Is “Happy Money” the key to retirement planning?


Yesterday afternoon, I and my colleague Aron had tea with Rory Sutherland. I’d asked Rory if we could meet having been to hear him speak and bumping into him in the street. He’s a raconteur, author, Deputy Chair of Ogilvy and a nice man. I wanted some of his stardust to rub off on me and Aron and for an hour it did.

If this sounds like frivolity, let me temper the adulation. I’d set an exam question for myself – I wanted us to leave our meeting understanding a little better how we could get people to engage with “turning pension pots into retirement plans”. In the course of the hour and a bit we talked, a single word was spoken that may help us unlock the door.

The word is spending

Victoria Derbyshire tells us she doesn’t save for retirement she spends for it. For her, money foregone in her working years is money spent in later life and as she enjoys spending, she’ll incentivise herself through the thought of spending to come and ease the pain of forbearance by framing her saving as spending.

Rory found this great and went on to explain examples of frugality he could not understand and justifiable profligacy in his life and the lives of his friend.

As I was moving on to my third cup of tea, his phone rang – it was his wife wondering if she could get round taking a taxi to pick up the family car from the repair shop. After an amicable conversation , Rory managed to convince her that she could justify spending the money on the taxi, an amount that was presumably meaningless in the P/L of the Sutherland household, but of great moment to their personal values.

I almost always spend guiltily, I’d taken my team in a taxi that very morning and the 30 minutes we spent stuck in a traffic jam (where we de-briefed from an important meeting),  cost my shareholders £25. My financial hackles had been up and Aron and I went to Ogilvy on Santander bikes.

It is not easy to spend money and it gets harder.

The frugality of my parent’s generation was fostered by post-war austerity. Many of my friends and relatives who are over 80 seem to retain and revert to spending patterns that assume we are still under rationing. My Mum especially.

We aren’t all happy spending money and I’m going to prescribe myself weekend reading of Happy Money.I am deliberately overpaying for Happy Money on Amazon so I can get it today and read it over the weekend because it tells me

Most people recognize that they need professional advice on how to earn, save, and invest their money. When it comes to spending that money, most people just follow their intuitions. But scientific research shows that those intuitions are often wrong.

I’m quite sure that most of the times I spend money, it doesn’t bring me happiness, either when I”m watching the money waft out of my bank account or when I’m supposed to be enjoying the consumption.

But if I can find a way to spend smarter , I’m sure I will be incentivised to save smarter too. Infact I hope that when I pop money in the offering tray at church on Sunday, I will do so with delight, knowing that I’m smart enough to afford it.

So can getting happy with spending help?

I suspect so. I sense that if people thought of picking up their phone to organise their finances as a means of getting happy with their money, they’d probably start by thinking about what they might spend as a result.

If going through the ball-ache of ditching that legacy pension for a transfer to that good one I set up with (advertising opportunity here), resulted in my taking the first class advance fair – rather than “standard”, I sense I would be more urgent in my endeavours.

If I was spending time so I could spend tomorrow, both my time and tomorrow would become a little more valuable. Valuing time in terms of money seems a good way of working out the true cost of using a free service (as I intend Agewage to be).

Of course nothing is free, we need revenue and we need to be happy that the money we get is in itself “happy money”, that it is money that does not make others unhappy.

Turning it around – getting happy about retirement

Coincidentally, as I sat in my office late last night, the phone rang and it was another business colleague questioning how I was expecting to turn AgeWage scores into money.

This is another way of asking the question “how can you turn pension pots into retirement plans”.

I gave her the usual spiel about monetising through referrals and she was clearly not buying it. She’s right not to.

We can only use a piece of information such as “the value of your money” to excite. And  it cannot excite enough to sort out my pension pots, choose an investment pathway, liberate cash from my house, grab the pension credits I’m missing or stop spending on things that don’t make me happy.

Nor can it excite enough to make sure that my money is invested responsibly or that I’m doing the right things with my lifestyle to ensure I live long enough to make all this saving worthwhile. All of these things – and much more need to come together for me to feel I have a Retirement Plan that makes me feel happy.

My friend Henry Stewart has built his business empire on that word “happy”, I like “spending” time with him too.


Happy Henry Stewart

So while I contemplate how I’m going to respond to my colleague’s challenge, I think I’ll read this Happy Money book and spend a little more of my time on things that really matter.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Is “Happy Money” the key to retirement planning?

  1. John Mather says:

    A better mousetrap?

    1. Keep what you understand and deliver value over the competition. Maintain contact with customer and justify annuity income. Implies volume and automation

    2. Referral fees on business you don’t wish to have but find the opportunity. Add the hope of reciprocal referral.

    Not complicated

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