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Financial adviser and radio talk show host Wes Moss has a new book: You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees. Moss, a principal at Capital Investment Advisors in Atlanta and host of "Money Matters" on WSB-radio in Atlanta, talked with USA TODAY retirement columnist Rodney Brooks about his book and the research it was based on. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.

Q: What made you write a book on this subject?

A:. I think that most retirement books are dreadfully boring. My team and firm were urging me to write a book. I didn't want to write another ho-hum retirement book with just the basics. I didn't want to write the book until I had an idea that I thought was truly original and unique.

I read a couple of years ago a Princeton study talked about income and happiness. People are happier until $75,000. Then happiness levels off. I was intrigued by the concept.

There is a book: The Happiest Baby on the Block. So, I said why not the happiest retiree on the block. I wanted to find out the relationship between money and happiness -- happy retirees and unhappy retires.

Q: How did you get your data?

A: I've been doing this for 16 years. I've been doing financial radio for eight years. I have a preconceived notion of what I think a happy retirement is. But I wanted to be more objective. So we did a national survey of 1,300 people in 46 states. I asked three dozen question -- behavior questions, life questions, financial questions. I also asked happiness questions.

I was looking for the happiest group and least happy group and their finances. What happened is after I did the study, it really opened my eyes. I had a preconceived notion.

Q: So, who are the happy retirees?

A: Those are the people who retire earlier, at an earlier age and an earlier date than most people in America. To me this is an updated version of The Millionaire Next Door. This is the most updated, more modern version of what that book talked about -- the habits of people who can retire early and they are not necessarily all millionaires. The have financial freedom as early as possible, but more importantly, they are happy.

Who are people who retire early? In my opinion, it is someone in position to retire at 62. That's early. Sixty-five is traditional age. I like to see people able to do it at 62, when Social Security kicks in.

However, lots of people I work with are retiring in their late 50s, and a lot of people are planning on retiring at 55. If you can retire at 55 to 62, you are in a wonderful position to enjoy the next 30 to 40 years.

Q: In the book there are 18 habits of happy retirees. Can you narrow your book down to three pieces of advice?

A: No. 1 is financial. Tackle your mortgage. It's such a critical component to all this. Happiness rises as years to pay off mortgage go down. Thus, tackling of the mortgage is really critical. There' a lot of ways to do it. Pay it off in one fell swoop, if you can pay it off in non-retirement money. You can do it in one swoop, or by paying $100, $200, or $300 bucks a month extra. That can shave a full decade off a 30-year mortgage.

Even if they are 40, instead of being done by 70, they can be done by age 60 or 55. We all know that inherently, very few people put it into practice. But happy retirees do. Happy retirees get it. Happy retirees are four times more likely to have their mortgage paid off in five years or less.

If they can figure out a way to tackle the mortgage, that is a pillar in the book.

No. 2 is sources of income. The level of income is important. The happy group has a larger number. The happy group has closer to three income sources while the lower-income group has less than two. Those sources are Social Security, pension, part-time work, rental income, other government benefits and then, a really important one is, investment income. Happier retirees have more income sources. Yes, they have more income, but it is the principal of diversification.

No. 3 is very important. Busier retirees are happier. Core pursuits or hobbies on steroids. That would be like an avid golfer, avid hiker or an avid runner. They have core pursuits. Happy retires have 3.6 core hobbies, unhappy have less than two.

Q: What else can you tell us about happy retirees?

A: They know what the heck that money is saved for. There is a real purpose, driving source. It's really important, really critical. Get some hobbies. You don't want to be a 24-7 worker and then figure out what to do with your life. It's not healthy. They have these core pursuits, and they are important to establish as early as possible.,

You can argue that happy retirees have more money, but people who want to retire early, it's not that they hate their jobs. They have these other things that they really want to do full time. They want to stop working because of all these pursuits.

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