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6 Secrets to Work Towards a Happier Retirement

By Bryan Lee, CFP®, MBA

How long have you been looking forward to retirement? You’ve worked your whole life for this pivotal milestone, and the last thing you want to do is to worry that taking the leap into retirement will taint your plans for travel and relaxation. Here are 6 ways you can work to achieve a happier retirement and make sure all your hard work pays off.

1. Find Purpose

    The first secret to finding happiness in retirement doesn’t just apply to retirement. Studies show individuals who live a purpose-driven life are happier and healthier, on average, than those who don’t. (1) Not only that, but they also live longer! (2) A purposeful life is commonly associated with fulfillment and motivation and can be found in many ways. Volunteering for a local nonprofit or your church, spending time with your grandchildren, or pursuing a newfound hobby are great ways to find purpose in your day-to-day life. 

    2. Practice Gratitude and Contentment

    It’s no secret that money can buy peace of mind and less stress, but it is less likely to buy happiness. Researchers have found increased income is associated with increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction up to a point—around $95,000 per year for an individual’s optimal life satisfaction, although that amount varies greatly worldwide. (3) Beyond that threshold, happiness levels plateau, and additional increases in income result in negligible changes in happiness (while levels of stress about money and discontentment also tend to rise). 

    Your retirement lifestyle may not always mirror your pre-retirement lifestyle when your income level was at its peak. Heavy expectations of what your life should look like – due to comparing yourself with others or the preconceptions of retirement imposed by media – can be a huge mental drain and often result in feelings of failure and sadness over time. Instead, focus on what you do have – and what you have control over – and live in the moment as much as possible. Also, reflect on the activities that bring you the most joy and orient your time during retirement to be surrounded by people that also enjoy the same things since you will likely need to replace the social interaction that previously came from work.

    When we savor the meaningful people and experiences in our life, we are reminded that many of our real needs can be much more fulfilled in ways that don’t involve spending money, despite what our consumer-driven society leads us to believe. Some of these needs include a connection with nature and with other beings (both human and non-human), the need for play and creative expression, and the need to know others and to be known ourselves. This mindset can nurture a fundamental orientation towards gratitude for the ways in which the earth and the people around us can meet our needs in non-monetary ways.

    3. Stay Healthy

    Declining health and how to pay for the associated medical bills is the biggest concern for many retirees. In fact, 70% of Americans cite healthcare costs as the most pressing issue when planning for their retirement. (4) Incorporating long-term care planning into your overall financial plan can help ease this concern as you enter retirement. Once in retirement, you can alleviate your chances of becoming seriously ill by prioritizing your mental and physical health. Remember, too, that your brain is also a muscle and needs to be regularly stimulated to avoid atrophy. Previously your work helped to keep your mind challenged and used regularly, but if you don’t provide challenges such as a new hobby, learning a new skill, playing games, or other mental activities, you may begin to see some signs of cognitive decline.

    4. Phased Retirement

    Another way to increase your happiness is to work part-time or use a phased approach to retirement. Adjusting to retirement is a huge transition! Going from working 40+ hours a week for 30+ years to suddenly having all the time in the world is a shock to the system, to say the least. It takes time to adjust, so don’t feel pressured to rush into retirement all at once. Case in point: it’s becoming increasingly popular for people to approach retirement in phases by slowly adjusting to reduced hours, part-time work, then eventually full retirement. 

    5. Prioritize Friendships

    Retirees who are able to consistently socialize with friends increase their happiness and reduce their stress. (5) Based on this study and many others like it, be sure to prioritize connecting with your friends, family, and loved ones throughout retirement. Knowing that you have a strong support system can make a significant difference in your overall level of happiness, especially if you experience the loss of a spouse, fall on hard times, or suffer from declining health. 

    6. Plan Ahead

    One of the best ways to improve your happiness in retirement is to have a plan for what you want it to look like. Articulating your vision for the future is a great way to motivate yourself to make it happen and enjoy a sense of fulfillment once your plan comes to fruition. It can also increase your level of happiness by helping prepare for potential retirement pitfalls like unexpected health issues or running out of money. These concerns can and should be incorporated into a retirement plan and thoroughly assessed by a qualified financial advisor.

    Get Started Today

    We at Strategic Financial Planning know that you’ve worked your whole life for a happy and healthy retirement. Whether you’re retiring in 10 years or 20, we’re here to help you navigate the path to a fulfilling retirement by helping you build a solid financial plan for the future. Call (972) 403-1234 or contact us online to set up a complimentary get-acquainted meeting so we can see if we are a good fit! 

    About Bryan

    Bryan Lee is the founder and president of Strategic Financial Planning, Inc., an independent, fee-only financial advisory firm. With more than 27 years of industry experience, Bryan uses a unique client-first financial life planning approach and process to help his clients get the most out of life. Bryan earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and his MBA in international finance from the University of North Texas. He is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. 

    Bryan is actively involved in his community and industry and has served on the boards of several associations and charities, including the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Financial Planning Association, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, Family Services of Plano, the CITY House, and the Journal of Financial Planning. Bryan has been featured in local and national media, including The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, CNNfn, USA Today, SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Financial Planning Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, and Dow Jones Newswires. And, he has been recognized as a Five Star Wealth Manager and one of Dallas’s Best Financial Planners in D Magazine every year since its inception and recently as a Top Wealth Manager. To learn more about Bryan, connect with him on LinkedIn.


    (1) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/will-a-purpose-driven-life-help-you-live-longer-2019112818378

    (2) https://hrs.isr.umich.edu/publications/biblio/11635

    (3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180213132926.htm

    (4) https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/americans-major-fears-about-retirement-overcome-2021-7

    (5) https://www.livescience.com/17427-social-time-improves-senior-happiness.html