Does Wealth Equate to Quality of Life?

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If you want to see a fascinating chart, take a look at this graphic which charts each country’s GDP per capita with its “social progress,” defined by a cumulative measure of economic opportunity, access to quality healthcare and education, tolerance of minorities and general quality of life.  This is a subjective measure, but if you look at the countries toward the bottom of the chart, you’ll see that the Social Progress Index mostly gets it right.

What’s interesting is the correlation between economic wealth and social progress.  Interestingly, the article describing this chart (see here: http://uk.businessinsider.com/social-progress-index-country-ranking-of-best-quality-of-life-versus-gdp-2016-6?linkId=26233334?r=US&IR=T) from the U.K. Business Insider focuses on the fact that some countries (like Finland, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands) are enjoying more social progress with less wealth, while others (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) have more wealth and less social progress.

But if you look at the line that curves through the data, and especially if you imagine that the line were curved a bit higher on the top end, you see that the correlation between the two is pretty close.  The other interesting thing is how the United States, while high on the scale, ranks behind at least a dozen other countries on the Social Progress Index.  Is it really less pleasant to live in the U.S. than Slovenia?

Culture clearly plays a part in the rankings, which tells us that wealth isn’t everything.  The Scandinavian countries, Canada, New Zealand and Australia clearly put more emphasis on quality of life than on per-capita wealth, while many Arab nations plus Russia have relatively high incomes but fall below the Social Progress curve.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 

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