How Happy Retirees Use Hobbies To Get ‘Richer’

Despite the dusting of snow we had last week here in Georgia, the last few weekends at the Moss household have officially ushered in spring.

As a parent of four young boys (ages 8, 6, 4 and a newborn), you can imagine the swirl of activity on any given Saturday or Sunday. In February, my two older boys are still playing in their basketball league, lacrosse season has already started with two practices on the weekend, plus rehearsal for the school variety show, piano lessons, birthday parties, and so much more. All of these activities are on top of the daily grind of keeping up with homework and life with a house full of children.

Part of this full schedule is simply self-preservation for me and my wife, Lynne. With so many boys at home, it’s actually easier for us as parents to have their schedules jampacked with activities. Their focus can be on sports or music, or social activities, which helps soften the blow of constant brotherly wrangling and fighting.

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I hope that all of this exposure to doing will lead to them having a full plate of activities they love when they grow up. I have no idea what will stick for them, but there’s a good chance that all of this activity will lead to some lifelong core pursuits.

Every time I get exasperated about our family schedule, I think of one of the most important pieces of research that came out of my book project in 2014 — the idea that “happy” retirees have significantly more “core pursuits,” or hobbies on steroids, than “unhappy” retirees. In “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think,” there is statistically significant data that measures how “active” retirees keep themselves. Unhappy retirees have on average 1.9 core pursuits, while the happy camp reports 3.6. A much higher, and statistically significant measure of activity once they decide to stop working.

You may be wondering what core pursuit was most popular among the happiest retirees, and many of you probably already guessed it. The clear winner is volunteering. Volunteering gives retirees the feeling that they’re truly accomplishing something and gives them an immense sense of satisfaction. The core pursuits that were close runners-up were travel, spending time with grandkids and family, golf and various forms of exercise. Notice that the most popular core pursuits are social in nature. That’s because the feeling of community and interacting with others play important roles in overall happiness.

Ultimately, your core pursuits and activity level are extremely important to your family finances and retirement planning because your money and savings need a purpose. Having enough money to “be able to not work” just isn’t enough to keep you motivated toward saving and investing. But having enough money to do all of the things you want to do once you hit retirement should be very motivating. The trick we learn from happy retirees is that their schedules are jampacked with core pursuits long before they pull the trigger on retirement.

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