What Discipline Has to Do With Happiness in Retirement

Substantial changes in retirement age and lifestyle are on the horizon for us, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2014 Planning and Progress Study. People expect to work longer, but a sizable number will do so by choice rather than necessity. Others—and there are plenty of them—aren’t as fortunate and don’t feel they’ll have the luxury of choice.

For retirees:

  • The average age they retired was 59
  • The large majority (72%) say they are completely retired from working

For those still working:

  • The average age they expect to work until is 68 (nearly a decade longer than the retirees in the study)
  • Nearly half (45%) say they will continue to work in retirement, not because they have to but because they want to
  • Sizable numbers of others who are still working are either uncertain about when they’ll retire, or know they don’t have many choices
  • One in five (21%) is not sure how many years he or she will spend in retirement
  • More than one in 10 (13%) think they’ll never be able to retire
  • Nearly four in 10 (38%) aged 60 and over estimate that they will have to work until age 75 or older before they can retire

The research also found a gap between expectations and experience. Only 37% of working adults expect they will be happier in retirement than they are now. But 84% of current retirees say they are happy in retirement, and 60% say they’re happier now than they were when they were working.

Seventy percent of retirees describe their lives as “fulfilling,” and a large majority focus on health and fitness and stay active with charities. But half of retirees saw health-care costs increase significantly in retirement, and among them 45% didn’t anticipate these expenses.

This underscores the need for planning. In findings released earlier by Northwestern Mutual, the study revealed a link between the discipline an individual brings to financial planning and their happiness in retirement. Retirees who identify themselves as “highly disciplined” planners are much more likely than non-planners to say that they are happy in retirement (91% vs. 63%).

The study revealed a link between the discipline an individual brings to financial planning and their happiness in retirement.

Americans need to take the first step in getting a handle on retirement by talking to someone about their concerns. The study found that 42% of adults have never had a conversation with anyone about retirement.

The research shows that retirees are concentrating less on numbers and more on quality of life, but quality of life requires financial capital to minimize financial concerns. It’s possible that retirement may not be exactly what you imagined, but if you have a plan, and you follow that plan, there’s a good chance your retirement will be a happy and fulfilling period of your life.


by Marvin H. Feldman

Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, RFC, is president of the Feldman Financial Group in Palm Harbor, Fla., and president and CEO of Life Happens. He is a 41-year Million Dollar Round Table member and was the 2002 president. He is a 33-year member of the MDRT Top of the Table and a past Top of the Table chairman. He also is the recipient of the 2011 John Newton Russell award, the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the insurance industry.

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