Wes Moss: What the happiest retirees know

Wes Moss is the host of the radio show “Money Matters,” which airs from 9-11 a.m. Sundays on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB. (Courtesy of Nick Burchell)

Credit: Nick Burchell

Credit: Nick Burchell

Wes Moss is the host of the radio show “Money Matters,” which airs from 9-11 a.m. Sundays on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB. (Courtesy of Nick Burchell)

What do the happiest retirees on the block (HROBs) know that the unhappiest retirees on the block (UROBs) don’t? It took the better part of a decade to conduct the surveys, analysis and research necessary to find the answers to this crucial question, and I’ve compiled all of it into my latest book: “What the Happiest Retirees Know.”

Each of the book’s 10 chapters zooms in on major themes. Below is a brief overview on each, but in my new book, we dive deep. We explore why they stood out in the study and how they work together. I like to think of these 10 themes as ingredients to an old Italian family recipe. If you know the ingredients and general recipe, you’re free to customize and blend these together however best suits your taste buds.

Read through them below and let the ingredient list simmer in your mind as you determine how you want to pursue a happy retirement.


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but a lack of curiosity kills happiness in retirement. HROBs find core pursuits — hobbies on steroids — and extract joy from their passion for commitment and improvement.

The type of activity is less important than the yearning to perform it. It’s hard to drag my dad onto the golf course. For him, there is no eagerness to lower that handicap or try out the new five iron. In contrast, he has about 15 activities that he can’t wait to repeat early and often. From riding horses to gardening to strumming his guitar, these core pursuits have kept him interested, stimulated and happy since his retirement a year and a half ago.

On average, happy retirees have at least 3.6 core pursuits while the unhappy ones have fewer than 2.


My research shows that retirees are 1.5 times more likely to fall into the HROB camp if they attend church once a week. However, the inflection point seems to be attending at least twice a year to join the happy camp. So for all the folks who only make it to Christmas and Easter service, I’m here to tell you that it’s OK! (At least from the point of view of my happiness research.)


Acquaintances are fine but what we’re really looking for are close human connections. This is someone who celebrates your good days and comforts you when times are tough. Even for those with a large friend group, this type of confidant is valuable, rare and essential. Statistics show that HROBs have 3.6, while UROBs only have 2.6.


I’m not a health expert, and I have no recommended diet for you. That said, I did put the question to happy retirees and found a skew toward the Mediterranean Diet. What seemed more important than the type of diet was the notion that happy retirees tend to have a nutritional game plan in mind.

Good health is a prerequisite for participation in all of the other parts of the HROB equation. Not all core pursuits include physical activity or exercise, but many do. I refer to them as the “ings” — running, biking, hiking, jogging, dancing, etc.


Unmarried folks are 4 times more likely to land in the unhappy group. It’s definitely possible to be a single and happy retiree, but only with the support of social connections. I personally recommend you get out there and see if there isn’t a match waiting in the wings.

All that said, divorce isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker. My data show that people get one marriage mulligan without losing levels of happiness. However, by the time marriage number three rolls around, those happiness levels do drop.

One of my favorite charts in the book is the Marriage and Happiness Timeline, which quantifies different financial considerations throughout the years and how they might impact marital happiness. You will have to see the chart to believe it!


As the mortgage descends, happiness ascends. In fact, those within five years of repayment are 4 times more likely to be happy. From a housing cost perspective, HROBs live in nice houses, but not necessarily McMansions. As of 2021, the average price of an HROB home was just under the $600,000 range.


As parents, we all want our kids to be independent. UROBs spend more money per month on their adult children than HROBs — $700 vs $500. If it exceeds $2,000/month, you’re 4 times more likely to be an unhappy retiree.

There’s a difference between treating the grandkids to Disneyland and paying for your adult children’s monthly BMW payments. Happy retirees know the importance of setting boundaries when juggling the expenses of their own retirement.

While we don’t want to have to support our kids financially or have our adult children live with us, we do want them nearby. It’s vital to live near at least 25% of your kids, but increasing that to 50% or more is even better for happiness. Same neighborhood, town, state? All excellent.

Net worth

How much is enough? According to my research, the inflection point between happiness and unhappiness in retirement is a minimum of $500,000 in liquid net worth. Getting there can help push you into that happy camp.


It doesn’t matter how much you have saved if the outflow is excessive. Happy retirees understand the 4+% Rule — using it as a dynamic guideline when it comes to their annual withdrawal rate to avoid exhausting savings. Understanding this can provide Americans with the peace of mind it takes to enjoy retirement.


HROBs are tomorrow investors. They’re generally not worried about today. They often invest in stock dividends. It’s not the only way to invest, but they understand that it offers a relatively steady stream of income that creates a paycheck for their retirement.


The recipe for a happy retirement is simple. Gather the above ingredients, adjust the amounts to what fits your ideal, and then dig in and enjoy.

To learn more, order a copy of my new book, “What the Happiest Retirees Know: 10 Habits for a Healthy, Secure, and Joyful Life,” which is available for presale now on Amazon.

Wes Moss is the host of the podcast “Retire Sooner with Wes Moss,” found in the podcast app right on your smartphone. He has been the host of “Money Matters” on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB in Atlanta for more than 10 years now, and he does a live show from 9-11 a.m. Sundays. He is the chief investment strategist for Atlanta-based Capital Investment Advisors. For more information, go to wesmoss.com.


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