By: Andrew Rosen, CFP®, CEP®

I was reading some research the other day about the happiest ages of our lives. As part of that research, I found the following graph. I found it truly fascinating and, in a lot of respects, counter-intuitive.

Take a moment and check it out, then let’s reflect on the findings.

Financial Situation:

As a financial guide, I found this section very interesting, but not completely surprising. It seems that people in general are happiest about their financial situation from their mid-50s (and onward). Why though? I believe a few factors play into this.

  1. Generally, expenses see a reduction, and assets an enlargement. Kid’s college expenses are done, mortgages are ending, and we should be earning the most we’ve ever had.
  2. Financial clarity plays a big part during the later years. Regardless of how well you’ve planned or not, the reality is you’ve been dealt your hand and you’ve most likely come to terms with it. You have a lot of clarity which brings peace of mind.

Conversely, the ages between 45 and 54 find most people the least happy financially.

  1. In these years, we’re typically struggling to make ends meet. We’re pulled in a million different directions and that causes a lot of stress. Most find themselves in the thick of affording higher education for their children, while still finding a way to pay for a family vacation. Also, many are stuck in the sandwich generation—meaning they’re worried about their own children and the assistance needed for their parents as well.
  2. Uncertainty for the future, I believe, plays a big role here, too. I see it every day. What if you don’t get promoted? What if tomorrow your job is made redundant and you’re let go? Having all these major expenses and goals ahead of you can lead to a real sense of stress. In your later years, however, that stress diminishes–you’ve arrived!

Physical Appearance:

I have to admit, this one had me totally perplexed. In the social media world we live in, all these beautiful 20 and 30 somethings are dancing around physically looking great. However, this study suggests people of those ages are not amongst the happiest (when it comes to physical appearance). It makes me sad, as it tells me there are some real self-image issues in society today. Being a #girldad of two stunning little girls, I certainly want them to be thrilled with their physical appearance.

Instead, it appears that those in their 70’s (and beyond) are happiest with their physical appearance. My sense is with age comes wisdom and contentment. As we get older, we no longer care how others view us, which in turn leads to a happier self. I got a little chuckle thinking about this and it made me think of the classic scene in the Ron Howard movie Cocoon. You know the one where the retirees are all in the pool loving life.

Yea that’s the one!

Ages 55-59 leave people least happy with their physical appearance. My sense is coming to grips with aging plays a big factor here. Also, we’re coming out of the biggest financial stress time of our lives, so I can certainly envision this leading to a less physical healthy lifestyle as well.

Life Overall:

The most fascinating part of the study was overall life happiness. It seems there are two distinct ages at which we are most happy. Interestingly enough, they are at complete separate ends of the spectrum—23 and 69 years old.

23 makes a lot of sense to me. Most are generally graduating college and truly independent for the first time. There’s a real sense of endless potential and optimism. They have so much to explore and experience. It’s a very exciting time—with careers, moves, travel, spouses, children, and good partying to be done.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is age 69. There are studies that suggest with aging comes a sense of contentedness and acceptance. I think there’s also a lot less stress in one’s life, before one retires.  Now, they get to look back at all the great things they’ve accomplished and created. This can be extremely satisfying. Oh, and did I mention GRANDKIDS? It seems there is literally nothing better on this earth for people than grandkids. When my clients mention their grandchildren, there’s a light that shines from them brighter than any star.

As for unhappiest, well, if you’re in your mid-fifties the good news is it won’t last long. There also seems to be overlap with physical and financial unhappiness. Many of those in these ages have a ton of stress to navigate through. Also, they’re realizing there is a next stage of life that can be scary. Although one may think retirement is great, and it usually is, there are also the realities of no more paycheck and the daunting amount of time ahead.


Where are you on this grid? Do you agree with these findings? Can you point to a certain age that you wish you were or would love to go back to?

I’ve always joked about being a senior in high school again (especially if I knew I’d end up right where I am now). But I’d also really like to keep the wisdom and perspective I’ve gained, too.

Isn’t that a fun game to play? Going back and reliving what you think were the glory days? If I could, I’d take that time machine back and put every cent in some good old Amazon stock!

Financial planning and Investment advisory services offered through Diversified, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Securities Service Network, LLC, Member FINRASIPC. Some associates of Diversified, LLC are registered representatives of Securities Service Network, LLC, a registered broker/dealer, 9729 Cogdill Road, Knoxville, TN 37932. (800) 264-5499.