As a financial planner, over the years I've regularly wondered if I should be asking my clients this question. Should I, as I work with my clients to define their goals and create plans designed to achieve them, ask them if happiness is on their list? Could it even be at the top of their list?
Then, the light bulb came on and I realized it's difficult to be happy if you are financially insecure. Therefore, careful financial planning and happiness are inexorably intertwined. While you can't necessarily plan for happiness, planning for financial independence can play a crucial role in helping you achieve it.
That said, I've come to believe that as you embark on the financial and retirement planning process, you should ask yourself and your advisor what you can do now to help you prepare for long-term financial security and, in turn, improve your odds of achieving happiness.
To help add some clarity to this complex undertaking, it makes sense to explore both variables.
"The term happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being." — Wikipedia.
With that in mind, what are some factors you should focus on to put yourself in a position to achieve your own personal version of happiness — before and during retirement?
Your physical health. It is hard to happy when you're sick. This is why it's important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, get regular checkups, stay active and pursue the healthy activities you love. There's no victory in being the wealthiest person in the graveyard.
Your mental health. Many of us find we can't turn off the chatter in our minds. This chatter is often about financial anxiety, uncertainty-related fears, and worries about ourselves and those we love. Developing coping skills to manage the worry when it creeps in can allow you to remain positive and focused on the things that make you happy.
Your purpose. Purpose is something that drives you and motivates you to get up in the morning and make productive contributions to the world. It gives you a reason to push through adversity and past obstacles that will undoubtedly present themselves during your life.
A sense of community and a social network. Personal connections and relationships are essential to mental and physical health and well-being. As you move through life, work to build relationships in all areas of your life — work, recreation, family, and more — as they will sustain you as you go through life's many challenges and transitions
Contentedness. Work hard not to compare yourself to others, as comparisons steal your joy. Remember, everyone has problems, they are just different kinds of problems. Instead, have gratitude and focus on what matters in life.
Resiliency and a willingness to change. There are many things beyond our control, and accepting this is key to good mental health and well-being. That said, it's wise to have a plan B in place to adapt to things you cannot control and be resilient. Always focus on the solutions, not the problems
Personal growth and improvement. Government studies have shown that life-long learning can help people stay independent as they age. So never stop challenging yourself mentally, whether it's learning an instrument or a language or getting a qualification.