-By Elke Zeki

Planning for retirement is one of the most interesting aspects of financial planning. Despite our vastly different circumstances and financial situations, we generally have the same underlying goal: to retire happily and in good health.

The desire for happiness and health is not just exclusive to retirees though. In our later years these things are just magnified because we have less distractions (like work or raising children) and more time to focus on ourselves.

A recent survey of millennials (done by the Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University) looked at what their most important life goals are. Over 80% of them ranked ‘having money’ as one of their most important goals. More than 50% of the same individuals ranked ‘fame’ and ‘image’ very high too.

The world’s longest study on adult development (done by Harvard University) followed two groups of boys over the course of 79 years – one group from a wealthy and privileged neighbourhood and the other from a very poor area. Over the years the researchers started including the wives and extended family members in their study. The program still runs today. This particular study found that money and fame don’t make you happy or healthier. Of course, we know this, but then what does?

Turns out that the key to happiness is relationships! Good strong relationships are just as important to your physical and mental health as eating well and exercise.

“People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy and that their health declines earlier in midlife. Their brain functioning declines sooner too, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely”. This is according to Robert Waldinger in his TedTalk entitled: “What Makes A Good Life”. He goes on to say that good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Watch the full video here:

TED talk by Professor Robert J Waldinger

We loved this research as we see evidence of this every day in our interactions with our clients! Even though we work with money and money related goals, it’s very rarely the thing that makes our clients happiest.

Our experience tells us that happily retired people all have the following in common:

  • They plan their retirement long in advance.
  • They know what’s important to them (i.e. their core values) – and they make sure that their financial plan is constructed with this in mind.
  • They live within their means.
  • They actively seek to replace workmates with playmates.
  • They focus on the important relationships in their lives. Quality over quantity.
  • They focus on fitness and health.

One client told us a lovely story about a little old lady she knew who was visiting the doctor. She was not wealthy but viewed herself that way because of her children and grandchildren. As she left the doctor’s rooms he picked up her purse from the chair and handed it to her. Feeling the weight he jokingly said, “You must be very rich” to which she replied, “Yes, I am indeed”.

In a world where we are easily distracted by social media, money, fame and privilege, let’s not forget what truly matters. The wonderful thing about relationships is that it’s never too late to work on them. And what better time to invest in these than over the upcoming holiday season.