Are people happier when they retire?

Many people these days are curious and ask this exact same question. And, the answer is that many seniors say that their retirement is the most enjoyable and relaxing time of their lives.

They also say that they suddenly feel absolutely free to start indulging in a wide range of activities that keep them completely interested and engaged.

Happy Retirement Numbers & More

Almost 90 percent of retirees today say that they find their retirement to be either “moderately” or even “very” satisfying. 97 of them who possess a really strong sense of purpose turned out to be happier when compared to 76 percent who lacked it.

How You Spend Your Time

Your overall level of happiness in retirement can be determined by how you spend your time. For example, according to a recent study on retirement, passive activities like watching TV and staying at home are things you shouldn't do too much as they generate the least happiness.

On the other hand, more active endeavors, like exercising, socializing, volunteering, and even just walking have been closely associated with a higher level of happiness in retirement.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness?

A higher net worth has actually been associated in many studies with a higher happiness level in retirement. Retirement income from Social Security and private pensions provide many retirees with a greater sense of well-being after they retire.

Both can provide a serious percentage of retirement income for most seniors when they retire.

Paths to Retirement Happiness

Living With Purpose

For several reasons, including reducing mortality risks, having a purpose in life is consistently cited as an indicator of healthy aging.

In fact, in a current study that examined whether purpose in life promotes longevity, the findings were that purposeful individuals actually had longer and happier lives than their counterparts.

The first few years after leaving the workplace can leave you a little adrift when you’re finally free to pursue your own interests. Hence, finding a pursuit that occupies both your time and mind is crucial.

Furthermore, research shows that people with a sense of purpose live longer, happier lives.

Volunteering & Second-Act Careers

Numerous studies and articles link happiness to volunteering and helping others, which is certainly one way of defining the word “purpose.” Volunteers are often needed by local governments for accomplishing specific tasks.

In addition, social services and schools can benefit from the hard work and patience of volunteers. You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to finding volunteer work to suit your skill set.

The skills that you already possess could even turn into a part-time extra income source or even a lucrative consulting job. It's not uncommon for retirees to launch second-act careers from their volunteer positions or hobbies.

You could also turn your hobby or some other interest into a side hustle, which is like ‘playing entrepreneur' without having to commit a huge amount of time or money. You’ll also soon find that the potential for a happier retirement is high while the stakes are low.

Setting Some Goals

Researchers have found that retirees with a strong sense of purpose are the happiest. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to climb Mt. Everest or even start a new business.

The goals you set could include things like babysitting your grandkids, learning a new skill, spending time with friends, or taking a class.

Or, how about spending more time with your family, doing some volunteer work, traveling to faraway places that you’ve always wanted to see, or pursuing some interesting hobbies?

As explained in our 5 retirement stages guide, finding a reason to get up in the morning and something that motivates you is extremely important to a happy retirement.

Investing in Your Life After Work

When you retire, you lose the regular social interactions you had while working. The result could very well be depression and even some physical health problems. Why?

Because research has shown that social well-being is linked to lower levels of interleukin-6, which is a molecule associated with a wide range of age-related disorders including osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, isolation also increases blood pressure and disease risk.

So try joining a book club or a bridge club, volunteering for a worthy cause, or arranging some regular golf, lunch, or shopping dates. The actual type of activity isn’t really important. What matters is that you’re regularly interacting with other people and staying active.

Reducing Your Financial Stress

Money may not buy happiness when you retire, however, paying close attention to it is an excellent first step. After all, you'll need to be able to pay your bills once you retire.

Reaching financial security and reducing your financial stress level could involve three basic steps that include paying off your debts, possibly moving to a smaller home, or creating some regular income sources ahead of your retirement date.

Simply put, less debt means less financial stress and that equates to more happiness for you in retirement.

Optimizing your Health

Staying healthy is essential to staying happy in retirement. And, according to research conducted by both Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, staying healthy involves exercising, eating healthy, and meditating.

There is an old saying that says “You are what you eat”. This also applies to what you do and how you think.

Staying active as you age is especially important, so be sure to vary your routine based on the four types of exercise that are needed to stay healthy. They are aerobic, balance, flexibility training, and strength.

A good mix of all of them can help you to be stronger longer and experience a happier retirement.

Final Thoughts on being happier when retiring

There are people who engage in miraculous thinking about retirement happiness, we suggest you read our 20 tips to retire happy to learn more, just like some others engage in the same kind of wishful thinking regarding retirement security.

It’s clear that they want it, but don’t take any steps to form some habits during the years before retirement that could easily determine how happy they’ll be when they retire.

So, start early with getting your financial health, wellness (both physical and mental), and sense of purpose goals in line for that magical day when you finally get to retire.