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Ensuring a Happy Retirement

28 September 2022

Last time, we talked about planning for the income taxes you will incur during your retirement.

In this post, we talk about how best to ensure – to the extent possible – that your retirement is a happy and enjoyable one.

It’s indisputable that a happy retirement needs a number of working parts to keep it going, and the top factors retirees note have remained relatively stable since 2014. A large financial firm’s study found 5 top components, among which health was overwhelmingly in first place. Other research indicates additional important factors in a happy retirement, so we discuss our own top 3 picks below.

Top Non-Financial Criteria for a Happy Retirement

Good Health – Physical and Mental

Good health is at the top of every list of what retirees consider paramount to maintaining a happy retirement. Some ideas on how to care for yours:

  • Eat a healthy diet – you will both feel better and be better in health for it. Whether you prefer plant-based or paleo, veggies and fruits should be part of your daily diet.
  • Exercise regularly – whether it’s walking, running, bicycling, or gym workouts, keep (or get) moving! If walking is all you are able to do, take 7,500 steps per day – this will produce health benefits both physical and mental.
  • Note that it is never too late to start on the above – studies indicate that even previous couch-potatoes with less than healthy diets can, by taking corrective steps – even later in life – dramatically reduce their chances of cardiovascular illness, and live longer.
  • Don’t ignore physical or mental symptoms – make your health-care providers your partners in maintaining your all-important health.
  • Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health – especially when it comes to happiness. Exercise your mind as regularly and diligently as you do your body. Keep learning! Brain exercise may help you avoid cognitive decline and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. Consider reading – books, articles, papers – these can help keep your information as well as your mind up to date.
  • According to Harvard Medical School’s newsletter, Healthbeat, “Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.”
  • One key factor in happiness and mental health is a positive outlook – cultivate optimism, as The Kinks advise us in their song Better Things. The glass is partly full and partly empty – which you focus on is up to you. Practice mindful gratitude – you are blessed, if you think about it – we all are.

A Strong Social Network

While working, you have a built-in social network. But, although you may maintain friendships with some former colleagues, it’s likely that that portion of your circle of acquaintance will diminish – in both quantity and importance, as you find other activities. Per one Gallup poll from 2011, U.S. citizens report improvement in their moods for every hour of social activity, up to 7 hours a day. Seniors, as a rule, derive full benefit with even fewer hours of social time. To keep a strong social life:

  • Unplug. The benefits of social interaction do not attain to social media – invest in in-person time.
  • Make time for each relationship you value – your spouse, each child, every close friend. Spend quality time with them one-on-one.
  • Gather in groups – now that you have time for that favorite hobby (or time to take one up), join with those who share your passion. If you’re an avid reader, join a book club – or start one! Remember, as unique as each of us is, there are a finite number of things in this world, and if you love something (collecting anything, reading, needlepoint, cycling, extreme sports), you aren’t the only one!
  • Take part in community events – go to that museum-unveiling party, that charity ball.
  • New neighbors? Bake them cookies and bring them over with an invitation to stop by (on a specific date and time) for coffee and to chat. Maybe you won’t take to each other, but you won’t know if you don’t try.

A Sense of Purpose

Work is one clear purpose – but it’s a long way from the only purpose, and the others – your relationships among them – you can carry with you into retirement. But you can also find new purposes to pursue in your newly available time, if family and friends, leisure, travel and recreation don’t fill the bill for you:

  • Volunteer – chances are there are many worthy opportunities for you to give back to the community in which you’ve prospered – or the new community you’ve moved to (volunteering is a great way to find new friends). The Merrill Lynch study linked to above found that retirees are three times as likely to reference “helping people in need” as boosting their happiness than “spending money on themselves.”
  • Consider mentoring a young person in need of guidance – that’s an excellent way of helping others.
  • Start a new business, if you find yourself missing your work-life too much.
  • Take up a part-time job doing something new – one client of ours became a docent in retirement and gained much satisfaction from it.

If you are wondering how to best plan for your own happy retirement, and would welcome the counsel and perspective of a seasoned financial planner, please click here to email us directly – we are here to help.

Until next time – 

Peace,

Eric

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