The more you earn, the more you need to get by

August 25, 2015, 10:55 AM UTC

There is a strongly positive correlation between earning more and needing more to get by, to live comfortably and to feel rich

In economics the phenomenon is called the decreasing marginal utility of income – the more you earn, the harder it becomes for each bit of extra income to satisfy you. This is all tried and tested, but new YouGov research finds that people in households with higher incomes not only need relatively more to feel rich, but that they need more just to get by from year to year and to live a comfortable existence. Once you're half way up the ladder, it's very difficult to come down.

In the charts below, gross household income is along the horizontal axes and the respective income needed to get by and to live comfortably is along the vertical axis. The size of the bubbles indicates the number of people who cross each axis at that point, for example 24 people on £28,000 a year say they could get by on £26,000. 

In each case, the two indices move roughly in step with each other, until there are fewer people on the highest incomes and their responses become more variable – perhaps because they have a looser grasp on the value of money, or perhaps because they have more savings.

While the money needed for a basic or comfortable existence is roughly equal to current household earnings, the research also finds that what is needed to actually feel rich shoots above current earnings more significantly.

The results are intuitive, but also somewhat depressing. People on higher incomes have higher expenses priced into their lives – more expensive cars, phone contracts and bigger houses. But, as they say, it's the simple things in life that matter, and the results may show comfort is harder to find in these as income increases. 

See the full poll results