Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you and the joy that comes when you cast out all the negative elements that cause confusion and turmoil in your mind and allow serenity to prevail.
— Howard Salzman
One way to cast out the negatives in your life, is to follow these five tips.
First thing is to consider that financial security helps as does good health. In a recent survey 81% of retirees cited it as the most important ingredient for a happy retirement.
1. Create a predictable paycheck. No doubt about it: More money makes you happier.
Where your income comes from is just as important as how much savings you have. Retirees with a predictable income—a pension, say, or rental properties—get more enjoyment from spending those dollars than they do using money from a 401(k) or an IRA.
Similarly, a Towers Watson happiness survey found that retirees who rely mostly on investments had the highest financial anxiety. Almost a third of retirees who get less than 25% of their income from a pension or annuity were worried about their financial future; of those who receive 50% or more of their income from such a predictable source, just under a quarter expressed the same anxiety.
You can engineer a steady income by buying an immediate fixed annuity. According to ImmediateAnnuities.com, a 65-year-old man who puts $100,000 into an immediate annuity today would collect about $500 a month throughout retirement.
2. Stick with what you know. People who work past 65 are happier than their fully retired peers—with a big asterisk. If you have no choice but to work, the results are the opposite. On a scale of 1 to 10, seniors who voluntarily pick up part-time work rate their happiness a 6.5 on average; that drops to 4.4 for those who are forced to take a part-time job.
The benefit of working isn’t just financial. It’s also a boon to your health—a key driver of retirement happiness. The physical activity and social connections a job provides are a good antidote to an unhealthy sedentary and lonely lifestyle.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that retirees with part-time or temporary jobs have fewer major diseases, including high blood pressure and heart disease, than those who stop working altogether, even after factoring in their pre-retirement health.
Switching careers in retirement, though, isn’t as beneficial. Retirees who take jobs in their field reported the best mental health, says lead researcher Yujie Zhan of Canada’s Laurier University, perhaps because adapting to a new work environment and duties is stressful.
3. Find four hobbies. Busy retirees tend to be happier. But just how active do you have to be? The happiest retirees engage in three to four activities regularly; the least happy, only one or two. For the biggest boost to your happiness, pick a hobby that’s social. The top pursuits of the happiest retirees include volunteering, travel, and golf; for the unhappiest, they’re reading, hunting, fishing, and writing. People 65 and older get far more enjoyment out of socializing than younger people do.
4. Rent late in life. In retirement, as in your working years, owning a home brings you more joy than renting does. But as time goes on, that changes. The hassles of home-ownership build as you age, and a house can be isolating. Most people want to stay put in retirement. Yet, you need to plan for a transition to living in an environment with more social interaction and less home responsibility.
5. Keep your kids at arm’s length. Once you suddenly have a lot more time on your hands, your closest relationships can have a big impact on your mood. Married retirees, particularly those who retire around the same time, report higher satisfaction than nonmarrieds—but only if the couple get along well. A poor relationship more than erases the positive effects of being married.
Children don’t make much of a difference, with one twist. Living within 10 miles of their kids leaves retirees less happy. “People overestimate the amount of satisfaction they get from their kids,however the reason is unclear—could being a too accessible babysitter be the problem?