When enough is not enough: Overearning as a manifestation of dispositional greed

Overearning is the tendency to forgo leisure and to earn more than one needs. Despite the important individual and societal consequences of overearning, little is known about who overearns and why. We examined the role of dispositional greed in explaining overearning. Study 1, an incentivized behavioral lab study (N = 153), found that greedy individuals showed overearning to a larger degree than less greedy individuals. A follow-up survey (N = 297) suggested that greedy people overearn more because they find the pursuit of wealth more important, not because they find the associated labor less aversive. Consistent with these findings, Study 2 (N = 472), finds that greedy people value money more than time, a pattern associated with lower well-being. Finally, Study 3, another incentivized behavioral lab study with two measurement moments (Ntime-1 = 185; Ntime-2 = 133), replicated and extended the findings of Study 1 to a longitudinal context. People do appear to learn from overearning in the past, as overearning was reduced from time 1 to time 2. However, even at time 2, overearning was observed and greedy individuals showed a larger degree of overearning. Implications for what we can do to prevent overearning and increase well-being are discussed.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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