The happiness paradox

the happiness paradox

To a large degree, happiness is being able to do what you want when you want. To get to that point, however (and here’s the paradox), you often have to do what you don’t want when you don’t want. Case in point: Retirement.

You’ve heard me say many times that:

All of that is still true, but I want to give you a quick reminder.

You still need money.

I didn’t say that retirement was not a math problem or that money had no role to play. (see this, this and this for articles on preparing financially). Instead, I said “more than.” In other words, it’s money plus something else. Money plus meaning.

Why the reminder? I got an email from a reader named Patricia recently that discussed this very topic. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“I am one of those people who deferred. I worked really hard for 30+ years, saved like hell, deferred life in many ways so we would be able to retire early.   And according to you, I totally screwed up.”

First off, there are many things that fall under the category of “screwing up” in my opinion, but working hard and saving so you can retire early is not one of them. Hat tip to Patricia (she and I had a nice conversation via email) and anyone else out there who is doing what it takes to build a nest egg and achieve financial independence.

Second, I took Patricia’s email seriously, because if she felt that I was somehow disparaging the savers and deferrers (is that a word?), then others of you may have had that feeling too. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hard work and disciplined saving is absolutely critical if you’re going to meet your retirement goals. That said, the money without the meaning is pointless just like the meaning without the money is often unrealistically out of reach. It’s up to each of you to balance those competing interests in a way that works for your life and goals.

In 8 Habits of Successful Retirees, I told you to live with a sense of urgency (#1), retire to something, not from something (#4) and choose yes over no (#6). Just don’t forget Habit #5: Retire based on your bank account, not your birthday. Run after the meaning, just don’t forget about the money.

~ Joe

6 Responses to “The happiness paradox”

  1. Dwayne October 8, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    Joe,
    I wouldn’t worry about, what I believe are most of us, who grasp the concepts you’ve laid out. What difference does it make if Patricia feels she screwed up or not? …her plan worked for her. And it sounds like she’s going to be fine.
    Keep up the good work and keep the thoughts and posts coming!
    -Dwayne

    • Joe Hearn October 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

      Thanks Dwayne!

  2. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com October 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    Hi Joe! I just found your blog after I did a google search researching for one of my own blog posts. I think we share a lot in common and after reading this post I wanted to let you know I really like your statement, “the money without the meaning is pointless just like the meaning without the money is often unrealistically out of reach.” It is definitely a balance and a tradeoff like so many things. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. ~Kathy

    • Joe Hearn October 14, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

      Thanks Kathy! I appreciate the kind words. You’re blog sounds great too. I’ll be sure to check it out. Touch base anytime if there’s ever anything I can do for you. ~ Joe

  3. Gail October 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I like this post for many reasons. The idea that enough money supports freedom and meaning is spot on. However, I especially think that everyone needs the reminder to live life with urgency — even more so after a certain age. I agree with Dwayne, keep writing!

  4. RA October 30, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    First time reader. Thank you for your insights. -RA

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