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senior couples having fun

Every year my family, including my siblings' families and my mom, take a week and head down to the beaches of South Carolina (Hilton Head, to be exact) and spend a week swimming, beaching, dining, exploring, and doing all the things that make a wonderful family vacation. One thing I enjoy is the relaxation of sitting in the pool, floating around, and reading a book I've wanted to get into but didn't hit the "must read" list during the year. This week, I went through a book titled, What The Happiest Retirees Know by Financial Advisor and author Wes Moss. Before you go out and buy this book, read to the end of this article for my summary of some of the most critical points and learn how you could receive a free copy from Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers.

Retirement is something most people aspire to do. Even those who love their work and have a passion for what they do would enjoy chasing other core pursuits at some point in their life. I get great satisfaction from helping teach people about investing, retirement, and creating a plan to blend all of those. However, there will be a day where I'll enjoy playing with grandkids, joining a pickleball team, traveling with my beautiful bride, volunteering with my church, or the myriad of other things that one's brain would go to when their career is over. Just as Dave Ramsey tells us, doesn't that mean we owe it to ourselves to learn the best practices of what successful and, more importantly, happy retirees know? This article and Wes's book will give you an excellent glimpse into some of the best practices of a happy retiree. Below are the top five things I learned from his article from the 2,000 retirees Wes Moss interviewed in this study.

Live Within 2 Hours of at Least Half Your Children

What I most enjoyed about this book is it looked at the financial and non-financial traits of those that quantify their retirement as enjoyable or happy. This was one trait that stuck out to me. The average happy retiree had 2.5 children and lived within 2 hours of at least half of them. Think about the rationale here. You live in Ohio, and your children (and just as essential grandchildren) live in Florida. Those first steps, the kindergarten graduation, the dinners on the weekend together, and on and on. These are irreplaceable memories, and while no single trait was a single determinate that you were or weren't going to be happy in retirement, this particular trait struck me.

Retirees struggled with the thought of packing up their life and moving to be closer to their kids. They felt they'd intrude on their children's lives, but the exact opposite was true. In many cases, your children would welcome your retirement years being closer to them, to the extent it doesn't create unnecessary financial burdens on your retirement. As a result of this information, count your blessings if at least half your children live close and if they don't, perhaps count on the cost of creating a little less separation between your families.

Have at least $500,000 in Liquid Retirement Savings

I know what some of you say: "John-Mark, I don't need that much, or I need so much more than that." Yes, both statements can be accurate based on your unique situation, but on average, this amount of retirement assets provided the highest level of satisfaction. Interestingly, when Wes did his study, as your assets went higher than $500,000, there was a diminishing level of happiness happening, which means he didn't find having $750,000 or $1,000,000 makes someone any happier than the retiree that has $500,000.

Consider why this could be the case if you have $500,000 in retirement assets that would, on average, generate about $2,000 in income each month without touching the principal. Again, this is an average because, as we all know, from 2022, the stock market also has negative years. $2,000 from your portfolio each month, maybe $2,000 from one spouse's Social Security and $1,000 from another spouse's Social Security, and you're staring down the barrel of $5,000 in monthly income. If you live the Dave Ramsey lifestyle and have no payments to anyone in the world, this can usually provide a baseline lifestyle that is pretty enjoyable. Of course, some people want and need more income, and those people would need to save more, but on average, the highest level of happiness in the study in terms of retirement assets was $500,000. Speaking of not having any payments in the world, as we live the Dave Ramsey lifestyle…..

Have Paid Off Their Mortgage or Will Soon

My favorite retirement line is that "it's a pretty basic equation; it's all about making your income (Social Security Retirement, investments, pension) equaling your expenses (living expenses, debt, taxes, etc.). The less expense you have, the less stress you put on the asset (income) side of the equation. Therefore, we should eliminate as many expenses as possible before retirement. You could eliminate lifestyle expenses such as your gym membership, vacation sinking fund, or something similar, but who wants to do that before retirement? Let's instead stop giving the bank our hard-earning money in retirement or as soon as possible. The mortgage is your single largest monthly expense, and removing it from your life should be a major priority and "must do" before retirement.

If you're wondering about how to ensure you have your mortgage paid off before you retire, talk to your Financial Advisor at Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, who can run a rapid mortgage payoff calculation, telling you the exact amount of extra dollars you should allocate towards the mortgage each month to ensure it's paid off before you enter the green pastures of retirement. As Dave says, when you pay off the mortgage, the grass will feel different in the backyard!

Have at least 3.6 Core Pursuits

The Wall Street Journal did an article a few years ago that made the case that retirement is killing you. What!?!!?!? The reality is if you cut off all your social networks and remove any semblance of exercise and daily movement, then you probably are setting yourself up for a risky health situation. However, the happiest retirees had at least 3.6 core pursuits that they transitioned into when they retired. Wes explains these core pursuits as the "ings." Walking, biking, traveling, volunteering, and boating, they could also be things like starting a band, leatherwork, hunting, and animal adoption. The list is endless. However, the key is retirement should be called REFOCUS, not retirement. You're just starting a time in your life where the thing you spent the last 30 – 40 years doing and perfecting is over, and now you're getting to start over and refocus on a few other passions. The additional side benefit of having at least 3.6 core pursuits is they typically open up your social networks, and the last habit I'll share is …..

Have at least 3.6 Close Connections (AKA Friends)

Every topic that Wes studied had, at some point, had a diminishing return. Just as I mentioned in regards to retirement assets, the happiest people had around $500,000. Have less than $500,000 or more than $500,000, you are more likely to be less happy. Having more or less than 3.6 core pursuits, you are likely to be less happy. However, close personal connections or friendships were the one data set that never saw diminishing returns. The more personal connections someone had, the more likely they were to be happy. Even those that are introverts still need people in their life to share life with. It's one reason churches are so focused in today's world on a small group outside of corporate worship. Living life with a group of close connections makes life better, and that includes retirement.

If you struggle with creating close personal connections, one idea is to use your core pursuits to develop those connections. If I love to walk, find a local walking group. If I love to play tennis, find a local tennis club. Finding close personal connections with people that enjoy the same things you want will undoubtedly create relationships that are meaningful and impactful.

We Are Missional

In the book, Wes talks about his goal of helping at least 1 million people retire one year earlier. We want to join him on this mission, which is why we are willing to give you a free copy of this book if you're 50 or older, a client of Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers (or would like to be) and think you'd benefit from hearing about the habits of a happy retiree. We want your retirement years to be your best, not stressful, tedious, or without meaning. Contact your Financial Advisor today to get your free copy.


July 29, 2022

John-Mark Young

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