Who doesn’t want a happy retirement? After all, they don’t call them your happy, wild and free years for nothing!
So, are you setting yourself up for true happiness as a retiree? Sure, you’re planning the money piece, and that’s important. (My firm, Capital Investment Advisors, offers a simple online retirement calculator that can help you figure out if you’re on track, or if you need a bit more help.) But there’s also the personal piece of the retirement equation that’s just as important as the money part.
The good news is that it’s not rocket science — there are actually skills you can develop that will help you down your road to a happy retirement.
Here are seven of those tools that can help you to achieve financial security, health and the best retirement possible. How many do you already have, and which ones would you like to work on?
1. Maintain your social network
There’s a ton of research out there that links loneliness to health problems, including depression and cognitive decline. Many researchers believe that the risks of social isolation are on par with obesity and smoking.
Make sure you keep your friends and family close during retirement. There are so many ways to stay connected — you just have to prioritize it. So, get out there and do what makes you feel good and connects you with other people, whether it’s volunteering, lunching with friends, golfing, or spending some quality time with your kids and grandkids.
2. Don’t let fear of uncertainty rule your life
Of course, the best financial retirement plans are the ones that hold up no matter what life throws your way — whether it be a stock market air pocket or a health issue. But no one knows the future, and that’s part of living life. So, try to relax and enjoy the ride. If you focus too much on the negative “what-ifs,” you’re likely to miss out on a lot of the good stuff that comes along.
And if you are feeling a bit of stress and anxiety about the future, know that you’re not alone — almost every retiree feels this way. Just try to make sure it doesn’t become the overarching theme of your retired years. Try reminding yourself that there are some things you do have control over. Say you have a big, unexpected expense. You can always do things like trim your budget, take on part-time work or downsize to absorb the cost. With this type of thinking, you empower yourself by knowing that whatever situation may come your way, you’ll deal with it as best you can, in the moment.
3. Know that you are resilient
We humans have a knack for dealing with adversity. It’s called resilience, or, as Psychology Today defines it, “a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback.” True, some of us do it better than others, but it’s in our nature to roll with the punches and get back up. No doubt, you’ll encounter some difficulties during retirement. But having a strong sense of resilience can help you through troubled times, and keep you going. Try to foster this trait in yourself. You’ll be all the better for it.
4. What’s on your schedule?
Working full time lends itself to a set schedule. We know when we need to wake up, start our morning routine, head out to work and arrive at the office. In retirement, things are not so structured — unless you create the structure. It’s important to make your own routine, and fill it up doing things you love, which I call “core pursuits.” If you do this, chances are you’ll make the most of your days, and have fun doing it.
5. Speaking of core pursuits …
The happiest retirees regularly engage in the hobbies and activities they love. I call these endeavors “core pursuits,” and the research for my book, “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think,” uncovered that happy retirees have an average of 3.6 core pursuits, while the unhappy lot has only 1.9. It doesn’t matter what you do — volunteering, singing in the choir, painting, taking college courses, or playing tennis. What matters is that you have core pursuits and that you schedule and do them. Filling up your time with the things you love sets you up for a truly happy retirement.
6. Mastering your cash flow
And here we are, back at the money piece. Do you have a retirement budget in place? It’s an especially good idea to have one once you’re retired, and it’s also good practice to have one in place as you’re making your final countdown to your last day on the job. What’s more, many folks won’t go straight from full-time work to full-time retirement, so there are considerations about what I call the Gray Zone of retirement. No matter your particular circumstances, you’ll want to know all of your income streams in retirement — so you can plan accordingly — including pensions, Social Security benefits, investment income, rental income, part-time work and any other source of cash. Knowledge is power, friends. You can keep your budget flexible, but you need one all the same.
7. Now sit back and relax (if you can)
Some people thrive in retirement. For others, the switch is more challenging. These individuals may do best when solving problems, working toward a clear goal, having an office to go to and people to help. Figure out which type of person you are, and be OK with whatever feels right to you. Maybe you love the idea of all of that free time that comes with being a retiree. Or perhaps you love your job and want to stay on until your 80s! There is no right or wrong answer to when and how to retire. Find your bliss and follow it. And if that doesn’t include retirement ever, that’s OK, too.