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Counterintuitive Advice for Retirement

David Ning

Our attention span is being attacked from many angles these days. With cell phones beeping constantly, email messages popping up on the screen all the time and a good dose of social media alerts thrown into the mix, it's difficult to focus on the true meaning of many pieces of financial advice. Here are a few financial rules of thumb that seem unreasonable on the surface, but will actually help you achieve a comfortable retirement:

Get used to losing money in the stock market. You might think I was crazy if I just blurted out this sentence as retirement advice without further explanation. But those who are the most successful with making their money work for them are also the most used to losing money.

Financial market valuations are volatile. If you check every day, the value of your investments in the stock market will often be less than they were the previous day. And let's not forget the severe market declines that we often hear about. But the picture over the long term improves dramatically, because the economy will continue to grow and equity investors will eventually benefit from taking that risk. Those who are able to stomach the volatility will benefit the most. Can you stomach the short-term pain and reap the long-term rewards?

Appreciate being a loner. No one wants to live a life feeling lonely, but this doesn't mean you have to follow the herd and practice commonly accepted habits. Borrowing money to pay for everything seems to be the norm these days, but it doesn't mean you have to dive deep into debt just like so many others. Keeping up with the Joneses is a common behavior, but if you follow suit you'll have to work many more years to save enough for retirement. Sometimes, being a loner is the best decision you can make.

Practice the art of being oblivious. I used to spend quite a bit of time researching the specifics of everything I buy, because I believed I could save money if I knew what to look for. But as I learned the ins and outs of every product, I ended up paying much more because many of the extra features would suddenly seem useful. Instead of just getting the cheapest one that fit my initial need, the more expensive versions seemed logical because I developed an expert eye to tell the difference in quality. By all means, be an expert on stuff you truly care about. As for the rest of the products in the world, stay native.

Try working fewer hours than everyone else. Why work forever just to pay for material possessions? So many people work long hours to earn more money, but they don't even have time to enjoy the money they are making. Then they waste it on useless things, and the extra income doesn't even make them happy because they are so stressed out from all the time and energy they are required to put into their work.

Why not spend less time working by buying less stuff? You will get to spend more time with your family and actually get to enjoy the stuff you do own. And if that leads to early retirement because you realize that you don't really need to spend that much to be happy, you'll really cut down on the hours you need to work during your lifetime.

David Ning runs MoneyNing, a personal finance site that shares money moves you can make to significantly increase your chances of having a comfortable retirement. He likes to share simple changes that anyone can make, such as picking the best online savings account and figuring out whether a 0 percent balance transfer credit card makes sense.

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