After the stress of building careers and raising kids, most people’s happiness seems to start increasing at around age 65. And, we keep getting happier until it peaks at around age 85.
Want to do a little extra to make sure you have a happy retirement? Try these tips:
Yes, you read that correctly.
A recent essay published in the New York Times made the case that thinking about your death can make you happier. The idea is to think about your daily choices as if this year were your last year. The research indicates that using death to help prioritize how you use your time actually improves your satisfaction and overall happiness with your choices.
And if you are worried that thinking about death is too morbid, researchers have found that contemplating mortality can actually make you funnier.
According to a Towers Watson Retirement Survey, having predictable retirement income (presumably adequate income to cover all of your expenses) can help you feel happier. Conversely, the researchers discovered that retirees who must withdraw money from investments to pay for retirement expenses had the highest financial anxiety.
Predictable retirement income usually comes from Social Security and pensions. Rental income and dividend-paying investments are other ways you might be able to earn predictable lifetime payments.
If those sources are not enough to cover your expenses, you might consider reducing expenses or using retirement savings to buy a lifetime annuity. An annuity is an insurance product. In exchange for a lump-sum of money, you buy monthly income for a predetermined period of time. Retirees usually consider lifetime payments.
You might also want to use a retirement calculator. The best retirement calculators enable you to really see how much retirement income you have and how much you need. If you use the NewRetirement Retirement Calculator, you can even do “what-if scenarios.” See what happens if you get an annuity, for example.
Work has long been proven to a good way to be happy. The social and intellectual stimulation keeps you vital, the income reduces stress and the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that retirees working part-time had fewer diseases than retirees who did not work at all.
Additional research suggests that you will be happier if you are working by choice. If you have to work because you really need the income, then you might not be as happy with the job.
Michael Finke, a Certified Financial Planner and a personal financial planning professor at Texas Tech University, has researched the satisfaction people derive from owning a home. He found that, overall, owning a home brings more joy than renting. However, satisfaction with homeownership dropped later in life, particularly as homeowners hit their eighties.
It makes sense. Home maintenance can be hard work and the types of home we want in our forties is different from the house we need in our sixties and is probably very different for what we want and need in our eighties.
The benefits of selling our homes in retirement might be twofold. It might make us happier and we can use the home equity to help with retirement expenses. Home equity is the greatest source of wealth for most Americans.
Use the NewRetirement retirement calculator to see how downsizing in your 70s or 80s impacts your retirement finances.
Retirement generally means that you have more free time. Watching television is a temptingly easy way to fill that time. However, studies have found that people who watch more TV are generally less happy than those who watch less.
Researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed the responses of 45,000 Americans about the daily activities of people. John Robinson, the study’s author told the New York Times that, “We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more – visiting others, going to church, all those things – were happier. TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”
The Merril Lynch Age Wave survey found that health is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement, more than being financially secure.
In response to the question, what is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement, this is how people answered:
- 81 percent said having good health
- 58 percent believed in being financially secure
- 36 percent said having loving family and friends
- 20 percent voted for having a purpose
- Only 5 percent suggested trying new things
Getting older does not change the basic things that make most everyone happy. Having meaning in our life, being grateful for what we have, exercise, laughter, and friends are some of the most powerful drivers of happiness.
And there is more. The research on what makes us happy and why has exploded over the last few years. Here are a few resources that you might find valuable for happiness generally and for a happy retirement: