How to Take Steps Toward to a Happy Retirement

Retired couple walking down sidewalk with ice cream
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It's best to plan ahead to ensure a successful and happy retirement. But it's not just financial planning that's important. It's important to plan out your activities, as well.

Research shows that retirees who stay somewhat active with planned activities tend to be happier than those who don't. It also suggests that people who spend their time doing what they actually want to do during retirement are happier than those who don't.

Activities that generally help increase the happiness of retirees across age groups include socializing, walking or exercising in some way, working part-time, and volunteering. It's wise to start thinking about how you can incorporate these types of activities into your life after you retire if you want a happy retirement.

Socializing

Research shows that social isolation negatively impacts retirees, and has been associated with general poor health, high blood pressure, and immune dysfunction, as well as increased risk for chronic illness, premature death, and cognitive dysfunction. So planning to include some sort of regular social activities into your retired life will be key to your happiness—and your longevity.

Some social activity ideas for retirees—beyond going bingo nights—include gardening and book clubs, storytelling nights, art classes, concerts, and spa days.

Good financial planners will ask their clients what they want out of retirement as a way to help gauge what kind of discretionary retirement income their client should be saving for in addition to their fixed expenses like housing, food, and healthcare. If you expect to spend your time gardening and volunteering, for instance, your monetary needs will be different from someone who wants to travel the world and play golf every day.

Working Part-Time

While those who have achieved true financial independence have no need to work, others may find that working a few hours here and there does increase their financial security—which, in turn, increases their happiness. Even those not needing the additional income might find that their happiness and life satisfaction increases simply by being around others and being needed, particularly if the job requires significantly less stress and responsibilities than their pre-retirement careers did during their prime working years.

Included in AARP's "Top 25 Part-Time Jobs for Retirees" are jobs that range from school bus driver to office manager to dental hygienist. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you may even opt to start a small business.

Volunteering

For retirees who aren't concerned about earning additional income, volunteering can be a better option than working. Doing good by helping others can not only fill the day but more importantly, it can create the meaning and purpose that people of all ages crave. That often translates into increased emotional and physical well-being.

To figure out which volunteer opportunities could be right for you, it can help to ask yourself if you'll want to do something related to your work or if you want to try something different. Whether you become more active in an organization you may have participated in during your working years or seek out new associations to donate your time to, you can take advantage of the skills and talents honed throughout your career for the benefit of others.

Exercising

Walking or getting other types of physical exercise can also help increase happiness in retirees—as well as maintain physical and mental health. You can also combine exercising with socializing and start a walking club or taking a regular class with friends.

There are many workout centers, programs, and classes especially designed for senior citizens and retirees. You can use the International Council on Active Aging Facility Locator to find out what's available in your area. You can even start reviewing them before your retirement to see which one appeals to you.

Whatever type of exercise you choose, it's important to make sure that it's safe for you. Always consult your doctor first. This is especially critical if you have any health conditions.

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Article Sources

  1. Journal of Financial Planning. "Time Allocations and Self-Reported Happiness of Retirees: An Exploratory Study." Accessed April 24, 2020.

  2. The Arbor Company. "Beyond Bingo: 14 Activities for Elderly People That Aren't Boring." Accessed April 24, 2020.

  3. Financial Mentor. "Preparing For Retirement–The 5 Essential Questions." Accessed April 24, 2020.

  4. AARP. "Top 25 Part-Time Jobs for Retirees." Accessed April 24, 2020.

  5. The Hartford Extra Mile. "The Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement." Accessed April 25, 2020.

  6. International Council on Active Aging. "Consumer Information: Facility Locator." Accessed April 25, 2020.

  7. The Week. "5 Expert Tips for Staying Fit in Retirement." Accessed April 24, 2020.