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How 17 Different Countries Define Meaningful Lives

Listen to Best in Wealth Podcast Episode 207

What brought meaning to your life today? I got to wake up healthy kids. I got to drink coffee with my wife. I got a text from my 24-year-old living hundreds of miles away. I help my clients navigate retirement. All of these things bring meaning to my life. 

Pew Research surveyed 17 different countries to find out what was meaningful to each of them. In this episode of Best in Wealth, I cover some of the results of this study and share why a meaningful life is an important piece of retirement planning. Check it out! 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:07] What brings meaning to your everyday life?
  • [3:32] What makes your life meaningful
  • [5:07] The four most important sources of meaning
  • [12:18] The other sources of meaning
  • [13:18] Faith, religion, and spirituality
  • [14:24] Under 30 vs. 65 plus
  • [16:58] Why this exercise is so important 

What makes life meaningful? 

At Fortress Planning Group, we focus on the cornerstones in our lives. If you can figure out those cornerstones, you can build a plan around each of them to build abundance. But most clients do not know how to answer “What brings meaning to your life?” 

What do you want to accomplish before you die? When do you want to retire? How do you want your retirement to look? How are you going to address healthcare? What about being snowbirds for part of the year?

Many people have not thought through how they want to live in retirement. And if I ask them what makes life meaningful, I might get a blank stare. That is why you need to think about what brings your life meaning now and if that will change in retirement. 

Family is the #1 source of meaning and fulfillment 

The countries surveyed were the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, Belgium, France, South Korea, Sweden, and Japan.

By far, the #1 thing that brought meaning to people’s lives was their family. Family was the #1 choice in 14 of the 17 countries. People highlighted their relationships with parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren and quality time with them. They are proud of the accomplishments of their relatives. Family makes their lives fulfilling.

People find fulfillment in their occupations

The second source of fulfillment was one’s occupation/career. Think about that for a second. Does your occupation bring meaning to your life? Some say, “yes.” Others do not find meaning in their occupation at all. Before I started Fortress and I was in sales, I did not find it meaningful. 

Maybe occupation is at the top for you, but maybe it is not. Maybe you are just working for a paycheck so you can create abundance in other cornerstones of your life. But if you want your career to be meaningful, figure out how to make that transition. 

Source of meaning #3: Material well-being

What is material well-being? It includes satisfaction with a range of economic concerns, such as the government's handling of the economy, taxes, the cost of necessities, household income, pay, financial security, etc. That was the #1 source of meaning in South Korea. It was #2 for numerous other countries. It was #3 for the United States. 

What else was important in these 17 countries?

  • Family and friends
  • Physical and mental health
  • Society and institutions
  • Freedom and independence
  • Hobbies and recreation
  • Education and learning
  • Nature and the outdoors
  • Romantic partner
  • Travel and new experience
  • Retirement
  • Spirituality
  • Faith and religion
  • Pets

Faith, religion, and spirituality

Outside of the United States, religion is never one of the top 10 sources of meaning cited. In the United States, religion is #5. I thought that was surprising. And only 15% of people in the United States mentioned religion and/or God as a source of meaning. 

What else was fascinating about this study? How can it be applied to our lives? Why is finding meaningful things in your life so important?  Listen to the whole episode to learn more!

Resources Mentioned

Connect With Scott Wellens

Podcast Disclaimer:

The Best In Wealth Podcast is hosted by Scott Wellens. Scott Wellens is the principal at Fortress Planning Group. Fortress Planning Group is a registered investment advisory firm regulated by the Securities Act of Wisconsin in accordance and compliance with securities laws and regulations. Fortress Planning Group does not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice through the Best In Wealth Podcast. The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, tax, investment or legal advice.