Financial planners and advisors who work with retirees or those planning for retirement spend a lot of time with financial calculations, portfolio design, analyzing rates of return, projecting saving and spending rates, and doing lots of other things to help clients understand and build strategies around having sufficient savings and investments to fund a desired retirement lifestyle. That’s certainly appropriate because retirement is one of the most important financial events in the life of the average person; careful planning and plenty of number-crunching are certainly called for.
But there’s a lot more to retirement than numbers and balances in various accounts. Too often, we neglect the non-financial aspects of retirement, which is a shame, since factors like our emotions, dreams, and values have at least as much to do with our perceived quality of life as how much money we’ve managed to save.
In fact, one of the most important qualities you can cultivate to ensure a satisfying retirement is gratitude. And that’s not just pie-in-the-sky, feel-good advice. There are hard, scientific data to confirm that persons who have cultivated a high sense of gratitude are happier, healthier, and even better stewards of their money. Add it all up, and you will realize that gratitude can make it possible for you to enjoy a longer retirement, and maybe even to retire sooner.
A few years ago, a team of researchers from Northeastern University, the University of California–Riverside, and the Kennedy School at Harvard conducted a study designed to measure how gratitude mitigated the effects of financial impatience. In the study, participants were able to choose between an immediate financial reward or a later, larger payout. But before choosing which they wanted, they were required to write about an event from their past that made them feel grateful, happy, or neutral. Researchers found that participants writing about gratitude-inducing events were statistically more likely to choose the larger, deferred reward. Researchers suggest that fostering gratitude could lead to improvement in negative financial behaviors such as impulse buying and insufficient saving.
But gratitude offers other benefits. According to Dr. Glenn Fox, a researcher at the University of Southern California, persons who are deeply conscious of being grateful for the good things in their lives tend to exhibit several specific markers for good overall health:
• Better sleep
• Consistent exercise
• Less chronic pain
• Less stress
• Lower blood pressure
• Lowered tendencies toward inflammation
When you stop and consider that concern about healthcare costs in retirement is perennially at the top of current and pending retirees’ “worry lists,” it’s easy to see that a little more gratitude can go a long way toward promoting a healthier, more worry-free retirement. Let’s face it: no matter how much money you might have saved, it’s pretty hard to enjoy life if your health is poor.
As we approach the time of year when many Americans take some time to think about what they’re thankful for, it’s a great time to make gratitude a bigger part of your outlook on life. And the great thing is that doing so will not only make you—and likely the people around you—feel better; it just might also give your retirement lifestyle a needed boost.
At JFS Wealth Advisors, we care about a lot more than the balances in your accounts. That’s why the most important time we spend with clients is when we are getting to know their goals, priorities, and most cherished objectives. To learn more about how the JFS client experience puts you at the center, click here.