We all know what we ultimately want from life. The simple word, happiness, carries so much weight and possibility. This is especially true during your retired years when your time is yours, and the world is wide-open.
It’s essential to remember that while you plan and save over the years, you’re doing more than building your net worth. You’re striving toward your own unique dream of how your Golden Years will look.
In a recent piece I wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), I shared four traits of unhappy retirees. These traits come from my own research of thousands of individuals who had bid adieu to traditional work. My goal was to find out what makes happy retirees tick. I gleaned a massive amount of wisdom, and what I learned is part of my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think.
My data also uncovered what makes for an unhappy retirement. The four un-fab traits I outlined in the AJC included pessimism, the Rich Ratio, individual retirement planning, and splurging after you stop working.
These were just half of it; there are actually eight traits that make for unhappiness after you call it a career. Here are the other four mistakes I found that unhappy retirees make as they make their way through retirement.
Take a look and see if any of these resonate with you and your retirement plans.
Number Five – BMWs
The unhappiest retirees drove luxury cars, specifically BMWs. This finding was surprising, but then the pieces fell into place. The type of car folks drive as they make their way through retirement matters, especially from a cost perspective. On average, these luxury vehicles cost about 20% more to own, maintain and repair over time, leading to financial headaches.
When I dug a little deeper, it seemed that anything purchased as a status symbol or to make someone feel better about themselves doesn’t hold long-term value for retirees. The happiest of the lot picked dependability over flash. They go for the comfort and cushion found in Lexus, Nissan, Hyundai, and Subaru. The top brand of happy retirees? Toyota. So, to up your happiness quotient during retirement, consider ditching the Beemer for a more reliable ride.
Number Six – Day Trading
I encourage my clients, family, and friends to explore what I call core pursuits. Consider these like hobbies on steroids – the activities you’re passionate about that bring you a sense of joy and fulfillment during life. They are all the more important in your retirement years, as they’ll make up the bulk of how you choose to spend your time.
There’s no end to the number of core pursuits out there! One I don’t recommend, however, is day trading. For happy retirees and me, I generally recommend this to be a don’t-even-think-about-it endeavor.
I see a propensity to get into day trading in men in particular. As they head into retirement, they’re looking to fill the void of a high-power, high-intensity career with something that gives them a similar rush. But starting a second career as a stock trader is rarely the path to economic prosperity. In fact, it tends to lead to more anxiety over your money – not only are you often getting in over your head in a world you likely know little-to-nothing about, but you’re also gambling away your retirement savings!
It’s nearly impossible for the average person to time the market perfectly over and over again. Remember, time in the market beats timing the market. The happiest retirees take on the role of long-term investors, not day traders. Some happy retirees use income investing as a strategy and put their “stock” into companies that pay dividends consistently over time. So, get active in planning and setting your financial goals for the long-term, and don’t try to strike gold with day trading.
Number Seven – Housing Costs
Repeat after me: Retirement is not the time to take on new debt. Before you bid farewell to your 9-to-5 job, take time to evaluate and plan for the things you’ll want and need in the future. An ocean view is sublime, and quartz countertops are magnificent. But you don’t want to take on the stress of a new mortgage or credit card debt when you’re heading into retirement. And you certainly don’t want to dip into your retirement savings to pay for these things.
It’s better to purchase a new home or take on renovations while you still have a steady paycheck. Think about it – how often do you watch TV shows where well-meaning property hunters blow their budget for the perfect vacation home at the beach? Or a seemingly simple home improvement project skyrockets to thousands of extra dollars. Make these moves or improvements before you call it a career. So, if you go over budget (and you just may), you can adjust your retirement plan to work an extra year or two to absorb the financial shock.
The happiest retirees plan for major expenses and purchases while they’re still working. They use their retirement nest eggs to control their cash flow and taxes for many years to come. So, taking time to plan for big-ticket items before you retire pays off down the road.
Number Eight – Pinching Pennies
What’s your life savings worth if you never spend a penny of it? A big, fat goose egg, my friends. Having retirement money for the sole purpose of having retirement money is a waste of the happiness it can afford you, whether through core pursuits, travel, or whatever else is on your horizon.
I see it all the time. People have gone through the hard work of saving for years and years, and when retirement finally comes, they become immobilized and too scared to spend any of it. Remember the old saying, “You can’t take it with you?” That’s why giving your money a purpose is critical.
Money is a means for living a happy life, not the end goal. There are so many ways you can define the purpose of your money. Some people want to travel the world. Others want to volunteer or become philanthropists for causes near and dear to their hearts. And some people find joy in contributing toward their grandkids’ college funds. Whatever lights you up, find something that keeps you in the spirit of living and giving.
Here’s the great news: These traits of unhappy retirees are all easily avoidable. With a little patience, planning, and effort, you can be one of the happiest retirees on the block and live a full and rich (and happy) life during retirement.
These are four of the eight main traits of unhappy retirees that I’ve identified. If you’d like to read about the other four, you can do so here.