How to Be Happier in Your Retirement

It’s not all about the money. Yes, money is important, but the quality of life determines how happy you are when you’re retired. Here are some things you can start doing today to prepare for a happier retirement.

Zig Ziglar once said, “Money isn’t everything, but it sure ranks right up there with oxygen.” While having more money than you need in retirement is comforting, more and more of the 80+ million boomers that are marching into being work-optional are realizing that it’s not all about money. 

This report will highlight eight areas that you can target to have a happier and more joyful retirement. 

By focusing time and attention on these eight areas, you will most certainly find yourself enjoying the process of planning for retirement and bringing more happiness at the beginning of what could be 30+ years of your life after making work optional. 

1. Good Health

There’s no secret here. Healthier living brings a happier retirement. 

Keep Moving 

In retirement, you will have much more free time to schedule your life the way that you want. Keeping yourself active and involved may keep you happier in retirement.

  • Neighborhood Walk. Head out in the early morning or early evening to avoid the heat of the day to take a stroll.
  • Hit the trails. We have hundreds of miles of trails in Johnson County, Kansas alone that can provide new scenery and challenge you to stay active.
  • Pick a Beautiful Place. Powell Gardens in Missouri, The Arboretum in Overland Park, and Shawnee Mission Park can provide stunning backdrops for some great exercise.
  • Get Competitive. It seems that every warm weekend there’s a walk/run for charity or benefit. Pick one every other month and go have some fun. No one cares what place you finish in, just that you are exercising for a cause. 
  • Change it up. Try swimming, biking, racquetball, walking, jogging, boxing, dancing, yoga, weight training, aerobics, etc. When you get bored of one type of exercise, change it up. Your body and your mind will probably thank you for it.
  • Join with Friends and Family. Gather your friends or grandkids to keep you moving. Sometimes all it takes is a group to inspire you to get out there and sweat a little.

2. Trust Your Gut

Chances are pretty good that you are not going to become work-optional twice. So trying to pick whether you should go cold turkey —retiring all at once— or take the gradual route can prove to be a difficult decision for some.

  • Control. This is one of the most determining factors for a retiree’s happiness when they become work-optional. Being able to control when you retire determines a lot about how happy you actually are when you become work-optional.
  • Going Cold Turkey. Going from CEO on Friday to Grandpa on Saturday can be a major shift for some. Having a strong social network and a happy family can help make this shift a breeze. Some retirees may get so stressed at work, it’s easy to make the transition into retirement.
  • Gradually retiring. If you love your job and aren’t sure what you want to do in your life after work, taking a slow transition into retirement may be best for you.
  • Still can’t decide? Reading the book by Bob Buford, “Halftime,” can help you put your retirement life into perspective and provide you with a few ideas on how you can have a very enjoyable second half of your life.

3. Friends, Not Grandkids

Stay with me on this one. Grandkids are wonderful. (Well, at least that’s what our parents claim about our three daughters. And they’ve even gone so far as to say that if they knew they would have been this much fun, they’d have had them first). Even though grandkids are wonderful, having friends in retirement impacts your happiness more than you’d think!

Social Network

How’s your circle of friends? Here are a few ideas to help strengthen and grow your friendships. (Have some more ideas that I missed? Send them to me

  • Small-Group. Getting involved in a small group can help you make a few more friends. Your small group can focus on your religious perspective, movies, books, or even politics. The point is to get involved in a regular commitment with good people.
  • Special Occasions. Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and grandbabies are wonderful times to express how much you care for those around you.
  • Volunteering. If you love a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, then getting involved with that organization on a regular basis can bring happiness and enjoyment into your life.
  • Double Date Night. Schedule an evening out once a month with a couple you are close to and enjoy each other’s company. Maybe go to the theater, see a play, tour a museum, watch the symphony, go out for dinner, or attend a baseball game.
  • Stay Positive. It’s easy to always point out the negative in the world. It takes more work to see through that and point out the positives in life. Pay attention to the conversations you are having in your head. When you hear them starting to turn negative, work on suppressing those thoughts and develop a more positive approach.

4. Relative Income

The income you have when you’re work-optional is not as important as how your income during your work-optional years relates to your income before those years.

Retirement Income Plan

Have you ever sat down to develop a retirement income plan? Or said another way, do you know where your money will come from each month and if that money will be able to keep up with inflation?

  • Inflation. Many retirees simply ignore the effects of rising costs over the long term in retirement. Make sure your plan considers this effect. Simply put, if costs rise on average by 3.5%, the money you will need to maintain your current standard of living will need to double about every 20 years. Let’s say you can retire with Social Security, a pension, and some money from your IRA at $5,000 per month in 2012. To buy the same things in twenty years, or in 2032, you’ll need roughly $10,000 to maintain your standard of living.
  • Goal-Based Investing. Investing in retirement for income is much different than saving for retirement. Just shooting for the best return possible, may not be the best strategy. Instead, find a way to calculate the average rate of return you would need on your overall portfolio to have a successful retirement and then go about creating an investment plan to get there.

5. Love Bear Markets. This may be a stretch, but hating bear markets is going to make retirement tough on you. Since World War II, there have been 11 to 14 bear markets, depending on who you ask and how they were calculated. The point being, bear markets are as common as dirt. They will always be with us in our economy. You have a choice —to be a victim of a bear market, or an opportunist —choose wisely.

6. Intellectual Stimulation

Intellectual stimulation reduces Alzheimer’s Disease by 250% —according to research by Richard Stim and Ralph Warner in their book, “Retire Happy: What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement.” People over 70 who turn off the TV and choose hobbies that stimulate the brain are two and a half times less likely to suffer the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Keeping a Sharp Mind

Turn off that TV and get that brain stimulated to ward off Alzheimer’s. Here are a few things you can do to keep your mind sharp as a tack.

  • Hobbies. Woodworking, quilting, sewing, gardening, reading, taking classes at a community college, travel, golf, etc. are wonderful hobbies that you can really get into and keep your mind engaged.
  • Puzzles. Subscribe to a newspaper or go online and finish off a Sudoku or crossword puzzle every day. There are many free services.
  • Card Game. Find a weekly card game that you can join. Or, create one yourself. There is a multitude of groups that play Bridge or Pinochle. Try to find one near you and get that brain engaged. 

7. Volunteering

I know this is on the list a second time, but I’ve seen the impact that getting involved to help others has on the retirees I’ve worked with. You will receive a much greater effect on your life by lending a hand.

8. Your Significant Other, Your Family, Your Friend Group

Having someone to share life with is about as important as it gets to be happy when you make work optional. Sure, there will be good times and bad times in life. The important aspect, though, is having someone that you love and cherish be there with you to experience life. After all, happiness is togetherness.