Once upon a time, a carefree princess dropped her golden ball into a pond where she thought it was lost forever. Then she heard a deep voice from a nasty little frog, “Princess, why do you weep?” “My golden ball has fallen into a spring,” she said. “Now it is lost forever.”“Take heart,” said the frog. “If you do these four things, then your golden ball will be saved and you can be happy.” He smiled at the princess and told her, “I do not want your pearls or clothes or your fine golden rings. I want you to let me live with you, allow me to eat off your plate, let me sleep in your bed, and then, kiss me.”
THE RETIREMENT FAIRY TALE
We all know what happens to that little frog. The princess ends up having feelings for him, and so she kisses him and he turns into a handsome prince. They live happily ever after. For the frog prince, happiness wasn’t just about amassing wealth; he had to break the spell he was under. Today’s workers also fall under a kind of a spell in that they get so focused on saving and amassing the money, they forget what it’s there for. Economists working in the field of “happiness research” are finding some interesting things about what really matters once you retire. It’s not just about the wealth. The rules might surprise you. We’ve distilled down their research to Four Golden Rules you can use for the foundation of your retirement checklist.
RULE #1 MAKE A PLAN FOR THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Rule number one is about making plans so that when your golden ball falls into the pond, your retirement isn’t sunk. According to a recent study by Voya Financial, 60 percent of retired U.S. workers said they had to stop working unexpectedly. Whether you are retiring early because you want to or because you have to, it’s always a good idea to sit down with a financial advisor and work out a plan. Although you can file for your Social Security benefits as early as age 62, doing so will lock in a 25% reduction in your income that will last for the rest of your life. You might have better options if you plan ahead.
RULE#2 LIVE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Economist Andrew Oswald at England’s Warick University found that your happiness isn’t just dependent on the value of your portfolio; it’s relative to your expectations. What matters more than what you have is the GAP between what’s there and what you think should be there.This gap can be evidenced as a visual thorn in your side if you live in a neighborhood that you can barely afford. It’s easy to get caught up in the phenomenon known as ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Economist suggests that instead of living someplace that is above your means, move to a neighborhood that you can comfortably afford. That way, you won’t look out the window every day and feel bad about what you don’t have. Better yet, choose a house with a view of nature – the ocean or a lake for example – to inspire contentment.
RULE #3 TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE ABOUT YOUR PLANS
Not every frog prince gets to live in a castle, but if he has a princess by his side, chances are, he’s going to get to live a long life. Studies have found that married people have longer life expectancies than those who are single, and economists have found that married people who plan their retirement lifestyle together are happier. Timing your retirement so that you both stop working at the same time can lead to greater overall satisfaction, but you have to prepare. Talk with your spouse about what your new day-to-day schedule might look like, and negotiate until you are both comfortable. Investing in your relationships such during retirement is just as important as the stocks and bonds you chose for your investment portfolio. The kinds of activities you do with your spouse or friends don’t have to involve world class travel and expensive hobbies. Inviting the gang over for a game night or joining a bowling league can do as much if not more to boost both your mental and physical health.
RULE #4 BUY YOURSELF AN INCOME
Boomers are the first generation to retire with relative certainty that they are going to live for another 20 to 30 years. They are also the first American workers to retire without the benefits of a stable pension. Study after study has confirmed that people are happier during retirement when they have a regular paycheck coming in that they know they can’t outlive. To achieve a guaranteed income for life payment, this money can’t be in the stock market and it can’t have an expiration date. Ideally, you want to buy yourself a pension that will continue to pay for as long as you live, and whatever money isn’t spent should be returned to your family – your spouse or your beneficiaries – instead of reverting back to a company.Today’s newer annuities come with many benefits that old-fashioned pensions do not have, and best of all, you can buy them using the funds in your IRA or 401(k). You don’t have to annuitize and give up control of your money in order to guarantee your income. Today’s retirees have options. Learn how you can buy yourself a guaranteed income during retirement – no strings attached – just good advice.