can-you-spot-the-happiest-retireesThe majority of Americans don’t enjoy their work. According to a study of workplaces in more than 140 countries from 2011 through 2012 conducted by Gallup:

  • 30 percent of Americans are engaged at work. These people are emotionally invested in their work and focused on doing their jobs well.
  • 52 percent of Americans are not engaged at work. These workers do enough to fulfill their job requirements, but they are not motivated or inspired by their work.
  • 18 percent of Americans are actively disengaged. According to the study, workers labeled actively disengaged have a negative attitude toward their company, and some are downright hostile.

This means that 70 percent of Americans would love to be in a position to say goodbye to their jobs tomorrow. This statistic motivated me to embark on a research project to determine how these people can leave their jobs sooner and to figure out what it really takes to be a happy retiree. The findings of that research became the basis of my new book, “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think,” which is about money and happiness and how to arrive at that intersection—and ditch your job—as soon as humanly possible.

My study

I conducted a national study of more than 1,300 people in 46 states and asked them behavioral, consumer, financial, life, and happiness questions such as:

  • How much money do happy retirees have vs. unhappy retirees?
  • How much income do happy retirees have vs. unhappy retirees?
  • How many vacations do happy retirees take vs. unhappy retirees?
  • What kind of cars do happy retirees drive and what kind of cars do unhappy retirees drive?

To confirm that the results had statistical significance, I went to the Math Department at the Georgia Institute of Technology to have the data analyzed for significance and confidence. Their analysis verified a 95 percent to 99 percent confidence in the data, illustrating statistically significant results. There is enough data to say with a high degree of confidence that the differences between happy and unhappy retirees are real—and we should pay attention.

The facts about happy retirees

Retiring happy is not necessarily about having the most money. It’s about having the right amount of money in relation to your outlook on life and the choices that you make. There are a number of findings about happy retirees that surprised me, and some of them may surprise you too:

The happiest retirees have at least $500,000 in liquid net worth. According to the median liquid net worth data from my survey, it takes about $500,000 to move from the unhappy group to the happy group. The happiest retirees’ average liquid net worth is $874,479, while the unhappy retirees average $437,500.

The happiest retirees do not drive BMWs. I have nothing personal against BMWs, but the data tells an interesting story when it comes to happy retirees and the luxury car market. When unhappy retirees buy luxury cars, they buy German luxury cars. BMW was the most popular brand for unhappy retirees by a ratio of two to one.

The happiest retirees don’t have a mortgage, or if they do, their mortgage payoff is in sight. The data clearly shows that happiness levels go up as mortgage balances are eliminated. Happy retirees are nearly four times more likely than unhappy retirees to be mortgage-free within five years.

The happiest retirees take more vacations. Happy retirees average 2.4 annual vacations per year, whereas retirees in the unhappy group take only 1.4. One vacation may not seem like such a big deal, but it clearly can make the difference between being happy or unhappy in retirement.

The happiest retirees have made smart life choices to get them where they are today. To find out in which direction you’re headed, take my free Money and Happiness quiz at www.wesmoss.com, and learn how you can you tune up your happiness quotient.

Wes Moss is the host of the Money Matters radio show on WSB Radio, host of the TV show Atlanta Tech Edge on Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, and Chief Investment Strategist at Capital Investment Advisors. In 2014, he was named one of America’s top 1,200 financial advisors by Barron’s Magazine. He is the author of several books including his most recent book, “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think – The 5 Money Secrets Of The Happiest Retirees,” which is one of Amazon’s best-selling retirement books in 2014.