Michael Norton

If you think money can’t buy you happiness, you’re not spending it right.

Author of Happy Money | Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School

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Michael Norton | Author of Happy Money | Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School

Money can buy happiness—as long as we spend it properly, says Michael Norton. Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Happy Money, Norton argues that spending money on other people, rather than ourselves, is crucial for our overall happiness. And in funny, illuminating talks, he shows how giving back in pro-social ways can also help your teammates, organization, and customers. 

Michael I. Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He is the co-author—with Lavin speaker Elizabeth Dunn—of the book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, which was called “a witty, lively guide to changing the philosophy behind spending so that it brings you true joy” by Publishers Weekly.


“No one understands how to get more happiness out of our money better than Liz Dunn and Mike Norton. Their research is not only on the cutting edge — it changes where the edge is.”

— Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

Norton was selected for Wired Magazine’s Smart List as one of “50 People Who Will Change the World,” and his TEDx talk, “How to Buy Happiness,” has been viewed more than 3 million times. His research has been featured twice in The New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue, as well as in The New York TimesHarvard Business Review, Scientific American, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, Wired, and Forbes, among others. 

Speech Topics

Health & Wellness
Happy Money The Science of Happier Spending

Can money buy happiness? Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton certainly thinks so—if you follow five core principles of smarter spending. Norton is the co-author, with Elizabeth Dunn, of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending. The book provides five research-based principles designed to help people use their money in happier ways—whether they have a little or a lot of it. This engaging talk is full of recent research and examples that range from how individuals gain happiness by choosing “experiences over stuff” to how companies seek to create happier employees and “happier products” for their customers. Learn how to better yourself by bettering others, and remember: money’s not making you sad—it’s all in the way you’re spending it!

Corporate Social Responsibility
The Transparent Company How to Increase Trust through More Transparent Organizations

In a landscape of e-commerce, cyber-security, and big business, trust is everything. How can organizations—from companies to governments—gain the trust of their key stakeholders (from customers to constituents) to increase both buying and buy-in? Customers frequently feel that they are being overcharged for services that seem costless (such as ATM machines). Meanwhile, citizens feel that they are overtaxed for services they believe they do not use. Michael I. Norton’s research shows that by increasing operational transparency—showing the work being done on stakeholders’ behalf—organizations can (re)gain trust, increase satisfaction, and trigger action. In this surprising and practical keynote, Norton explains the benefits of having a more open, transparent organization—for voters, employees, shareholders, customers, and the bottom line.


U.S. Economy
Inequality Our Surprising Attitudes About Who Should Get What

Economic inequality in the United States has been rising for decades, yet only recently have behavioral scientists explored a central question surrounding the optimal level of inequality. What do citizens believe the “ideal” level of inequality should be? Citizens’ preferences inform the likely effects (and likely voter acceptance) of policies that affect inequality, from taxation to spending on education and health care. Our research reveals that Americans from all walks of life – rich and poor, liberal and conservative – endorse unequal outcomes (rich people have more than poor people) but far less inequality than the current state of affairs. For example, the actual pay ratio of CEOs to unskilled workers in the United States is 354:1, but Americans report an ideal ratio of 7:1 – unequal, but more equal. Moreover, we also show that the disclosure of a retailer’s high pay ratio (e.g., 1000 to 1) reduces purchase intention relative to firms with lower ratios (e.g., 60 to 1). In short, both citizens and consumers feel that current levels of inequality are too high – and may be willing to voice that view with their purchasing power.