Peace of mind more important than accumulating wealth, Merrill Lynch survey finds

A vast majority of adults age 45 and older say achieving peace of mind is far more important than accumulating wealth, according to a new study by Merrill Lynch.

The survey included 6,300 respondents of varying economic echelons, and broadly found that 88 percent said having enough money to retire with peace of mind was seven times more important than being wealthy in retirement.

The study seemed to be eye-opening at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, which typically polls its affluent clients. It also appeared to buck the intimidating and dour news from other recent studies, predicting that people will be forced to work much longer than they want to.

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With some studies, “You’re going to get an answer which is all about income, and it’s all about a number,’’ said David Tyrie, head of Personal Wealth & Retirement for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “From now on, it’s not only about savings, it’s about living.”

The issues that are most pressing for many people over age 45 as they think about retirement are social connections; managing multi-generational family relationships – like helping care for grandchildren or assisting with paying for their education; and how to save for a surprise health problem.

More than half of respondents, 57 percent, said they consider retirement a new chapter of life, and an opportunity to do something new. And 65 is not hard-and-fast retirement; 48 percent of people said they wanted to work longer because it brought satisfaction to their lives. Some preferred to work part-time after a certain point. Overall, seven out of 10 pre-retirees say they would ideally like to include some work in their retirement years.

Women are more worried than men about outliving their savings, Merrill said, 61 percent for women and 47 percent for men. And saving for health care is by far workers’ biggest concern, whether wealthy or not.

To be sure, having enough money matters. But Mary Mullin, a Boston-based financial advisor who has been with Merrill Lynch for 29 years, calls that a math problem.

Some people will have to adjust to living on $30,000 a year, she said, while some have enough to spend that sum monthly. “It’s really about the next chapter of your life,’’ Mullin said.

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