Retirement should be one of the happiest phases of your life. You can plan long vacations, discover new hobbies, and start enjoying life on your terms. For nine out of ten retirees, all these things are true, according to a report from Merrill Lynch.¹
How can you join the 93 percent of retirees who say life is better (or just as good as) than before they retired? Of course, financial security and good health help. Aside from those obvious answers, there are a few other, less apparent things you can do to make your retirement as happy as possible. Here are three of them.
1. Pick up Some Part-Time Work
Survey after survey shows that retirees are happiest when they continue to work a little. Of course, if you have no choice but to work, it’s a different story altogether. For those who volunteer to work a part-time or temporary job, happiness levels tend to shoot skywards. Here’s why.
Physical activity. One thing a part-time job can do for you, besides making you a little wealthier, is keep you moving. Even a desk job gets you up and out of the house.
Social connections. One of the most significant downsides to retiring is the loss of a social network. Working enables social interaction and helps ward off loneliness.
Health. Everyone knows a sedentary lifestyle is dangerous for your health. Researchers who study retirees with part-time jobs have found they have fewer instances of significant diseases.² Working can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
2. Make Room for Hobbies
Being busy makes retirees happier, but it doesn’t have to be an actual job that occupies your time. Retirement is a great time to pick up some new hobbies or finally devote yourself wholeheartedly to pastimes you never had time for when you were working.
One suggestion is to develop three or four hobbies, so your days are not just busy but well-rounded and exciting. People who choose social hobbies tend to report higher happiness scores. Activities like volunteering or golfing, which let you mingle with other people and occasionally make new friends, are good choices.
Writing and fishing make good hobbies, but they may not increase happiness in the long run because of the solidarity.
3. Make Time for Your Children & Grandchildren
Retirement specialists report a trend among the happiest retirees: they find ways to be with their families. Your family may be very busy, and you may live far away, but making an effort pays off on the happiness scale. Even if all you can manage is a once-a-year trip to see them, you’ll probably find that it’s worth every minute and every dime spent.
Interestingly, living close to family members doesn’t result in retirement bliss. At least that’s what researcher Michael S. Finke reports in his 2017 paper “Spending, Relationship Quality, and Life Satisfaction in Retirement”.³ In fact, his research indicates that living within 10 miles of your kids will detract from retirement happiness! He doesn’t explain why, but it could have something to do with all that free babysitting you’re expected to do when you’re a grandparent and you live just down the street.
Finally, there’s one bit of good news to all this, even if you can’t follow through on all these tips. The very act of retiring has an immediate, positive impact on your state of mind. You’ll probably see a definite upwards tick on the life satisfaction scale when you retire. If you’ve already retired, chances are those effects will be long-lasting. Here’s to your happiness!