At first, this may seem like a rhetorical question. After all, you won’t have to work anymore! You will no longer have to deal with pressure, deadlines, performance reviews, demanding customers, or annoying co-workers. You can shut off the alarm clock and get up when you want. And best of all, no more boss! (Well, except maybe your spouse.) Why wouldn’t you be happy after you retire?
As it turns out, enjoying a happy retirement does not automatically happen when you kiss the old job goodbye. Not surprisingly, it takes more than simply saving enough money.
While what makes you happy is as individual as you are, these five tips will enable you to make good lifestyle choices and approach retirement with the right frame of mind to truly be happy after you retire.
Realize that happiness comes from people and experiences, not things.
For most of your working years, you were probably focused on making money and accumulating possessions. You probably had your sights set on the next thing you wanted to acquire, such as a boat, a bigger house, or a nicer car.
Later in life, you will realize that these things don’t really bring happiness. In retirement, you may downsize to a smaller house and share one car with your spouse, while you find happiness in the people you associate with and the activities you engage in. Many people discover that they are happier after they rid their homes and their lives of the accumulated possessions that no longer hold meaning for them.
It’s also erroneous to think that saving more money for retirement automatically equals more happiness in retirement. While it’s true that having more financial resources will enable you to do more things you enjoy doing and relieve the stress that comes with struggling to make ends meet, the happiest retirees aren’t necessarily the ones who are driving a Mercedes and taking four luxury cruises a year.
Wes Moss, author of You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, surveyed over 1,200 people and found that their level of happiness reached a plateau at about $500,000 in retirement savings. While that is significantly less than most experts recommend that you have in your nest egg when you retire, it illustrates that once basic needs are met, more money does not by itself equal more happiness.
Strive for a balance of physical activity, mental stimulation, socialization, and fulfillment.
These are the four pillars of a happy, well-balanced life.
While you may not be able to run marathons, play contact sports, or climb the highest mountains during your later years, activities such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming, tennis, golf, and many other recreational activities will get you out of the house and keep you healthier and happier longer.
Even though you will no longer need continuing education to sustain your career, there’s no reason not to continue learning! Many seniors enroll in college courses just to learn about subjects they are interested in. Mental stimulation does not have to take place in a classroom; art museums, history museums, theatre and concerts provide mental stimulation as well as cultural enrichment.
During your working years, you benefit from having people in your life all day long. You might not consider your co-workers to be close friends, but they provide the benefit of human contact. After you retire, most of your work relationships will fade away, so it’s up to you to cultivate a network of people you enjoy and take the initiative to spend time with them. It’s not difficult to do, but it doesn’t happen as easily as it used to. It requires conscientious effort.
Fulfillment means something different for each of us. It may be hard to define, but you know when you feel it. Fulfillment comes from anything that makes you feel happy, alive, and complete. It’s whatever makes your heart sing. It’s how you feel when you are in your “zone.”
Discover a new sense of purpose.
A life filled with nothing but pleasure and entertainment will be fun for a while, but sooner or later it will leave you feeling empty and bored. People are happiest when they have purpose and meaning in their lives, and they are pursuing their passions or helping others.
If you were heavily absorbed in your career, you might experience a lack of purpose or identity once you leave your career behind. If this happens to you, think back on what interested you earlier in your life – especially during your teenage and college years, or perhaps the years before your children came along. Make a list of the activities you had to set aside along the way because the demands of being a working adult took over. Write down all the things you have ever thought you might like to do “someday.”
Once you retire, you will be able to pursue what you are truly passionate about, without concern for whether or not you can earn a good living doing it. You might make your most significant contributions to the world during your retirement!
Re-examine your attitude toward aging.
Do you view aging as a depressing period of gradual decline, or is it simply the passage of time?
Growing older is inevitable, so you might as well embrace the experience. Every period of your life has its rewards. Rather than being depressed about the things you can no longer do, celebrate all the things you can still do and the fact that you now have more time to do them.
Many of today’s boomers don’t even think of themselves as being “old.” As Bernard Baruch once said, “I will never be an old man. To me, old age is fifteen years older than I am."
Decide to be happy!
If you are unhappy during your working years, the act of retiring by itself won’t turn you into a happy person. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Approaching retirement with a positive attitude makes a big difference.
There’s good reason to be optimistic! A recent Merrill Lynch study reported that 93% of retirees said their life is as good as or better than it was prior to retirement. The study characterizes ages 61 to 75 as the retirement "freedom zone," when people enjoy the greatest balance of health, free time, fun and emotional well-being.
Without the constraints of work, you can choose the activities you wish to pursue, the people you want to associate with, and your attitude. Your retirement offers you a fantastic opportunity to design your life to achieve happiness.
What’s your best advice for being happy after you retire? Please share in the comments below.
© 2016 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: TheArches. Some rights reserved.