In previous blogs, I have discussed the ways to plan for a successful retirement. But it’s not just about the money.

As we plan for retirement, we need to keep our minds open to possibilities. Things are not always as they seem. If you have millions, you might think people who live paycheck-to-paycheck must be unhappy, but that’s not necessarily the case. They are probably no less happy than you. So much depends upon attitude, perspective, and a supportive safety net.

As my financial practice grew, I was able to move my family to a bigger house. Our previous house in Ann Arbor was more modest, but our children didn’t see it that way. It was their time with other children in the neighborhood that made their life rich, and that joy didn’t arise from a bigger house with more belongings. It came from the relationships they nurtured, whether in town or out on the lake.

People often imagine some magical and wonderful thing will happen when they achieve a certain level of wealth. What they need to realize is the importance of enjoying life daily. Otherwise they risk missing so much along the way. Those who live within their means, even when their means are modest, can have a great life, free of stress. People who stretch their budget to pursue life’s luxuries, spending everything they make without saving, inevitably will feel the strain. They’re always pushing for more stuff without finding meaning in it.

It’s a distortion of the American dream to pursue money without purpose. It’s time to step back. Do you truly need all the things you strive to acquire? Those material possessions are the emblems of getting ahead, but in and of themselves, they do not mean that you truly have gotten ahead. The only way to do that is to live within your means, and in time your wealth will grow, as will your sense of security.

Challenges will surely come your way. When you have been building your wealth, you will be in a much better position to handle the challenges. You will be able to handle the rough patches or lend a hand to loved ones when they face difficulties. We are here to help one another. We need to extend a spirit of generosity to others, and we need to reach out to others when we ourselves need help.

Once, when Audrey was about eight, we were on a Florida beach vacation and I took a phone call from a client. The call was not all that critical, but it lasted an hour.

“Dad!” she protested when I hung up. “This is vacation. You’re supposed to be spending time with us!”

Years later, I still think about that. We should listen to the wisdom of children. We owe them our time. The workday world with its ringing phones and rivers of e-mails can wait.

Wealth can be defined in many ways, but it comes down to living well. We need to find the right balance between work and life. No matter how much longer people live these days, life is still short. We must not squander the hours we have been given. In the end, that’s why we work hard, invest wisely, and save for the future. We are in pursuit of happiness.

To learn more planning for a successful retirement, check out my book, The Power of Persistent Planning: A Review of Successful Financial Planning Strategies, here.

Any opinions are those of Douglas Gross and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.