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Pay Down Your Debt Challenge

5 Financial Secrets to a Happy Retirement

Surprisingly, money isn't the key to contentment

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En español | What's your image of a happy retirement? Does it involve lazy days on a beach, traveling the world or pursuing a favorite pastime? Or maybe volunteering? Or are you finally planning to get to all those projects around the house that you've put off for years?

See also: Manage mortgage debt in retirement.

Whatever your ideal scenario, you'll want to make sure you have the financial resources to support it. That doesn't mean you need to be rich to be content — far from it — but it does mean that you'll need to plan ahead for retirement and manage your money wisely once you get there.

Keep these five financial secrets in mind as you work toward your version of a happy retirement:

Secret No. 1: Wealth without health is meaningless

Tamara Haskins, founder of Haskins Wealth Management in Highland Park, N.J., says she's seen far too many preretirees practically work themselves to death just before they plan to leave the work force. Often, these are "late starters" who haven't saved enough money, so they put in enormous amounts of overtime at work or take on second jobs to boost their finances.

"Then they're stressed out, and because they haven't taken care of themselves, their health suffers in retirement," Haskins says. "But health and wealth go hand in hand, because it doesn't matter how much money you have if you're sick and you can't enjoy it."

Retirees Allen and Violet Large are a good illustration of this. Married for more than 35 years, the Canadian couple recently won an $11 million lottery — and then promptly gave it all away.

When they hit the jackpot, Violet was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. For them, the money was a "headache," more hassle than help, they said. So the couple did something unconventional: They donated the cash to a laundry list of charities, nonprofit organizations and causes they support, as well as to family members in need.

"We haven't spent one cent on ourselves because we've been too busy getting everything looked after, and with my health, I have to wait to get my health back to get the energy to do anything," Violet told Canada's National Post, adding: "Money can't buy you happiness or health."

Next: Consider downsizing your life. >>

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