Get Our Blog
  • Todd Peters

Ten Retirement Lessons From the Smartest People I Know

Since the mid-1960s, I have helped people manage their money and their lives before and during retirement. I have seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. A successful retirement, like a successful life, rarely happens by accident or default. It happens by design. I’ve had the good fortune to know thousands of very smart people. Here are 10 lessons they taught me.

Lesson One: Happiness in later life is not a direct function of how much money somebody has.

This is hard for many folks to accept, but it is never a surprise to the smartest people I know. Happiness depends much more on attitudes and behavior than on the numbers in somebody else’s computers. In today’s world, essentially that’s what money is: numbers in distant computers.

Lesson Two: Wealth comes from choices people make, not chances they take.

Smart people do not wait for luck to make them wealthy. Every day, they cultivate habits and follow rules that others don’t. Live below your means if you want to be wealthy. Pay yourself first and build wealth, not a lifestyle that saddles you with expenses. When you save and invest, make your money work hard for you. My new book contains eight chapters that tell exactly how to do that.

Lesson Three: Those who plan also prosper.

Smart people plan for retirement – in writing. I know a written plan has no magic of its own. People who are serious enough to put their plans in writing are likely to identify where they are, where they want to go, and what they must do to get there.

Lesson Four: Don’t wait to start saving.

Smart people learn early in life how to defer gratification. If you are in your 20s, retirement seems pretty remote, but time gives you an opportunity to do a lot, for a little. A one-time investment of $5,000 when you are 25 will grow (at 10 percent) to $140,512 by the time you are 60. If you wait until you are 45, you need to invest $33,638 to get the same result.

Lesson Five: Retirement belongs to those who are still with us.

Smart people take care of their health. If you want to retire rich, you need to live long enough to retire and be healthy enough to live it up. Smart people see their doctors periodically and follow the doctor’s advice. They do not neglect their mental health, either.

Lesson Six: The quality of your life is shaped by the quality of the people in your life.

The happiest people I know seem to have many favorite people in their lives – including some who are younger than they are. At the end, life can sweep our dignity and money away, but if we have friends with whom we can share joy, pain, and respect, we are blessed.

Lesson Seven: We older folks could learn some common sense from high school students.

That may surprise you, but it should not. Every year I speak to high school students. I ask them if they had money to invest, would they invest like millionaires or like poor people. They never get this wrong, but I’m continually amazed why so many of their parents continue to invest like poor people. In a nutshell, here’s the difference:

If you invest like a millionaire, you carefully choose an advisor who has no conflict of interest with you. You invest in hundreds or even thousands of stocks. You take a long-term view, and you keep your costs low and your expectations realistic.

There are many ways to invest like a poor person. One popular route is going to a broker and buying some “hot” individual stocks, hoping to get rich by exploiting insight and knowledge that you believe you or your broker have, and everybody else on Wall Street is too dumb to recognize. Yeah, right!

Lesson Eight: Active trumps lazy, every time.

Smart people of all ages keep themselves active mentally as well as physically. People who regularly challenge their brains live longer than those who get intellectually lazy. Do you want to have a long, happy retirement? Then do stimulating things like reading, crossword puzzles, taking a class or teaching one. If you can, travel to unfamiliar places and try new things.

Lesson Nine: Smart people do not wait around for “real life” to start.

The happiest people I know, whether retired or still working, would have no trouble making a list of 100 things they would love to do if they had the time. Places to go. People to see. Books to read. Golf courses to master. Smart people know that all the tomorrows we assume are ours can be snatched away in an instant. They identify their passions, their dreams and their goals, and then find ways to make those dreams reality, starting now.

Lesson Ten: The very best investment you can ever make does not cost a dime.

This is not news to the smartest people I know. Every person who reads this article has something valuable to give that they have not given, yet. It might be money. It might be time or volunteer work. It might be a helping hand. It might be as simple as the gift of listening.

If you take the time to discover what this gift is for you, and you give it generously, two things will happen: Your life will be richer and more satisfying, and you will make the world a little better place. You might be surprised by how few people purposely and consciously live their lives this way.

Those who do are the smartest people I know.

Portfolio &
Money Management


Contact Us

4 Landmark Square - Suite 315
Stamford, CT 06901





ADV Part 2 | ADV Part 3 (CRS) Privacy Policy | Cyber Security Policy | Business Continuity Plan Client Secure Upload


Check the background of this firm on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.           


NS Capital LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. NS Capital and its representatives are in compliance with the current filing requirements imposed upon registered investment advisers by those states in which NS Capital maintains clients. NS Capital may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. NS Capital’s web site is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to its advisory services, and through the NS Blog access to additional investment-related information, publications, and links.  Accordingly,  NS Capital’s web site on the Internet should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as NS Capital’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, over the Internet.  Any subsequent, direct communication by NS Capital with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides. For information pertaining to the registration status of NS Capital, please contact the SEC or the state securities regulators for those states in which NS Capital maintains a notice filing.  A copy of NS Capital current written disclosure statement discussing NS Capital’s business operations, services, and fees is available from NS Capital upon written request. NS Capital does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to NS Capital’s web site or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility such content.  All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users should be guided accordingly.


Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including those undertaken or recommended by NS Capital), will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s).


Certain portions of NS Capital’s web site (i.e. newsletters, articles, commentaries, etc.) may contain a discussion of, and/or provide access to, NS Capital (and those of other investment professionals) positions and/or recommendations as of a specific prior date.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, such discussion may no longer be reflective of current position(s) and/or recommendation(s).  Moreover, no client or prospective client should assume that any such discussion serves as the receipt of, or a substitute for, personalized advice from NS Capital, or from any other investment professional. NS Capital is neither an attorney nor an accountant, and no portion of the web site content should be interpreted as legal, accounting or tax advice. 


Rankings and/or recognition by unaffiliated rating services and/or publications should not be construed by a client or prospective client as a guarantee that he/she will experience a certain level of results if NS Capital is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide investment advisory services, nor should it be construed as a current or past endorsement of NS Capital by any of its clients.  Rankings published by magazines, and others, generally base their selections exclusively on information prepared and/or submitted by the recognized adviser. Each client and prospective client agrees, as a condition precedent to his/her/its access to NS Capital web site, to release and hold harmless , NS Capital’s officers, directors, owners, employees and agents from any and all adverse consequences resulting from any of his/her/its actions and/or omissions which are independent of his/her/its receipt of personalized individual advice from NS Capital.

© 2020-2025 NS Capital LLC. All Rights Reserved.