Monday, March 09, 2015

Traits of Happy Retirees

This post about the 18 traits of happy retirees on the excellent Bogleheads forum caught my attention. We hit most of the 18 items on the list:

1. our pre-retirement household income was above the USD97K threshold for happiness. Given the cost of living in Hong Kong and that we have two school-age children, a high income was pretty much essential to saving enough for early retirement; PASS

2. our post-retirement household income is above the USD82K threshold for happiness. See1  above; PASS

3. our liquid net worth (cash, marketable securities, commodities) is well above the USD500K threshold. See 1 above; PASS

4. do we have a well defined understanding of our purpose in life? Once I get past raising children and feeding the cat, I'm not sure about this one. I have plenty of things to do (current and proposed) but am not sure if they amount to a "purpose"; FAIL

5. I have the 3.5 core pursuits - writing/reading, studying, exercise, family, charity & professional. I am also very goal orientated which helps; PASS

6. home value is miles above the USD300K threshold - which is hardly surprising given Hong Kong property prices; PASS

7. we do have a mortgage and there is about 6.5 years to go on it. Given current interest rates, it makes more sense not to pay it off early (which we could do); PASS

8. we are married; PASS

9. we have two children. I assume this and 8 above are representative of a more generic "family" trait; PASS

10. we have multiple sources of income; PASS

11. we spend much more than 5 hours per year planning for retirement; PASS

12. our spending level is well above the USD53K per annum threshold. See 1 above; PASS

13. we live in a city; PASS

14. we eat fast food occasionally. Hong Kong being Hong Kong, I'm not sure what counts as fast food here but, on the whole, we have pretty average dietary habits; PASS

15. we don't own a car; PASS

16. we tend to shop at middle range stores; PASS

17. we usually take 2-3 vacations a year; PASS

18. both myself and Mrs Traineeinvestor graduated from university. PASS

Of course, all this is based on a survey and is no more than a smorgasbord of average responses. The two most obvious things missing from the list are (1) health and (2) environment - which is very surprising. My own take is that a happy retirement is best founded on:

A. solid family relationships
B. financial security - not necessarily affluence but enough to avoid sleepless nights worrying about putting food on the table in 20-30 years time
C. engagement - just keeping socially, mentally and physically active. Just being curious about things is a good place to be
D. health - something we take for granted until we don't have it