Most conversations about retirement planning focus on money, and rightly so. But the size of your nest egg isn’t the only factor in determining how much happiness you enjoy in your post-career years. Here are some other factors to consider as you think about what your retirement will look like.
Health. No duh. If you don’t have your health, not much else matters. While you can’t know what medical problems are coming your way, there are steps you can take to minimize such problems. Begin a fitness program today and stick with it through retirement. Getting fit and flexible now will keep your body younger in retirement. The same is true of your brain. Keep your mind nimble by learning complex new skills, such as a language, a musical instrument or computer coding.
Once you retire, see your doctor on a regular basis, even when you feel well. Early identification of medical problems is key to reducing their impact.
Income. The source of your retirement funding is nearly as important to happiness as the amount. Retirees who live largely on money from predictable sources, such as rental properties or pensions, enjoy spending that money more than people who are totally dependent on withdrawals from retirement accounts, which can be subject to the ups and downs of the stock market and economy.
Work. Taking a part-time job in a field of interest to you has all sorts of benefits in retirement. It generates income, keeps you mentally engaged and provides the important opportunity to meet new people. Love golf? Pick up a few hours as a starter at the local course. Is food your thing? Caterers are always looking for good help.
Rent. Home ownership has lots of upside, especially if your house is paid off when you wrap up your career. But there will come a time in retirement, sooner or later depending on your lifestyle and health, when it might make more sense to rent. Renting frees you from the endless responsibilities and costs of home ownership. Plus, rattling around in the house where you raised three kids can be isolating as you grow older.
Hobbies. Happy retirees have an average of three or four hobbies, according to research done by our colleague Wes Moss. Some are life-long pursuits, others are added in retirement. The happiest retirees engage in social hobbies, such as volunteering, travel and golf. Less happy retirees had more solo pastimes, including reading, writing and fishing.
Family. This is a tricky one. Being married makes for a happier retirement, but only if the relationship is good, according to recent research. Proximity to kids has an interesting effect on retirees’ happiness level. Living too close to your offspring can actually be a negative, according to one study. One theory: too-close retirees get dragged into their kids’ drama and are asked to take on responsibilities such as babysitting.
Friends. Isolation is a real danger in retirement. It’s vitally important to maintain your existing relationships, build new friendships and stay engaged in the community. One caveat: avoid negative people. It’s a sad fact that many older folks grow bitter and angry. That darkness can rub off on those around them.
Engagement. This is another way to combat isolation. Know what’s happening in your community and the world. Keep following the news. Learn about (and use) new technologies. After all, you’re not dead, you’re just retired.
Build these principles into your retirement planning and you’ll have a rich post-career life, regardless the size of your retirement account.