ATLANTA – In 2012, there were 43.1 million Americans age 65 and older. By 2050, that number is expected to reach 83.7 million, according to two recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau. As you probably know, most of those people will be baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – whose youngest members are now turning 50.
You can't talk about turning 65 without talking about retirement, but most of the talk hasn't been good. Reports about shrinking Social Security benefits and underfunded or nonexistent pensions have left many Americans believing retirement is a dream they may never realize.
With the release of his book, "You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees" (McGraw Hill Education, $18), Atlanta-based financial planner Wes Moss offers something different – not just a plan to retire, but a way to do it sooner and to be happy when you do.
"We've been reading about how horrible retirement is in America," Moss says. "There are all these scary statistics ... if you hit a couple of bare minimum benchmarks, then retirement starts to take on a new road."
From the first chapter, Moss makes it clear that retirement isn't all about the money. A survey of 1,350 current retirees from across the country helped him identify a few traits that can make you happy, or unhappy, during your retirement years.
For example, according to Moss' survey, happy retirees have a liquid net worth of at least $500,000; they have about three activities, hobbies or interests they love to pursue and they have a home value of at least $300,000. They also have an annual retirement income at or near $82,770. Unhappy retirees average about $53,370.
Those could be really terrifying numbers for the 75 percent of Americans who are nearing retirement and have less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts, but Moss also gives you five money secrets to help you get where you need to go.
The process starts with asking yourself some hard questions about your vision of a life without work. Will you travel? Stay at home? Volunteer? Keep working? How much will that life cost you?
If the statistics are correct, there is probably a gap between how much money you think you need before you retire and how much money you have saved. So Moss helps you figure out how to close the gap and generate more income.
"You can make 100 excuses for not being in a position of financial comfort or freedom. The problem I see, as an adviser, is that it gets pretty sad when you are in your 60s and 70s and have limited financial resources," Moss says.
People in their 30s and 40s reading the book can use Moss' plan as a guideline for getting on track. Older readers, age 55 and up, should focus on Part Three, which is devoted to Moss' rules for income investing.
Four of the five secrets to a happy retirement have to do with money, but the other one, the one about being happy, is what Moss always comes back to. Retirement gives you freedom, he says. Being able to fund the kind of retirement you desire gives you even more freedom. And freedom is what we all want.
Wes Moss' five best practices for a safe, solid and happy retirement
–Determine what you want and need your retirement money for.
–Figure out how much you need to save.
–Create a plan to pay off your mortgage in as little as five years.
–Develop an income stream from multiple sources.
–Become an income investor.
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