Want a Happier Retirement?

A happy retirement requires more than money. Here are seven things happy retirees do besides save for retirement.

It is all about the numbers when you are planning to retire. Does your pension, 401(k)s/IRAs, Social Security, property, company sale, etc., generate enough income for your retirement lifestyle? Most think so. Any retiree would tell you that’s only half the story. You’ll need money to survive, but you don’t need to be rich to be happy. Purdue University researchers say life pleasure peaks at $95,000 per year. Having enough money, so you don’t go broke or need medical treatment is crucial. However, money isn’t the only or most significant part of a happy retirement.

Once you have a retirement plan, focus on what money can’t buy.

 Here are seven habits that can boost retirement happiness.

Happy retirees, keep healthy.

Money is useless if it’s not enjoyed. According to Merrill Lynch/Age Wave research, most retirees feel excellent health is key to a happy retirement. Exercise and a good diet can reduce the risk of some health issues and boost energy, the immune system, and mood. You can move and eat well at any age. Even late-in-life physical activity and a good diet reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death rate. CDC advises 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

Want ideas? The National Institute on Aging gives helpful advice on starting and maintaining an exercise regimen. Even a simple practice, like walking 7,500 steps daily, might have huge health advantages. Walking regularly reduces blood pressure and dementia risk and increases longevity and creativity. Albert Einstein walked 3 miles daily and was one of history’s most significant intellectuals. 

They build strong social connections.

After leaving the workforce, hobbies and activities with friends can increase life satisfaction. Gallup poll revealed that sociable retirees are happier.

Isolation is connected to heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression, and anxiety. Low social interaction is as unhealthy as smoking, obesity, alcoholism, or inactivity.

Participate in the community center or library events to stay connected. Game nights, movie or museum visits, and book groups are examples. New methods to socialize were made because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several easy-to-use digital options for folks in secluded areas or with unreliable transportation. Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Netflix Party are ideal for video chats.

Happy retirees find meaning.

Golfing, strolling the beach, and reading classic novels are obsolete retirement activities. Stereotypical retirement leisure activities are fun, but many retirees think they lack purpose or significance.

Working gives retirees meaning. Nearly 3 in 4 Americans expect to work past the typical retirement age, with most doing so because they “want to.”

Volunteering can be rewarding for retirees. The same Age Wave/Merrill Lynch study found that seniors are three times more likely to say “helping people in need” offers them happiness than “spending money on oneself.” Donating and volunteering gave people a sense of purpose, self-esteem, and happiness.

How do you start volunteering? You can browse online to find local charities and non-profits. VolunteerMatch.org presents volunteer opportunities by city and category, such as animals, arts, health, literacy, and elders. The service allows you to build a profile with your history and talents so non-profits may find you.

Never stop learning

Learning new things may keep you cognitively sharp by keeping you mentally busy, according to experts. Brain exercises may prevent cognitive decline and dementia. According to Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat weekly, mental exercise stimulates brain cell maintenance and communication.

Brain exercise is similar to body exercise, and stimulation is needed. That doesn’t mean daily crosswords (although one study found that people with dementia who did crossword puzzles delayed accelerated memory loss by 2.54 years). Enjoy something new. Take classes at a senior center or community college, learn to play an instrument, or visit the library often. Or, use Coursera to take free college courses from Yale and Stanford.

The National Institute on Aging lists activities that can benefit older individuals’ health, such as visiting museums and joining reading or film clubs.

 They practice optimism.

Having a positive outlook may reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses and extend life. In a JAMA Network publication, researchers discovered that optimistic people were less likely to have heart attacks and had a lower death rate.

A PNAS study found that optimists lived longer. Optimistic women had a 50% greater probability of living to 85, while males had a 70% greater chance. Anyone can learn optimism. People can cultivate an optimistic mindset with easy, low-cost exercises, such as reframing every circumstance positively. Your brain may be rewired to think favorably over time. Negativity is contagious, so be with positive people and avoid the news. Just as some diseases are infectious, many emotions may pulse through social networks, says Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School.

Happy retirees are grateful.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that people who counted their blessings had a more optimistic attitude on life, exercised more, had fewer disease symptoms, and were more likely to help others. Nathaniel Lambert’s research demonstrates a link between appreciation and materialism, and gratitude boosts life pleasure and reduces the need to shop.

Like optimism, gratitude may be practiced, and writing in a journal helps build thankfulness. Try making a morning or evening list of the things you’re grateful for, from a professional accomplishment to your morning coffee. The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal, founded by health psychologist and coach Sophia Godkin, asks you to acknowledge the excellent people and events in your life each day. Psychological research says writing thankfulness can boost self-esteem, sleep, and heart health.

They have an animal companion.

Fido has more benefits than the newspaper. According to research in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, older dog owners who walked their dogs at least once a day obtained 20% more physical exercise and spent 30 fewer minutes a day being inactive. According to research, the physical and emotional health benefits of keeping a dog can increase the owner’s lifespan.

Cats and birds are low-maintenance alternatives to dogs. Or consider therapeutic dog visits. Over 20,000 dog/handler pairings are registered with Therapy Dogs International’s home visit program. Furry friends can be equally helpful as human companions. Visit an animal shelter to find your next best friend; if you don’t want or can’t own a dog full-time, foster one. You can foster a dog from a rescue facility for a few days, weeks, or even a month to help it find a home. The breed is irrelevant. All good dogs are tiny, huge, slobbery, or smelly.

Retirement involves financial and life decisions. Work with a financial consultant to build a retirement plan as soon as possible. So, you may focus on other essential things.