Have you ever wondered how people retire happy? And I’m not talking about what you should do to contribute to your 401k. What do you need to do today to make sure retirement is the time of your life? Contribute the knowledge that teaches the secrets to retiring happy. Go above and beyond an average blog post….make it interesting
Have you ever dreamt about what it would be like to live on an island beach? Or maybe about sailing the high seas on a pirate ship, looking for buried treasure. While many people daydream about living carefree and in luxury, few think about how they could actually do it in the real world. But in this article we hope to give you some suggestions on how you can retire happy and early!
If you’re retiring soon, you may have already begun to think about how happy you’ll be in retirement. If so, the bad news is that you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. The good news? Help is at hand!
You’ve done it! You’ve worked hard your whole life and are now looking forward to enjoying that well-deserved retirement. It may sound strange but retiring isn’t about the years you spent at the office, it’s about what you chose to do with those years.
tips for happy retirement
From keeping fit and healthy to making the mental adjustment, we’ve got all the tips you need to make the most of your new-found free time.
- Get your finances in order
Organise your money so you can work out what you’ll have to live on. Gradually reducing your spending in the lead up to retirement will make it easier to adjust. Track down any old pensions, claim your state pension and check what other benefits you can claim.
- Wind down gently
Ensure a smoother transition by retiring in stages. By easing off your workload over several years, you’ll be able to get used to the idea of not working and fill your time in other ways. Ask your employer if you can cut back your working hours.
- Prepare for ups and downs
There may be times when you feel lonely or a bit lost, which is normal. If ill health or changes in your relationships temporarily scupper your plans, accept that this has happened and get your back-up plan in action. Think positively and share any concerns with others.
Use your free time to continue to challenge yourself mentally, whether it’s learning an instrument or a language or getting a qualification
- Eat well
Make sure you eat regular meals, especially if your previous pattern, while at work, was to snack. Take advantage of the extra time on your hands and explore healthy cooking options.
See our recipe finder for inspiration.
- Develop a routine
You may find it feels more normal to continue getting up, eating and going to bed at roughly the same time every day. Plan in regular activities such as voluntary work, exercise and hobbies. This will keep things interesting and give you a purpose.
- Exercise your mind
Government studies have shown that learning in later years can help people stay independent, so use your free time to continue to challenge yourself mentally, whether it’s learning an instrument or a language or getting a qualification.
- Keep physically active
A pair of bootsWe should all aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, so build up to this if you haven’t made exercise a normal part of your life previously. Why not sign up for a charity event to give you a goal to work towards?
- Make a list
Writing down your aims may help you focus on what you really want to achieve – like a ‘to do’ list. Work out what you can afford to do and schedule time to make it happen, so you experience a sense of accomplishment, as you would have done at work.
- Seek social support
For many people, work can form a big part of their social life and it’s common to feel at a bit of a loose end once you retire. Fill the gaps by joining clubs and groups.
- Make peace and move on
Don’t spend your retirement dwelling on your working days. Accept that you’ve done all you can in that job and focus on your next challenge. You’ve still got lots to achieve.
- Go for a health check
Prevention is better than cure, and now is the perfect time to get your free midlife MOT. The NHS Health Check programme aims to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia.
Health checkEveryone between the ages of 40 and 74, who has not already been diagnosed with one of these conditions or have certain risk factors, will be invited once every five years to have a check to assess their risk of these age-related illnesses and will be given support and advice to help them reduce or manage that risk.
If you’re in this category but haven’t had a check in the last five years, you can ask your GP for one..
- Keep in touch with your friends from work
Just because you are retiring doesn’t mean you have to lose touch with the group of friends you made in your workplace. Why not make arrangements for regular catch-ups? Or, you might want to use some of your new leisure time to catch up with old friends that you haven’t seen for a while.
If you enjoy party planning, find an excuse to get everyone together and have fun arranging the perfect garden or dinner party, anniversary celebration or other special occasion. You could even raise funds for our life saving work at the same time through our “Give in Celebration” funds.
- Pamper yourself
After decades of hard work, you are due some ‘me time’. Whether your idea of indulgence is a city break, a day trip to a spa or a small pleasure like dining out or going to the cinema, schedule some time for a well-deserved treat.
- Practise mindfulness
Practising mindfulness has become more popular than ever in the last decade as a strategy to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
- Give back to the community
Ever thought of volunteering? Perhaps you’d enjoy getting involved with your local youth club, animal rescue centre, environmental organisation or elderly support group.
There are plenty of charities that would welcome a helping hand, not least the BHF, of course! We offer the opportunity to help out in our shops, in a furniture or electrical store, with fundraising and at lots of different types of events.
Find out more about volunteering for the BHF.
- Be one with nature
Fresh air and exercise is an instant mood booster and instrumental in maintaining your wellbeing. Why not incorporate a walk in the woods or a nearby park into your daily routine? This is an ideal way of achieving the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
- Travel more
Always dreamt of going on an around-the-world cruise, a wine-tasting trip through Italy, or a simple camping expedition in the Welsh valleys? Now you can finally make those long-held plans a reality, depending on your health and budget limitations.
- Get a new pet
A man with his dog at the beachCould you house a rescue cat or dog in need of a new home? Research has shown that our furry friends have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.
According to pet researcher Allen R. McConnell, a professor of psychology at Miami University, people with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don’t have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems.
One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning, Prof McConnell says. “You feel like you have greater control of your life.”
To find out more about rehoming a pet, visit your local animal rescue centre, the RSPCA or Dogs Trust. If you might be interested in volunteering to walk or foster an elderly person’s dog, contact The Cinnamon Trust.
- Push your boundaries
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, both health-wise and in general, and doing something different can be a refreshing change. Some people have found that simple changes, such as trying a tasty new recipe, finding a different hairdresser or joining an exercise class they haven’t done before gives them a new zest for life.
- Take up a new project
- Finally you have time to get stuck into all those things you’ve been meaning to do but never got round to. Mapping your family tree, building a shed, planting a veg patch… the list goes on, but now you can actually do what you’ve always wanted to.
increase your chances of being happy in retirement:
- Figure out in advance what you want out of retirement. By that, I mean things like: how you’ll spend your days, where you’ll spend them and what would make you fulfilled.
Stan Hinden, the author of How to Retire Happy, recommends starting to think seriously about retirement when you’re around 50 or 55.
One key decision is where you will retire and how much traveling you’ll want to do. Some people choose to retire in another country. It’s not for everyone, but a recent survey of 389 expats by the website Best Places in the World to Retire found that 81% were happier in their new country than where they lived before.
Why is that? For one thing, the cost of living was often less — sometimes much, much less. That meant they didn’t need to worry as much about their expenses or finding a high-paying job in retirement.
Many of the expats also said they were less stressed than before because their new country wasn’t as fast-paced as America. Many also said they loved their new “simple life,” especially because they now had more free time to volunteer (I’ll come back to that last point shortly).
If you’re wondering which are the best places in the world to retire, the answer depends on which survey you believe. International Living says the top places are Panama and Ecuador. And the Live and Invest Overseas site has picked the Algarve region of Portugal and Cayo, Belize.
- The corollary to No. 1 — If you have a husband, wife or partner, talk frankly together about what you both want out of retirement. Neal Frankle, a noted financial planner, recently wrote on Next Avenue that he finds it helpful for couples to discuss their retirement dreams and write them down. Then, he says, they should mark each item as a “must have,” a “want” or a “wish” and be ready to compromise.
(More: Money Can Buy Happiness: If You Spend It Right)
One thing you’ll want to figure out is how much time the two of you will want to spend together, since this may be the first time you’re both available all the time.
Hinden told Next Avenue that he and his wife came up with a system that worked for them: Early in the week, they each would spend time alone or with their own friends. Then, toward the end of the week, they’d do things together, like go to museums, theaters or restaurants.
- Come up with a retirement income plan. By that I mean: sit down and figure out how much your 401(k) and other accounts will translate to in monthly income; how much you’ll get from Social Security and any pension; how much you can afford to withdraw each year (the rule of thumb is around 4%) and which accounts you’ll tap first for withdrawals to keep taxes down.
Devising a retirement income plan before you retire will relieve stress once you are retired. But only 52% of pre-retirees have done so, according to Ameriprise.
By the way, don’t be surprised if your retirement income or expenses don’t turn out the way you expected. When Ameriprise surveyed retirees, it found three types of expenses were higher than the retirees expected: health care, food and taxes.
- Choose when to retire and then follow through (if you can). The authors of an excellent book called The Retirement Maze surveyed 1,477 retirees to see what made the happy ones happy. One thing they found was that workers who were able to retire by choice were happier than ones whose retirement was thrust on them: 69% of the retirees who retired by choice were satisfied with their lifestyle but only 36% pushed into retirement said they were.
I realize many people aren’t lucky enough to be able to decide when they’ll retire because they lose their job or their health forces them to stop working. But if you can pick your date, you should.
- Stay engaged and healthy (if you can). The career coach Bill Ellermeyer says the happiest retirees he knows are either engaged in some kind of meaningful activity or are actively employed. Some have become entrepreneurs; some have started encore careers, doing either paid work or volunteering for the greater good, some are just volunteering here and there.
He also says they “eat well, sleep soundly, play often, exercise at least three times a week and maintain strong social connections.” In fact, a survey by Age Wave and Merrill Lynch of 3,300 pre-retirees and retirees said “good health” as the No. 1 key to happiness in retirement.