Basic Rules of Thumb for a Happy Retirement

How to Live Retirement to Its Fullest

Retired couple looking at photo album on a couch at home
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Once you retire, how will you live a victorious retiree lifestyle? Follow these basic rules of thumb for a happy retirement.

Don’t Live With Debt

Yes, there is good debt and bad debt, but when debt gets out of control, or you lose your ability to pay your debts, life becomes far more stressful. Everybody’s retirement looks different, but one aspect that most people agree on is the idea that the stresses of life are greatly reduced.

Debt could send you back to work or put unneeded stress on you and those around you. If you have dreams that involve debt, maybe it’s not time to retire just yet.

Don’t Stop Saving

All of those financial rules you learned don’t stop when you retire. Whatever income you’re bringing in, save a portion of it each month for a time when work is not an option. There’s no reason you can’t continue to build wealth after you retire.

Keep That Emergency Fund

Air conditioners break without warning even after you retire. Since you’re going to stay far away from debt, your emergency fund is what you’ll use to pay for those unexpected expenses. Most people believe that six months of living expenses are an appropriate nest egg, but it depends on your financial situation.

Remember: The goal is that you can absorb high-dollar, unexpected financial events without going into debt.

Wait on Social Security

If you don’t need it, wait until your full retirement age, or later, to take Social Security. The longer you wait, the higher your checks, and the older you get, the more likely you’ll be unable to work. In this case, Social Security can act kind of like a disability insurance policy.

If you start taking benefits at age 62, your benefits are reduced by 30%. On the other hand, for every year you wait past your full retirement age, you get an 8% increase. If your full retirement age is 66, your check would be 32% higher if you wait until age 70! (The maximum Social Security check amount in 2019 is $3,770, but most people won’t reach the maximum)

Get a Part-Time Job

But isn’t retirement about NOT working? No, retirement is about the freedom you have to live life on your terms. A part-time job could give you a little more spending money, but more importantly, it keeps you active, social and feeling like people still rely on you. You could be a freelancer, work at a ballpark, or do what you did before retirement, just less of it.

Continue Budgeting

Most people don’t enter retirement with more money than they know how to spend, so budgeting is still important for saving money. Because you have to forecast how much you will need over the next 20 to 30 years, consult with a financial planner to figure out how much your retirement accounts should pay you monthly, and make a budget based on those numbers.

Strengthen Family Ties

Maybe the family has always been a top priority for you. Still, if you’re one of those that saw a career, children, and other obligations get in the way of cultivating deep, rewarding relationships, retirement is the perfect time to strengthen those relationships.

Pay Attention to Your Estate

Hopefully, you had a formalized estate plan long before you retired. But nothing feels more “doom and gloom” than giving these documents attention.

But if you haven’t updated your estate plan in several years, it’s going to need more attention than when you were younger.

Do your now-adult children know who you chose as the executor, for example?

Keep Moving

Your body wasn’t made to sit for long periods. Part of staying healthy is exercise. Nobody is asking you to run a marathon—although it’s not unheard of—a good walk most days will likely reduce the amount you spend on healthcare and increase the quality of life in your retirement years.

Keep Learning

Your brain is no different. It was made to learn, so keep feeding it information. That could include traveling to new places, meeting interesting people, reading books, or taking a college course. Neuroscientists believe that constantly engaging your brain can help fend off diseases associated with dementia.