What makes people happiest in retirement? It can vary from person to person, but there are a variety of strategies you can use to retire happy. While health conditions and living situations can change, you have many opportunities to set your own path and make the most of your retirement at every step.
To find happiness in retirement, consider these guidelines:
1. Set new goals.
2. Decide where to live.
3. Live within your means.
4. Find an outlet.
5. Engage in brain games.
6. Stay socially connected.
7. Focus on health.
8. Mend and renew relationships.
9. Take on work, your way.
10. Pursue fulfilling opportunities.
11. Be ready to change.
12. Ask for help.
1. Set New Goals
You may have had firm objectives during your working years, such as striving for a promotion or hitting a milestone for the number of years worked. To retire happy, think about having new goals, which can motivate you to accomplish tasks. “If you really want something, maybe a new romance, then take a concrete step in that direction,” says Ahron Friedberg, a medical doctor and clinical professor in psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York. “Don’t ever tell yourself that it’s too late.”
2. Decide Where to Live
Perhaps you grew up in the North and have always wanted to live in the South. Or you might want to move to a place that has amenities for retirees and a built-in community environment. If you opt to move somewhere else, try renting a place in the new location for several months to get an idea of what life would be like there.
You may also want to stay in the same area where you’ve lived for the past decade or more. If you have family nearby, this might be a smart choice. You could visit grandchildren frequently and maintain friendships that have formed over the years.
3. Live Within Your Means
If you don’t already have one, now may be the time to set up a retirement budget. “Retirees must be able to afford the lifestyle they desire without risking running out of money in their later years,” says Kevin T. Taylor, a financial advisor and managing partner at InSight, a financial planning firm in Boulder, Colorado. “This requires a thorough understanding of their expenses, income sources and investments.” Set up a plan to pay off any lingering debts and make sure you have an emergency fund so that unexpected twists won’t cause financial upheaval.
4. Find an Outlet
Having someone to talk openly with can help you avoid high levels of stress and anxiety. “Be ready to share your feelings, however unlikely they may seem,” Friedberg says. “The mere act of sharing is therapeutic. We feel less alone.” In addition, be ready to listen to others who want to express their sentiments. “Our brains are wired for empathy and exercising the capability makes us feel useful,” Friedberg says. To retire happy, find that person in your life who can be a sounding board. It could be your spouse, a close friend you’ve had since childhood, or possibly a new friendship that develops during retirement.
5. Stay Socially Connected
Marcia K. Morgan of Bend, Oregon, retired two weeks before the pandemic started. As she adjusted to the shutdown and retirement, she began participating in online weekly chats. “My weekly Zoom happy hour with a group of nine women friends, now in person, has helped me stay connected,” says Morgan, who is the author of “Should I Change My Name? The Impact of Your Last Name on Identity, Marriage, and Happiness.” The group now participates in activities like hiking, going out to eat and helping the community in ways such as serving meals at a homeless shelter. If you’re not already involved in a senior club or regular social gathering, look for events in your area to have human interaction.
[See: The Best Places for Single Boomers to Retire]
6. Focus on Health
With a schedule that is more flexible, you may find it easier to cook meals at home and get enough sleep. Regular activity such as walks, swimming or group sports could help you stay in good physical condition. Now is also the time to keep up with regular medical appointments and ask about preventive treatments. “As we age, health care becomes increasingly important and expensive,” Taylor says. “Retirees should have a plan in place to cover their health care costs, including Medicare and supplemental insurance policies.”
7. Engage in Brain Games
From reading books to online activities and apps, there are many ways to exercise your mental skills every day. “Go out and solve a hard problem,” Friedberg says. “You’ll remind yourself that you’re not losing it.” If you enjoy helping others learn, you might look for a part-time job or volunteer position to tutor students for several hours a week. Other ways to stay stimulated include participating in weekly card games or learning a new skill like piano or a foreign language.
8. Mend and Renew Relationships
If you choose to live in the same area where you went to high school or college, it may be worthwhile to look up past friends and acquaintances. Placing a high value on relationships can improve your mood and give you a sense of belonging. You could find you have common interests or that you are both looking for companionship. Also seek out family members and be ready to smooth over past hurdles that strained the relationship. “Connection with family is important, and the shaky connections are often salvageable,” Friedberg says.
9. Take on Work, Your Way
There are several approaches to stay active and find fulfillment after leaving a career. “Your retirement schedule should be less stressful and demanding than your previous one, but we don’t need to avoid all forms of work or service,” says Kevin Coleman, a marriage and family therapist, and founder and owner of Connected Therapy Practice in Columbia, South Carolina. “Find some work that you take pride in and find intrinsically meaningful.”
You might care for grandchildren several times a week, volunteer at your church or care for elderly friends who need assistance. “Be sure to maintain flexibility so you can sleep in some mornings, take that trip you’ve always wanted to take and enjoy more rest than you have before,” Coleman says.
[See: 19 Part-Time Retirement Jobs That Pay Well.]
10. Pursue Fulfilling Opportunities
To retire happy, look for projects or commitments that align with your interests. This could include volunteering, signing up to take classes, joining a club or organization, or starting a new business venture. “Retirees should consider pursuing hobbies and passions that give them a sense of fulfillment and purpose,” Taylor says. In doing so, you may feel more energy to carry out the work and have a more positive outlook from week to week.
11. Be Ready to Change
Even if you feel you are ready to retire, the transition into the new phase can bring surprises. It may seem different to shift from a schedule that is packed with activities to one that is mostly blank. As you fill your calendar, remember that your preferences can change. “You might be looking forward to reading all those books stacked on the shelf,” says Steven M Sultanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University. If you think that finishing them will make you happy, you might set aside time every day for the hobby. However, after several months you could realize that you enjoy reading but don’t want to invest that much time. You may decide to join a book club that meets once a month instead. This would give you the chance to continue reading on a regular basis and meet periodically with others.
12. Ask for Help
Retirement often presents a time of freedom and flexibility. At first, it may be enjoyable to take care of your home and maintain your new lifestyle. If you reach a point where you aren’t able to continue doing everything on your own, it may be time to reach out. Family members could mow your lawn and bring groceries to you. Care companies can help with housekeeping and other activities you can’t do on your own. Requesting assistance can provide opportunities for you to connect with others, stay in your home and carry on with activities you love.
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Ways to Achieve a Happy Retirement originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 04/19/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.