An interview with Wes Moss, author of "You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think."
What does a happy retirement look like? Are there traits that are common to retirees who would describe themselves as happy? In his new book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, Wes Moss identifies the financial practices self-professed successful retirees have in common.
Moss, 38, is the host of “Money Matters,” a personal finance radio show in Atlanta. The Chief Investment Strategist at Capital Investment Advisors, he was named this year by Barron’s Magazine as one of America’s top 1,200 financial advisors.
You also might remember him from season two of “The Apprentice.” Moss made it to week 11 (out of 15) before being “fired.” I wouldn’t have known about this career footnote had I not conducted a pre-interview Google search on Moss’ name. He does not bring it up and it is not referenced in his bio.
Not that he regrets the experience. He still keeps in touch with some of his fellow contestants, and, in addition to getting a blurb from Trump for his well-received first book, “Starting from Scratch,” appearing on the phenomenally popular series “certainly opened up doors for me and helped me to differentiate myself as a financial advisor,” he told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview. “But it was a full decade ago.”
Back to the business at hand, which is identifying the keys to having a happy retirement. For his book, Moss conducted a survey of 1,350 retirees across 46 states. He asked three dozen questions about on topics ranging from income history and assets to spending habits and sense of purpose.
At the heart of the book, Moss writes, is the eternal question: “Does money buy happiness? Specifically: Does money buy happiness in retirement?”
Money is certainly a factor in attitudes towards retirement, according to wealth level studies conducted Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner of affluent households. Nine-in-ten of respondents with a net worth of at least $5 million said they fully expect to have sufficient income to live comfortably during retirement, compared with 83 percent of those with at least $1 million and 59 percent of those with a net worth of at least $100,000 (not including primary residence).
Not saving enough for retirement and outliving one’s money are the biggest financial regrets and fears, according to Millionaire Corner research.
Moss was inspired to write “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” after hearing about a study conducted by the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University that found people considered an income of $75,000 a year as the benchmark of happiness. “I wanted to take that concept and go further,” he said. “My data found a separation between happy and unhappy retirees based on financial and consumer behaviors.”
One of the keys to a happy retirement, he states, is balancing “the grave importance of the numbers with the indisputable importance of behavior.”
What traits and behaviors to the happiest retirees share? Among them, according to Moss’ data:
- A net worth of at least $500,000
- A well-defined understanding of their “purpose in life”
- They are married with at least two children
- At least five hours per year are spent planning for retirement
- They don’t have a mortgage, or if they do, payoff is imminent
Ideally, Moss says, retirees have a plan to pay off their mortgage within five years. Another major mistake, he says, is retirees who pay off, or are close to paying off their mortgage in retirement, but then begin extensive renovation projects. “Investing too heavily into their home after they stop working can lead to a slippery slope,” he says. “
Moss finds, too, that the happiest retires have at least two income streams rather than just relying on Social Security.
But again, it’s not all about money, Moss emphasizes. The happiest retirees have at least three “core pursuits” about which they are passionate, such as golf, travel, or volunteering (another trait among the happiest retirees). “A corporate executive who works 50-60 hours a week and doesn’t have an active hobby or spend as much time with their family is going to be behind the eight ball when it comes to retirement,” Moss says. “You end up having to rebuild a life, which can lead to depression and anxiety, especially in the first few years of retirement.”
Financial and retirement planning, Moss emphasizes, “goes beyond the numbers. It’s trying to achieve balance. You want to keep your ship nice and steady at all times.”
Moss added with a laugh, “I hate ship analogies, but I’m a big believer in balance.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.