The Pursuit of Happiness (Does it ever end?)

(By Dr. Joseph W. Koletar, CFE, Founding Partner of Behavioral Forensics GroupTMLLC

MONEY Magazine of March 2018 carries the following article on page 22:

The Insane Amount Millionaires Say They Need To Be Happy.
(Research shows the more you have, the more you think you need)

The article recounts that researchers from the Harvard Business School (HBS) asked over 4,000 millionaires their feelings of happiness after amassing what most would consider a significant amount of money. The results were interesting, given that most people believe there is a direct correlation between money and happiness. Not so, indicated researcher Grant Donnelly.

The HBS team chose a mid-point: above or below $8M, a sizeable amount in the view of most people. Interestingly, most millionaires in that range indicated they would require growing their wealth “immensely” in order to achieve “happiness.”

The article reports that the current study follows a similar study conducted in 2010. That study found that money does tend to increase happiness, but only to a point – about $75,000 in “new” compensation. Beyond that amount, more money seems to have little impact. What Donnelly and fellow team members tried to do was to conduct a similar study of what were referred to as the “ultra-wealthy.” They focused on two variables: does great wealth bring happiness, and does the source of the wealth matter?

It seems it does – those who believed they had “earned” their money reported higher degrees of happiness than those who “inherited” it. Most interesting of all was the fact that:

• Unlike the earlier 2010 study, millionaires now reported that “the more the better;”
• 27% stated they would need an increase of 1,000% to achieve perfect happiness;
• 25% stated they would need 500% more;
• Only 13% stated they would be happy where they were financially.

Rising expectations? An example of what a researcher named “Festinger” described decades ago as the “relative view” of money. The old story of the West Texas oil man who once told a young associate: “Son, the money ain’t important. It’s just how we keep score.” And in Illinois, it would seem to be a stimulant for political activity, where the gubernatorial election is being billed as “The Battle of the Billionaires.”

B4G has been exploring this issue for over a decade. We have become confident that the findings set forth above ring true in our partners’ collective 100+ years of theoretical and practical experience. However, they ring true at ALL levels of an organization, not just the very top. This finding is supported by well over a decade’s worth of analysis by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). ACFE is the largest, and most well-respected, professional anti-fraud organization in the world. (More information and study results can be found, free of charge, at

As a hypothetical example, assume a low-level employee steals $10,000; were that employee at a somewhat higher level, the amount would be $40,000; a still higher level, $160,000, and a still higher level, $640,000. There is a geometric progression at work. This makes perfect sense, since the higher a position you hold, the larger the amount of money under your control, and the degree of oversight lessens.

Accordingly, we can assume fraud is an equal employment opportunity motivated solely by greed. Correct? No. What B4G has done is break down what is widely accepted as the sole motivator (greed) into new elements which are far more persuasive as to the range of human emotions involved.

To learn more about our theories, and our services please visit our website

Joseph W. Koletar ©



The Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC is a team of professionals with vast experience in detecting fraud, understanding why it occurs, and in recommending steps to mitigate fraud incidence within the corporate workplace, particularly within higher-level (and therefore more costly to the enterprise) executives.  The fields of investigation, organizational psychiatry, accounting and behavioral forensics, and law enforcement are represented within the Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC.  Acting in synergy to help organizations prevent, find, and/or reduce fraud, B4GTM is a premier, pioneering practice in this field.

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