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12 Secrets to a Happy Retirement

6 minute read

By Kimberly Dixon

There’s a reason the last several decades of life are called the golden years. For many, they’re some of the best years of life. But it’s important to take steps to ensure that the years after retirement are healthy, happy, and prosperous. They don’t just happen. For those approaching retirement age, as well as those after it, these 12 secrets to ensuring a happy retirement can help make your golden years enjoyable, full, and stress-free.

Create a Solid Financial Plan

The Department of Labor suggests that seniors should have between 70% and 90% of their pre-retirement income saved to maintain the standard of living they’re used to after they retire from work. Meanwhile, only half of working Americans have taken the time to calculate what their financial needs will be, let alone been actively saving for them. While savings plans such as 401(k)s and investments can help older adults live comfortably after retirement, it never hurts to put aside additional funds aside in the years leading up to it.

The best time to start saving was five/ten/fifteen years ago. The second best time is today. If you aren’t sure how to tackle saving for your retirement or how much you should even be saving, it may be worthwhile to speak to a financial advisor.


Ease Into Retirement

Going from full-time, 40-hour work weeks to no work at all can be a shock. Some people find themselves feeling lost and purposeless without the routine of regular work. If your career allows it, try to ease into retirement slowly. If possible, spend the last year at work reducing your workload slowly. That will give yourself some time to find activities you’ll enjoy after you’re finished working entirely. If you’re not able to reduce your workload as retirement approaches, it can still be helpful to dedicate an evening or two per week to exploring activities and hobbies that you haven’t tried in the past.

Volunteering once or twice a week can also be a good way to account for some of the extra time you’ll have when you retire. Choose a cause you care about. Then find a local place to donate your time, like an animal shelter, soup kitchen, or community garden.


Expect an Adjustment Period

Retirement is an exciting time for nearly everybody. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t come with its fair share of ups and downs. A 2018 article published by Harvard Medical School discussed the common feelings that seniors encounter in their retirement years. They can include anxiety, depression, and isolation.

While these feelings are most common in the first several months after retirement, they can last years for some people. The best way to combat the downs in retirement is by staying engaged. Focus on your hobbies or relationships with others. If you find these feelings are difficult to overcome, it’s worth speaking to a therapist or your physician to get some extra help.


Eat a Healthy Diet

Nutrition is important, especially for older adults. Retired-age folks are generally at a higher-than-average risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions. In retirement, a good diet consists of regular meals and snacks, as well as balanced, nutritious meals that include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of certain health conditions. It will also improve your overall mood and help maintain a healthy weight.


Stay as Active as Possible

Older adults who engage in regular exercise are more likely to report feelings of happiness and stability. That said, it’s important to discuss any exercise plans with your primary care practitioner, prior to engaging in new types of workouts. While healthy seniors can typically participate in nearly any type of exercise, those with mobility issues or underlying health conditions may want to consider activities that are low-impact, such as yoga, Pilates, swimming or walking. In addition to increasing happiness, regular physical activity may help seniors ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions.


Keep Your Mind Sharp

Exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body. The benefits of continuing to learn new things during retirement are endless, including improved independence, mood stability and overall psychological well-being. In fact, dedication to lifelong learning may even help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to some extent.

Activities to keep the mind active and engaged can be as simple. Popular (and easy) choices include playing chess or Scrabble and reading books. More ambitious options include registering for classes at a local community college, learning a new language, or discovering a new musical instrument.


Stick to a Routine

It can be easy to lose track of the days during retirement. However, adhering to a usual schedule can help. Instead of sleeping in daily or taking the relaxation part of retirement too seriously, try to keep a regular routine. You should plan to wake up, eat, and go to bed on a fairly consistent schedule. Yes, even if you’re “retirement schedule” is different from your “work schedule.”

Throughout the day, plan to volunteer, exercise, or take part in your hobbies at roughly the same times during the week. Commit to relaxation on the weekends. As you adjust to retirement, make changes to your daily schedule as necessary until you find a daily routine that suits your lifestyle.


Start Tackling Your Bucket List

Many people have a bucket list. You know, a list of activities or destinations they’d like to try or see before they “kick the bucket.” As you approach retirement, think about the things you’d like to do and see. After all, having the spare time is no longer an issue once you’ve stopped working.

Be sure to include small things, such as movies you’d like to see or landmarks you’d like to visit in your area. Sprinkle them in with the bigger goals, such as vacation destinations or new skills you didn’t have time for during your working years.


Make Smart Investments

Adults typically invest their money in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The general goal is to grow that money for retirement. Once retirement comes around, though, it’s important to approach investments with caution. Instead of investing for growth by taking bigger risks, seek out safer investments.

Now that you’re relying on the investments for retirement income, you don’t want wild fluctuations in their value. Look for investments that offer frequent and reliable dividend payments. In the years leading up to retirement, it’s best to meet with a professional financial planner who can help with portfolio diversification and safe investments.


Spend More Time With Family

Retirement is a great time to build stronger bonds and connections with children, grandchildren, and other family members. Make time for family dinners, play dates with little ones, and coffee with siblings, nieces, nephews and other extended family. Regular visits with loved ones can help prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Keep in mind that when you’re connecting with family members, it’s okay to set boundaries. It’s important for you, as well as for your adult children and older grandchildren, to maintain independence both emotionally and financially.


Connect With Old Friends and Make New Ones

The health risks associated with loneliness and isolation can be vast. Unfortunately, older adults face a higher isolation risk than most age demographics. In fact, an estimated 25% of those aged 65 and older in the United States are socially isolated. Committing yourself to keeping up with old friends, coworkers, and neighbors is a good way to combat these feelings.

Making new friends is another great way to avoid feeling lonely and make the best of your golden years. Opportunities to meet new people, especially other seniors, exist all over the place. Consider visiting your local senior center, volunteering, taking a class, or joining a club.


Splurge Once in a While

Although saving your money is important, especially in retirement, it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself to an extravagant purchase or vacation once in a while — provided you have the funds available to do so. Traveling to see friends or family members or purchasing items that enhance your quality of life can help improve your overall mental health and contribute to a higher level of happiness. Of course, while occasionally splurging is okay, it’s still important to pay attention to your overall finances and avoid overspending.


Kimberly Dixon


Kimberly Dixon is a freelance writer from Calgary, Canada. While she's covered a vast selection of topics, she's most passionate about creating content that encourages readers to live a more mindful lifestyle. Aside from writing, Kimberly's hobbies include painting and playing music.