The Jones’s are alive and well, and keeping up with them just got more expensive.

According to a 13-country survey by Skandia International, the global average income needed to be really happy is just under $162,000, compared to the mere $75,000 suggested by a Princeton study just a few years ago.  More than an interesting statistic, this might well be a warning sign for many advisors.

A closer look at the numbers reveals a broad range of reported “happiness incomes.”  From Germany’s low of $85,781 to Dubai’s high of $276,150, the range is fairly extensive.  But when compared to the per capita GDP of each country, an interesting pattern emerges.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the amount of income needed to feel “really happy” tends to track the per capita GDP, lending credence to the idea that the amount of income needed to be happy is not an absolute number, but a relative number compared to those around us.

For advisors working with clients who are approaching retirement with limited savings, this can lead to unrealistic expectations of their retirement lifestyle with risks to both the client and the advisor.  For the client, these expectations can lead to unsustainable spending or frustration over not being able to live a lifestyle comparable to their friends or peers.  For the advisor, the risk is in being blamed for their client’s financial failure.

To mitigate these risks and truly help your clients achieve the lifestyle they want – and can afford – at retirement, you need to help them specifically identify what it is that will make them happy.  Too often clients have unspecific, romantic ideas about what retirement will be without ever examining what is truly important to them.  To do this, you need to borrow skills from the life coaching industry and really dig into what is important in your client’s lives and what their goals and priorities are.  Going through a formalized process of identifying and documenting your client’s life goals will help to keep them from pursuing the shiny new toys that can distract them from their ultimate goals.

Keith J. Weber, CFP®, CPRC, is a speaker, author and founder of Weber Consulting Group, LLC, a financial advisor training, coaching and practice management consulting firm that inspires advisors to re-examine their client conversations in order to develop deeper client relationships. For more information visit www.kjweber.com, www.RethinkingRetirement.com or connect with Keith on LinkedIn.