7 Disciplines That Lead to Happy Retirement

Joseph Kubic |

Much has been written about saving for retirement, and we adhere to the principle that financial security is a key component to a successful retirement.

Many of you are on that road right now, while others are accessing the savings accumulated over a lifetime.

Knowing how much money you can withdraw each month from savings is important. Ask anyone who has retired. They will tell you that. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll find that’s half the equation.

Money is important, but money doesn’t guarantee a happy retirement.

Thomas is married. He is retired, and his wife works part-time. He seems busier today than when he worked for a mid-sized company. He enjoys golf and plays often, volunteers at the local blood bank, and regularly visits the children's hospital with his dog, lifting the spirits of young patients. He travels to visit his mother in another state, he vacations with his wife, and they visit their kids often.

Jonathan is retired and financially stable, too. He hosts an Airbnb and even has a side hustle. But at times he regrets leaving his corporate job, as he sometimes feels isolated and struggles to keep busy.

Some of us love what we do, and we’ll work well into our 70s or 80s. Others, however, yearn for the day when they will awake on a Monday morning without any obligations. But how do we fill our time?

You are entering a new phase of life, and a successful and fulfilling retirement must have purpose.

Every year, the U.N., the Gallup organization, and a consortium of groups produce what’s called the World Happiness Report. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

For those over the age of 60, the U.S. ranked 10th out of 143 nations in happiness. Canada edged out the U.S., grabbing 8th place. In case you are wondering, Denmark topped the list.

Yet, according to Psychology Today, almost one-third of retirees feel depressed at times. For many, it's the absence of time in the office, and the loss of structure, identity, and purpose.

Making the best of retirement: 7 disciplines

1. Can you ease into retirement? If you are able, consider cutting back from full-time to part-time. It’s not only a way to stretch out your savings, but you are testing the waters of full-time retirement while keeping active professionally.

Consider this option a bridge to retirement.

2. Keep in contact with your work friendsStay active socially. You’ve spent years with many of these folks, and they have become a part of your life. For some, they are extended family.

Participating in social events at your local community center, house of worship, or library can be a great way to stay connected. Do you enjoy museums, game nights, bowling, hiking, walking, book clubs, or volunteering in your community? Your interests will direct your activities, but isolation can take a toll on your health and mental attitude.

3. Set goals. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” feels like a worn-out cliché. In reality, much wisdom is packed into these nine words.

Setting goals allows you to gain some control over your future. It helps put you in charge as you chart a new course in life.

  • What are your priorities in retirement?
  • Would you like to downsize and relocate? Where might you want to live in retirement? What’s important in a new location?
  • Would you like to take up a new hobby such as learning a musical instrument, dancing, painting, winemaking, cooking, geocaching, or even skydiving?
  • What new activities would you like to tackle?
  • What do you like to do for fun?

Equally as important, set joint goals with your spouse.

Be specific about your goals. Make them realistic and achievable and measure your progress with deadlines. It goes without saying but be sure your goals align with your values.

4. Health and happiness—prioritize wellness and health. We cannot choose your goals for you, but we want to stress the importance of maintaining fitness. Consistent exercise can improve your overall health and well-being while also boosting your self-esteem.

But before starting any physical activity, please check with your physician. He or she can recommend a routine, help improve on what you’re already doing, and suggest ways to stay motivated.

5. You were once a student in school, and you continued to learn and innovate at work. Maintain that posture in retirement! You exercise for physical health. Well, exercise your brain, too!

According to Harvard Medical School’s HealthBeat newsletter, studies have shown that we can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with good health habits such as consistent physical activity and adequate sleep, avoiding smoking and heavy drinking, and maintaining good social connections and a well-balanced diet.

6. Count your blessings. It’s easy to gravitate to the negative. Don’t!

What did you accomplish today? Did you exercise, meet with a friend, cook a new dish, find a new recipe, work in your garden, or plan a trip?

Studies suggest that writing down your positive feelings—just a few minutes each day—provides overall mental and physical benefits.

7. Structure. “When I retire, I’ll do whatever I want when I want” has a certain appeal. But lack of structure can get you into trouble. Like a rudderless boat, you’ll begin to drift. You have 40 hours each week that are no longer occupied with familiar tasks. What do you do now?

You could consider a morning walk or a trip to your health club. What about a relaxing mid-morning coffee break? Can you volunteer and help others? What time do you like to shop or run errands?

Schedule your new hobbies. A schedule allows you to focus, gives you clarity and purpose, and forces you to engage.

It doesn’t have to be rigid. You are not on the clock. You are retired. You have time. But as many of us have often found, if we have too much time, time just seems to slip away. Little is accomplished.

Did that happen to you today? If so, start making changes tomorrow.

As in life, there’s more to retirement than having enough money. We hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions about meaningful ways to continue to devote your talents and energies in this new phase of life, and as always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.


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