In this lower growth, uncertain and ever-more unequal world, an issue is gaining prominence: that of a wealth tax. For instance, a group of American billionaires has just been calling publicly for a “wealth tax,” and our own little survey at the Wellness Barometer (very limited and hence with no real scientific validity) shows that ultra-high-net-worth families are surprisingly receptive to the idea. Some even link it to wellbeing.

How can that be? There is a tremendous amount of scientific literature examining the impact of money and income on happiness (subjective wellbeing in the economists’ jargon) but much less on how spending affects happiness (even though it is now a “given” that altruism positively contributes to our sense of wellbeing).

A famous study conducted 10 years ago by specialists of pro-social behaviour concluded that spending money on other people has a more positive impact on happiness (a proxy for wellness) than spending money on oneself. The link between wellbeing and paying more taxes among the richest at first seems tenuous, but it may have, after all, some real validity.

We hope that academic research will soon shed some light on this intriguing relationship. One thing is certain: A growing number of rich people want to do more with their money than chasing returns and argue that giving it away (even through taxes) may be conducive to a greater sense of personal wellbeing. Watch this space.

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