You're dead for a real long time
You just can't prevent it
So if money can't buy happiness
I guess I'll have to rent it
--Weird Al Yankovic, This Is The Life
Weird Al is onto something, in his signature, goofy, satirical way. Essentially it is this, that after an average of $75,000, additional income has little to no effect on one's personal happiness (household income, not per-capita).
I would say, that from my own experience, this is largely true. My salary started low, even below the median in my area, and is now around the magic number. As it has increased, financial pressures decreased. I was able to buy a house, which is the single best happiness investment so far (despite the money-pit phenomenon).
It goes deeper than this, though. How does money contribute to overall happiness?
The answer, according to Elizabeth Dunn (courtesy of David McRaney's podcast on the subject) is:
That’s just a small part of the book by this episode’s guest, psychologist Elizabeth Dunn. Happy Money, which she cowrote with marketing expert Michael Norton, is about the psychology of spending. They pored over the research into the relationship between money and happiness and came to the conclusion that if you want to be happy you should buy experiences. To maximize your happiness, make those experiences treats instead of routines, share them with others, buy them as far in advance of when you will enjoy them as you can, and avoid wasting money on objects that won’t affect how you will spend your time on the typical Tuesday.
Follow the podcast link and read the whole thing (or better yet, listen). It's well worth it!
The bottom line is stuff is just stuff. Accumulating possessions, like some Katamari prince on meth can make one comfortable, but will eventually leave a hole that more possessions cannot fill.
While on the other hand, the experiences and who we share them with are the only thing that ultimately can.
Does money buy happiness. No, not directly. It can enable it, but it isn't the most important factor. A person who is not so well off may very well be much happier than a well-to-do philistine, if the former saves for a few treasured adventures, while the latter blows his money wad on tacky baubles and kitschy bling.
Incidentally, the Business Insider article linked above features this hilarious accidentally pornographically cropped image:
She's not naked! Look! Somebody gave her a pearl necklace! (snicker)