Despite Tough Economy, Money Takes a Back Seat to Family

A 50% Raise Can’t Outweigh Time with Children and Loved Ones, Even Though Seven in Ten Americans Say More Money Would Make them Happier

In New “Keep Good Going Report,” Americans Grade Themselves across Key Aspects of Family, Personal Life, Work and Community

“Goodness” Expert: Priorities Appear Unshaken in Face of Economic Turbulence

NEW YORK--()--Even though seven out of ten Americans (71%) say they would be happier if they had more money, few are willing to make trade-offs between their families and their finances. In fact, even the promise of a 50% pay increase wouldn’t be enough for most Americans to spend less time with their children and families:

What Would Americans Exchange for a 50% Pay Increase?

Category   Yes, I would make this trade-off
Time with their children   11%
Time with spouse or partner   20%
A significant amount of sleep each night   33%
Total vacation time   35%
A favorite recreational activity/hobby   43%
Time with friends   45%
Evenings off from work   54%

These findings are the first in a series of announcements from the Keep Good Going Report, sponsored by New York Life, a survey of more than 2,000 Americans exploring attitudes and expectations about how they can cultivate goodness in their lives.

Not surprisingly, the economy has negatively impacted Americans and many are feeling financial stress. Large majorities state that living a good life would be easier if they didn’t have to worry about bills (90%), were able to be financially self-sufficient in retirement (89%), and could protect their family financially against life’s uncertainties (89%).

“Despite the impact of a tough economic environment and people's conviction that life would be easier with more money, a 50% pay raise still didn’t move the needle when it came to cutting down on time spent with family – children and spouses. This is very telling about what Americans value,” said Liz McCarthy, senior vice president and head of Corporate Communications, New York Life.

Cultivating Goodness: Americans Grade Themselves

The study also gave Americans an opportunity to rate their performance in four key areas that relate to goodness: family, personal life, work and community. Perhaps because of their unwillingness to trade time with family, respondents indicated they were doing better in terms of having a loving relationship with their children than in other areas of family life – the equivalent of a “B+”.

“This is a strong foundation that Americans can build on as they seek greater happiness, no matter what external factors, like the economy, are at play,” said Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of Raising Happiness, sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and independent consultant to New York Life. “What’s more, this report makes it clear where the low-hanging fruit is for Americans who are looking to perpetuate good in their families.”

Other “report card” grades ranged from the equivalent of a B+ in areas such as having integrity, being considerate of others, and being polite and kind, all the way down to Ds (and one F) in areas like achieving financial success, being politically active, and participating in community events.

How Well Do Americans Feel They’re Doing in their Family Lives?

Having a loving relationship with their children     B+
Ensuring that their children are educated and enriched     B+
Having a good relationship with their parents     B-
Having a loving marriage/relationship     B-
Being able to provide a good life for their family     B-
Having a good relationship with siblings     C+

How Well Do Americans Feel They’re Doing in their Personal Lives?

Having integrity     B+
Being considerate of others     B+
Being a good listener     B
Feeling and expressing gratitude     B
Having a positive attitude     B-
Being patriotic     C-
Being religious/spiritual     D+

How Well Do Americans Feel They’re Doing in their Work Lives?

Helping co-workers when they need it     B-
Working hard even if they don’t enjoy it     C+
Having work-life balance     C
Working for a company/organization that helps people     C-
Finding meaning in their job     C-
Achieving financial success     D

How Well Do Americans Feel They’re Doing in their Communities?

Being polite and kind toward others     B+
Respecting elders     B+
Being a good friend     B
Being environmentally conscious     C-
Being politically active/voting     D+
Volunteering time for good causes     D-
Donating money to good causes     D-
Participating in community/neighborhood events     F

“The survey was designed to get an understanding of what Americans value today and to see if their actions reflect these values. The results show that, for the most part, Americans are acting on their values. More specifically, Americans find family and personal relationships as key to living a good life, and they are doing things in their day to day lives to reinforce this,” said Brian Perlman, Ph.D., CLU, ChFC, partner, Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

Survey Methodology

The Keep Good Going Report survey was sponsored by New York Life and conducted online by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc., in August 2012, among 2,069 individuals age 21 or older.

About New York Life

Committed to helping people perpetuate the good in their lives, New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States* and one of the largest life insurers in the world. New York Life has the highest financial strength ratings currently awarded to any life insurer by all four of the major credit rating agencies.** Headquartered in New York City, New York Life’s family of companies offers life insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance. Please visit New York Life’s Web site at for more information.

*Based on revenue as reported by “Fortune 500 ranked within Industries, Insurance: Life, Health (Mutual),” Fortune magazine, May 21, 2012. See for methodology.

**Source: Third-party ratings reports as of 6/22/12.


New York Life
Terri Wolcott, 212-576-5216
Sloane & Company
John Hartz, 857-598-4779


New York Life
Terri Wolcott, 212-576-5216
Sloane & Company
John Hartz, 857-598-4779