"The Number," a book written by Lee Eisenberg several years ago, generated enough buzz that it became a reference point in financial planning circles. Maybe he should write a sequel called "Life Goals."

According to the recent Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly survey, 51% of retired respondents said if they had the chance to do it again, they'd have focused more on "life goals" and less on "the numbers" associated with reaching a specific nest egg dollar amount in retirement planning.

That said, the other 49% said they'd still focus on the dollar amount, not the life goals.

Among the "life goals" crowd, 38% said they'd have spent more time on how they wanted to live in retirement. In addition, 8% said they'd have created a better plan to support their charitable intentions.

As for "the numbers" group, 23% said they wished they started working with a financial advisor earlier in life and 18% said they would've jettisoned more luxuries to help them reach their retirement goals.

The survey, which was conducted in December by Braun Research for Bank of America's Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management division, also indicated lifestyle changes made by respondents as a result of the recent economic downturn.

Among the findings: 48% said they were cutting energy costs; 38% were more aware of daily and short-term cash flow; 30% were vacationing less; 29% were cutting back on golf, skiing and other recreational activities; and 16% were delaying home improvements and other capital expenditures.