This guest post is from Mrs. PoP, who writes at plantingourpennies.com.This is a fitting post near Thanksgiving, as Mrs. PoP has a lot to be thankful for. This story is part of our Reader Stories series. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how.

Mr. PoP and I are about 30 years old and live in South Florida, aka “God’s Waiting Room.” Go ahead and laugh. There are a surprising number of stereotypes about living in South Florida, but the one about the large number of wealthy retirees is mostly true. Our next-door neighbor is more than three times as old as we are, and although our neighborhood isn’t ostentatious, most of its members are wealthy enough to have a home in Fla., and somewhere up north…usually both paid off.

Partially as a result of this, the average age of our close friends in Florida is probably about 60. Sure there are a few couples that we hang out with who are our age and have toddlers now, but more often than not, those who we invite over for dinner parties to while away the evening are our friends who are “retired” but who still work part-time on multiple streams of income.

Choosing our friends to learn from them

This is great for Mr. PoP and me because we’re both addicted to learning about personal finance and personal happiness. And the friends whom we love spending the most time with teach us loads about both.

Take our friends K & D. Now nearing their mid-60s, K & D have managed to cram several lifetimes’ worth of knowledge into their brains, and Mr. PoP and I are benefiting greatly from it. They both had successful careers with a big company before retiring in their early 50s. Over those years, they invested slowly in real estate, finding homes and parcels of land in areas that they knew they enjoyed, and thought others would too! Not content to rest on their laurels, they stayed incredibly busy since moving to Florida for their “retirement.” Down here they run several successful small local businesses between them, are very active in charity work, and when K talks about “finally retiring” in January, what she’s really talking about is quitting the part-time job, where she helps tourists, to focus more on grant writing for her charity work. For K, she is at a point in her life where making extra money doesn’t mean much, but helping others through her charity makes her very happy.

Another friend of ours is U. U is in his late 80s and has lived in the area for about 60 years. He’s one of the best resources for local history because he was there to live it. In his lifetime, U has speculated in oil drilling, as well as built and run restaurants, hotels, and condo developments. When we were searching around to buy a home, U knew the area so well that whenever we mentioned a specific street we were looking at a home on, he inevitably knew if the lots on that street were a quarter acre or an eighth of an acre. He just began a new storage rental business, but for all of his wealth, he gets most of his joy from spending time with his family, and riding up and down the coast in his old car, “keeping an eye on things.”

What have we learned from our older friends about happiness?

  • Their social networks of friends and family bring them more joy than making money does
  • Our health is one of our most precious assets, regardless of our age
  • Let the little stuff go; it’s better to be happy all the time than be “right” all of the time

What have we learned from our older friends about money?

  • Multiple small streams of income can add up. They also provide security because if one or two income streams drop off, there are many more to pick up the slack
  • Retiring doesn’t have to mean watching TV and playing golf or tennis. Though our friends have been retired for many years, they all still have their hands in a few different businesses, keeping their minds fresh and active
  • When you are young, time is on your side for wealth generation. If you plan ahead in your youth, you can take fewer risks in your old age and still retire with more than enough money

Even if it’s a bit unconventional, Mr. PoP and I really treasure the friendships that we have built with retirees in our area and hope to continue learning from them for many years to come.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are. Henceforth, unduly nasty comments on reader stories will be removed or edited.

This article is about Investing, Planning, Reader Stories, Retirement