"You can't buy happiness, but you can sure plan for it," says Greg Oberland, executive vice president of Northwestern Mutual, which just released a study concluding that those who consider themselves disciplined planners are happier in retirement than those who don't.
The study found that among those who are already retired, 91 percent with a highly disciplined plan say they are happy in retirement compared with 63 percent of people who aren't disciplined about retirement planning.
More is apparently better. The study made a distinction between "highly disciplined planners" and those who are just "disciplined." About 70 percent of those who consider themselves highly disciplined feel very financially secure, while only 51 percent of disciplined planners feel the same way. Thirty-four percent of informal planners and 17 percent of non-planners said they feel financially secure.
People between age 18 and 39 are most likely to consider themselves highly or just disciplined planners, with 59 percent falling into those categories. About 54 percent of older boomers -- those past age 60 -- also claim that distinction. Of people in the middle -- those between 40 and 59 -- a smaller number, 49 percent, see themselves as disciplined or highly disciplined planners. Oberland speculates that the older and younger generations have experienced more financial challenges in their lives, while those in the middle have had an easier time of it. "They started out in the heady days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when jobs were plentiful," he says.
What's the secret to becoming a happy financial wizard? Oberland identifies four retirement planning secrets:
- Don't put your head in the sand. Acknowledge the need to plan.
- Make planning a priority. This expression is hackneyed, but true: You can't find time. You have to make time.
- Be realistic. Saving money requires giving up spending on other things.
- Realize you need help. "We work with people all the time who need financial management help now, but who have the potential to need wealth management later on," Oberland says.
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