At around year 15, retirees enter the last stage: Reflection/Resolution. Happiness, contentment and enjoyment remain strong, even if there’s been some downshifting due to health issues. Clients have for the most part learned to live within their means and have remained resilient even in the face of loss.

“And people get very serious about wanting to talk about the legacy they want to leave,” Dychtwald said.

But when asked about how they want to be remembered, the survey found the top two responses were for their personal characters and for the experiences they shared with loved ones. The bottom two were work accomplishments and the wealth they accumulated and bequeathed.

“Now I know that wealth matters, believe me. I’ve seen the stats. The more financial engines people have, the more security and possibility for well-being they’re going to have,” he said. “But when people think about what matters most in their lives it’s not their money. It’s who they are as people.”

The survey results broke retirees down into four personality groups—Purposeful Pathfinders who always saved and were financially literate (23%), Relaxed Traditionalists who started saving a little bit later than Pathfinders but are still doing well in retirement (26%), Challenged yet Hopefuls who started saving in their 40s but are still positive about retirement (20%) and the largest of the four groups, the Regretful Strugglers (31%).

Regretful Strugglers started saving late, if at all, made withdrawals along the way, and now cannot live comfortably on what they have, the survey categorized.

“The name says it all. These people are pessimistic, and they’re not enjoying their retirement at all. They’re the least active, feel the most anxious and are the worst prepared,” Dychtwald said. “We need to feel empathetic and respectful of these people because they’ve been hit by a disproportionate number of challenges. But we could also look back in their lives and see that they were destined to be Regretful Strugglers decades before.”

For the two happiest groups—Pathfinders and Traditionalists—the survey uncovered five other patterns of behavior that lead to their enjoyment of retirement:

  • They actively maintain their health.
  • They are more socially engaged.
  • They have a clearer sense of purpose.
  • They are far more mindfully involved in financial strategy and management.
  • They are willing to course-correct as needed to achieve their retirement dreams.

“Retirement unfolds in stages, and you need to be an expert in the different stages of that journey,” Dychtwald summarized. “You have an important role to play in helping people—and not just wealthy people, all people—not become Regretful Strugglers or Challenged yet Hopefuls, and to live in a dreamy, more enjoyable version of retirement.”

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