We often hear so much bad news about Baby Boomers and others who aren’t properly prepared to retire comfortably in the U.S.
But what about those who have adequately prepared, or who successfully transitioned into retirement?
Most of us could learn a lot from these real-life experts. They’re the folks who have been able to achieve one huge part of the American dream: getting to a point in their lives where work is optional or they have financial peace of mind as they approach retirement.
Unfortunately, nearly one-third of Boomers admit they aren’t yet economically ready for retirement, according to a new Investor Index Survey released by TD Ameritrade.
The good news, though, is that 71% of Boomers say they are prepared for their Golden Years. And they’re sharing their wisdom, too – starting with the following top five things they said that helped them to ease into retirement on solid economic footing:
TD Ameritrade’s survey found that Boomers who ably prepared for retirement cited these five things as the biggest contributors to their retirement success:
#1 – Limiting use of credit (67%)
#2 – Saving early and consistently (58%)
#3 – Spending less on luxuries / discretionary items (58%)
#4 – Having employment with an excellent salary (56%)
#5 – Investing in/maintaining a well-balanced portfolio (51%)
In other words, how well people managed basic financial functions – such as saving, spending and borrowing – played a huge role in their retirement readiness.
Do You Accept Responsibility or Blame Others and Outside Circumstances?
Interestingly, the survey also suggests that a person’s mindset plays a role in his or her financial predicament or success.
When “Prepared” Boomers were asked what has allowed them to stay on track and successfully save for retirement, their top three unprompted responses were personal actions they have taken:
• Budgeting and regular saving (37%)
• Participation in a company retirement plan, such as a 401(k) (20%)
• Controlling their spending and incurring little or no debt (20%)
On the flip side, “Unprepared” Boomers cited external factors as the top three reasons they are not on track for retirement:
• Loss of or poor employment (35%)
• High costs of living and a poor economy (33%)
• Above-average healthcare expenses (12%)
In other words, the “Unprepared” group didn’t take personal responsibility for their circumstances and seemed to connect their financial misfortunes exclusively – or at least primarily – to outside forces or situations beyond their control.
While it’s certainly not anyone’s choice to go through a layoff, or to be hit with a huge hike in healthcare costs, to say that you’re not ready for retirement solely or largely because of these factor is to ignore the things that were within your own power to do – things like saving more when you did have a job, or better managing your finances during good times.
That was a common thread among “Prepared” retirees: even when times were good, they maintained a fiscally conservative approach, particularly with their spending. Meanwhile the “Unprepared” group was more likely to splurge during good times.
The Secrets to a Happy Retirement
One final important insight from this survey echoes something I’ve suggested before: that the key to a comfortable retirement – or successfully planning for one – isn’t just about taking home a good salary, amassing a large pension, or having a lot of money.
Instead, it’s about having a well-balanced approach to your post-work life, to making a number of smart pre-retirement moves (personally, professionally and financially), and to keeping a healthy perspective in all areas of your life.