Readers chime in with some tips

Our readers offer their own tips for what you can do now for a happy retirement: Spend less. Save more. Most of all, make sure you have someone to share your retirement with.

Start by living below your means, says Gabe Renzo, 63, of Dearborn Heights, Mich. Young people today, he believes, don't save enough money, and the main reason they don't is that they're overburdened by debt.

"This is the only generation that will drive to the poorhouse in a BMW," Renzo says.

Refraining from too many purchases not only helps you save but also makes you appreciate the things you do buy, says Renzo, who worked in ground operations at Northwest Airlines before retiring in April 2006: "Learn to do without, and thank God for the things you have."

Some readers say their steady savings habits were the most vital ingredient in a happy retirement.

Jean Mothena, 60, of Aldie, Va., is passionate about the value of retirement accounts.

"If I had to choose the single most important thing that's helping us have a happy and secure retirement, it would be my 401(k) and my husband's Thrift Savings Plan," she says. "That money makes a big difference in the amount we can spend — and we do love to spend!"

Mothena, a former Verizon employee, suggested to her friends that they boost their 401(k) contributions by 1% of their income each time they received a raise.

"I used to tell them that if they would increase their contributions at the same time they got raises, they would still get more money in their paychecks and they wouldn't miss the small amount going into their 401(k)s," she says.

Those friends later eventually looked at the size of their 401(k) plan balances and thanked her for her advice, she says.

Listening to a radio talk show one day was a transforming event for Homer Baker, 73.

"The host talked about being your own financial manager and educating yourself about investing," Baker says. "We got rid of all debt and have saved and invested since 1992." Baker and his wife now live in a golf course community. "If I retired tomorrow, I'd do the same thing," he says.

But the most important retirement move doesn't cost a thing, says Kevin Porreco of Gainesville, Va. "I retired over seven years ago on a disability retirement due to having multiple sclerosis," Porreco says. "Several years later, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer," Porreco said in an e-mail. They are both well and enjoying retirement. "What we've discovered is that a fantastic retirement has nothing to do with money," he writes. "It's about realizing what's really important in life.

"Every morning, my wife and I have coffee in the living room. For about an hour we just talk. That's right, talk. This is what makes retirement!"

By John Waggoner, USA TODAY

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