Woody Allen once said, “In my house, I’m the boss. My wife is just the decision maker.” This is a great one-liner, and it also hints at something that I’ve found in my research on the happiest retirees.
The vast majority of happy retirees are married or have a domestic partner. Indeed, about 75% of participants I interviewed for my book “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” were part of a couple. So, while we love to poke fun at marriage, a strong partnership is often the foundation for a happy life, both before and during retirement.
Don’t just take it from me. Investment guru Warren Buffett is also a believer in this eternal truth. The beloved Sage of Omaha recently shared with Forbes that accumulating wealth and making money is meaningless unless you have someone to share it with.
Buffett distilled his point down even further when he shared that “there’s no question” that “it’s much more fun achieving things in life with a partner.” He opined that marriage, which he describes as “the ultimate partnership,” is “the most important decision that you make.”
“Who you marry… is enormously important in determining the happiness in your life and your success and I was lucky in that respect,” says Buffett. The 87-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway shared with Forbes that his first wife Susan Buffett was, along with his father Howard and mentor Benjamin Graham, one of his “greatest teachers.”
In the heartfelt HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett,” he says, “There were two turning points in my life. One when I came out of the womb and one when I met Susie,” as he affectionately called his wife.
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Buffett and Susan met when Susan was going to be rooming with Buffett’s youngest sister as a college student at Northwestern University. The two were married until Susan passed away in 2004. During their marriage, Susan worked as a director for Berkshire Hathaway, served as the Buffett Foundation’s president, and was the 17th richest woman in the world.
Obviously, they were a perfect match. Buffett told Forbes that Susan taught him a lot – about investing, and also about opening himself up emotionally to the world. In the documentary, Buffett says he “got very, very, very lucky,” and describes himself before Susan as “a lopsided person.” Sweetly, he describes her patience and nurturance of him. “It took a while, but she just stood there with a little watering can and just nourished me along and changed me.”
Buffett refers to marriage as “the most important decision that you make.” He explains, “who you marry, which is the ultimate partnership, is enormously important in determining the happiness in your life and your success.” When speaking about marriage, Buffett describes it as a personal advantage to have a wonderful partner.
And there’s science behind his feelings, whether he knows it or not. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that people who have supportive spouses or life partners are “more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed.”
So, data, research and life experience all tell us something we already know: a good marriage or partnership is a linchpin for a happy life, no matter which stage of life you’re in. And as Buffett points out, a happy marriage is up to us. While we may not have a choice in determining how we were born and raised, we do “have something to say about who [we] marry.”