Want to retire a millionaire? Try the legendary management guru Peter Drucker’s solution: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And the same approach to living well works if you don’t have a million bucks … if you just want to be content and happy … if you don’t really don’t care about being a millionaire! You don’t need a million bucks to be happy … and you also don’t need a million to live like a millionaire. Why? There are more important things in life. Here’s why.
The big secret: Studies show most folks really don’t care about being millionaires! They know there are more important things in life. That’s what you’ll hear from a lot of sources. Not just spiritual folks like the Dalai Lama, but also Ralph Warner’s Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well, and the “happiness” psychologists, like University of Pennsylvania Professor Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism. These researchers have been studying what makes people happy for a long time and come to one central conclusion: It’s not money. In fact, that conclusion applies throughout history, and across cultures and continents.
One groundbreaking study caught my eye several years ago, by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a non-profit organization representing more than thirty-six million Americans over fifty. Their survey attitudes toward money, wealth, personal finance and investing is an inspiring reminder of what’s really important as we all look ahead. According to the study “most Americans are basically content,” and say that financial success isn’t what matters. “The happiest weren’t necessarily the wealthiest. They were the ones who learned to be satisfied with what they had.” In fact, the vast majority of Americans are actually content with their financial situation:
- Very happy with their lifestyle: 34%
- Relatively happy: 41%
- Just average happy: 18%
- Somewhat unhappy: 5%
- Very unhappy: 1%
In other words, a grand total of 93% score themselves “average happy” or better. Only 6% were unhappy. That’s a pretty high score in any game! Looks like the big reason only 4% of Americans are millionaires may be because most don’t want to be millionaires. Of course that’s not the conventional wisdom! But it sure looks like Wall Street, Washington and the financial press have distorted America’s reality! Listen to some other fascinating observations from AARP’s survey:
Happy today. In spite of the highly-touted entrepreneurial spirit that’s made America a great nation, most Americans are just not driven to do all it takes to become millionaires, we “just want to be comfortable and secure.”
Not greedy. And get this: 75% worry that a lot of money would give them a big fat ego, even make them insensitive and greedy.
Peace of mind. Although 52% said money can’t buy peace of mind, “it all depends on what ‘peace’ means to you.” They say money may create anxiety and sabotage whatever sense of peace you have.
Give it away. When asked: What they’d do with a $1 million windfall, 41% of women and 32% of the men would use it to help family, friends or make a donation to charity.
Healthcare. What’s the really big financial issue? Two-thirds said healthcare was the biggest money issue, after basic family support. Stuff like travel and “buying things” was way down the list.
Hope vs. reality. Although many admitted they weren’t saving enough for retirement, and half said they hadn’t even calculated how much they need for retirement, about two-thirds believe they will have “enough” to retire. Maybe they’re rationalizing, but for most of them, that’s pure and simple acceptance of the life they prefer to live!
So make no judgments one way or another. If you want to make a million bucks and retire a millionaire, that’s great. But if you’re like the other 96% of Americans, that’s okay too.
It’s all in your head—yes, you really do have “enough!”
Remember, being a millionaire is a state of mind, it is all in your head, and so is happiness: “The happiest weren’t necessarily the wealthiest. They are the ones who learned to be satisfied with what they had.” Getting rich is not the goal of the vast majority of Americans. That’s a myth. Stick with what really counts, satisfied that what you already have is what you want—and it is “enough” to live like a millionaire … even in the Warzone!