The media, advertisers, maybe even you and I, we are all prone to equating the accumulation of wealth to happiness. Yet probably the most oft-repeated proverb of all time is “Money doesn’t buy happiness.”
So why the disconnect? Why is retirement planning almost entirely focused on the accumulation of assets, and not on learning what it takes to be truly happy once you retire?
You need to save.
First, of course you need money. And although money itself won’t make you happy, it does provide security. So I’m certainly not going to go against 25 years of financial education and tell you otherwise.
In order to thrive in retirement, you need to begin saving early, and you need to save consistently, and this should help bring you peace of mind.
But is having money the key component of happiness?
According to Maddy Dychtwald, the co-founder of the consulting firm Age Wave, and author of the research study “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List,” recent findings support the “money doesn’t buy happiness” mantra.
That’s because over 90 percent of the retired people surveyed stated that their quality of life is equal or superior to the life they led before they retired. The survey participants also reported that money was not the most important component of their quality of life.
Instead, fulfilled retirees overwhelmingly attributed their retirement happiness to freedom; simply, the freedom to do what they wanted with their time.
What else brings retirees happiness?
Taking it a step further, happy retirees typically surround themselves with people they enjoy. According to Dychtwald, over 60 percent of retirees said how they spent their time was much less important to their happiness than who they spent their time with. That’s right. Spending ample time with friends and close relatives, and specifically, grandkids, was the most commonly cited facet of a happy retirement.
A smooth transition is important.
I’ve worked with thousands of people who have transitioned into retirement. Here’s an important warning: It’s not easy. Just because you no longer have to get up and fight traffic to go into the office doesn’t mean that there aren’t difficult adjustments ahead.
That’s because the loss of a work identity and a changing sense of self can be dramatic blows to our equilibrium and self-esteem. Anxiety and depression are common afflictions for recent retirees.
Remember, the transition takes preparation, but this transition can be made easier with the help of a good advisor who listens to your concerns, along with the acceptance that after 40 plus years of hard work “freedom” is a big adjustment.
As society has changed, with modern retirees wanting more engagement and stimulation than retirees of a generation ago, my approach to clients has evolved. Yes, Allworth Financial emphasizes sound principles of asset accumulation and careful investment management, but I’ve found that clients, as well as my friends, are extremely interested in how to make the transition to retirement as smooth and fulfilling as possible.
Are you retired and not enjoying it like you thought you would? Are you preparing for retirement, and perhaps a bit anxious about what the future holds? Ask your advisor what his or her experience working with other people in the same situation has been. Their years of experience helping people with this important transition could prove valuable to you.
 Leisure in Retirement: Wall Street Journal November 27th