Retirement is a stage of life that most of us eagerly anticipate. After all, those well prepared for retirement have given their time, energy, and emotions to a long and successful career. And now, FINALLY, they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
But a long and comfortable retirement will require more than just money.
While it is true that money can certainly make life easier, it is not the only factor that contributes to happiness in retirement. Many factors influence a happy retirement.
Simply put, true wealth and happiness are about more than money. Here are five additional assets to focus on in retirement.
#1: Your Health
What good is a nest egg if you’re not around to enjoy it? For that reason, many retirees consider their health an essential ingredient for a happy retirement. Without good health, all the money in the world cannot bring happiness.
Maintaining a healthy mind and body into retirement will:
- Enable you to participate in the activities you enjoy
- Allow you to spend quality time with your loved ones
- Ensure the ability to travel and explore new places (something that is often a goal for many retirees)
And if you haven’t always done the best job of focusing on your health; it’s never too late to start eating right and moving more. Research from Harvard Medical School shows that even those who increase physical activity and adopt a healthy diet later in life can still dramatically improve their health. Maintaining a healthful lifestyle through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and regular check-ups with a doctor can help ensure a healthy and fulfilling retirement. If you need inspiration, The National Institute on Aging offers many resources for staying healthy as you age.
#2: Meaningful Relationships
Another factor contributing to happiness in retirement is solid social connections. Having a support system provides a sense of belonging and security. One Gallup poll found that the more social a retiree is, the more likely they are to report enjoyment and happiness and a lot less likely to report stress and worry. Social isolation (which many older Americans struggle with, especially in a post-pandemic world) has been linked to higher rates of dementia, depression, anxiety, and heart disease. It may seem unlikely, but low levels of social interaction can be just as unhealthy as obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity. Fostering meaningful relationships can offer joy, comfort, and companionship while helping people stay connected to the world.
Some ideas for staying connected:
- Join a group (volunteer, attend a game night, movie viewing, or book club)
- Teach or mentor children and young adults
- Provide companion services to the elderly
- Adopt (or foster) a pet
- Nourish the relationship with your spouse
- Maintain relationships with coworkers and friends
#3: Retain a Sense of Purpose
While visions of retirement often include days spent strolling the golf course or lounging on the beach, these idealistic leisure activities don’t always provide a sense of purpose or meaning. For most retirees, feeling a sense of accomplishment contributes to their overall happiness and allows them to maintain a positive outlook on life. Many people find a sense of purpose through volunteering, hobbies, or part-time work. Roughly three-quarters of Americans intend to continue working in retirement, with the majority citing because they “want to” and not because they “have to” as their inspiration.
#4: Challenge Your Brain
Besides working, pursuing new interests and learning new skills can add ambition to retirement. Lifelong education can prolong your mental and physical health—stimulating your brain has been linked to the reduction of cognitive decline and dementia.
Mental stimulation doesn’t just mean playing Wordle and doing a daily crossword puzzle, though research has shown these activities protect cognitive function. Whatever you do, choose an enjoyable pursuit—master another language, learn to play an instrument, or take a class (locally or online)!
#5: Maintain a Positive Outlook on Life
People with a positive outlook are more likely to find happiness AND maintain their health. Are we sensing a theme here? A review published in JAMA found that those with a mindset of optimism were more likely to live longer than their pessimistic counterparts.
Even amidst an economic downturn, we can frame our minds to see the positive. It’s easy to develop a positive outlook by maintaining a gratitude practice, focusing on the present moment, and embracing change. When people can look on the bright side of things and find joy in the little things, they are more likely to experience happiness in retirement.
While purposefully and intentionally building a nest egg is undoubtedly important, it is not the only factor contributing to a happy retirement. Good health, meaningful relationships, a sense of purpose, an active mind, and a positive outlook are all essential to experience a happy and fulfilling second act. Focusing on these things can shape a retirement rich in joy, purpose, and happiness.