salary at Gravity Payments is $48,000 per year.
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