Serious question: How happy do you feel right now?
If your answer was less “I’m extremely happy!” and more “Things could be better,” you’re not alone. A recent study by NORC at the University of Chicago reported that only 14% of Americans rate themselves as very happy – down from 31% just two years ago and a five-decade low.1[AR1]
What’s causing our angst? For one, the 2020 pandemic has left many people feeling isolated, cut off from the people with whom they usually interact. Boredom is also a factor, as many of the activities we enjoy were shut down or restricted due to COVID-19.
Financial stress has also taken its toll on our mental state this year. In April, the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression.2 While that rate dropped to 8.4% by August3, many Americans are experiencing lingering uncertainty about their job future and overall financial picture.
Fortunately, it is possible to increase our levels of happiness, despite the ongoing pandemic and questions about what happens next. How do we snap the funk? Here are three actions you can take to increase your happiness level:
Action #1: Focus on the positive.
Did you know positive people live longer lives? A 2019 study showed that people with a generally optimistic outlook are more likely to live to age 85 or older.4
Keeping a positive mindset can be challenging, especially when the headlines are screaming doom-and-gloom or you’re worried about your financial, physical or emotional health. The key is to keep perspective and concentrate on the things we’re grateful for in our lives.
Action #2: Remember you have options.
Maybe you’ve been furloughed or laid off this year. Or perhaps you’ve received an early retirement offer. If your job situation has changed – especially if the change was involuntary – you might feel like you’ve lost control over your future or retirement. Often, lacking a sense of control can impact how happy we feel.
The good news is that you have more control over your retirement accounts than you realize. For example, if you separate from your employer before you reach age 59 ½, you can rollover your 401(k) into an IRA with a broader range of investment choices. Or if you’re over age 59 ½, you might be able to take distributions from your 401(k) immediately – even if you work somewhere else.
Action #3: Take charge of your money.
You have options for your retirement; you just need to know what they are. While a human resources associate might be knowledgeable about your company’s specific 401(k) or pension plan, they most likely don’t know much about other products designed specifically for retirees.
A financial advisor can help you explore all the options available for your retirement, especially if you’ve recently experienced a job loss or received an early retirement offer. An advisor can help you identify and implement the strategies available to you and protect your retirement. Putting those strategies in place can help you regain a sense of control over your money – and lead to increased happiness for you.
Take the Next Step
At D. Bryant Retirement Strategies, we take pride in our transparency and objectivity. If you’re unsure about your current retirement strategies, haven’t reviewed your investments recently, or are just interested in learning more about what it means to work with a fiduciary and what a secure, predictable retirement could look like, we’d love to meet with you. To get started, call us at (402) 932-2141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your complimentary consultation.
1 NORC at the University of Chicago. June 2020. “Historic Shift in Americans’ Happiness Amid Pandemic.” https://www.norc.org/PDFs/COVID%20Response%20Tracking%20Study/Historic%20Shift%20in%20Americans%20Happiness%20Amid%20Pandemic.pdf. Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.
2 Irina Ivanova. CBS News. May 8, 2020. “U.S. job market suffers its worst month in history.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/unemployment-rate-april-worst-month-coronavirus-pandemic-jobs-report/. Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.
3 Catherine Thorbecke and William Mansell. ABC News. Sept. 4, 2020. “US employers added 1.4 million jobs in August, unemployment rate at 8.4%.” https://abcnews.go.com/Business/us-employers-added-14-million-jobs-august-unemployment/story?id=72769864. Accessed Sept. 6, 2020.
4 Mark Stibich, PhD. Verywell Mind. Feb. 4, 2020. “Embrace Aging With Positive Thinking.” https://www.verywellmind.com/positive-thinking-and-aging-2224134. Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.
Darrell Bryant, CFS®, CAS® is Omaha’s Retirement Strategist. As the founder of D. Bryant Retirement Strategies, he specializes in helping individuals and couples nearing retirement do so successfully. Along with more than 30 years of experience, he received the Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®) designation and a Certified Annuity Specialist (CAS®) designation from the Institute of Business & Finance. Passionate about helping as many people as possible in his community, he hosts Retirement Strategies Radio, heard Saturday mornings at 7 a.m on 1110 KFAB. He has also written articles on financial planning that have been featured on Fortune.com, FoxBusiness.com, Money.com, and in the Midland Business Journal. To learn more, visit his blog, his website, or connect with him on LinkedIn.