Retire to Happiness: Tips to Thrive in the Next Chapter of Life

Sheila Willis |


Retirement doesn’t mean the end, it just means a new chapter—a paradigm shift of what life is beyond long days and meetings and bosses. You’re not solely defined by the question, “What do you do?” However, it doesn’t mean you should stop defining the answer for such an inquiry in your retirement era.  When you have a vision of what you want life in retirement to be, your golden years can really shine.  Consider these tips to Thrive in the Next Chapter of Life:


  • Healthy finances. Because you won’t be working full time in retirement, you won’t have that steady paycheck to count on for income. Finances play a critical part in the decision of when to retire.  In fact, in a study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 51% of people who say they will never fully enter into retirement, say they are inhibited from full retirement due to finances.

Having a healthy portfolio and steady finances are something you’ll want to have established well in advance of your retirement party to maintain and grow throughout the rest of your life. However, it’s never too late to improve your finances by re-evaluating your portfolio, investment strategy, and monthly budget. Set up a strategy session with your trusted financial advisor and maintain regular correspondence so there are no financial surprises that could negatively impact your life in retirement. Focus on figuring how much you can realistically spend out of monthly income given Social Security, pension, 401(k), and other accounts. Work with your advisor to determine which accounts you’ll dip into first to avoid tax penalties from drawing from too many sources.


  • Transition time. Frankly retirement at age 65 is a bit antiquated. President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935 which established 65 as the retirement age. This worked for the American worker at that time when people didn’t live as long; the average life expectancy for men was 58 and was 62 for women, which compares with the average life expectancy of 79 in 2016. For some people going from full-time work to full retirement doesn’t make economic or emotional sense. Consider what and how you would want to work on if you had the chance which may mean shifting to consulting part-time or working seasonally on a golf course. Perhaps it means working on something you’re excited about like woodworking, writing children’s books, or organic farming for as long as you’re able to do so. It’s not your 9-to-5 you did for 43 years, but it’s something that can provide you with intellectual stimulation and emotional fulfillment.


  • Family and friends. According to the United States of Aging Survey, connectedness with family and friends outweighed financial-based concerns for seniors in relation to the sense of fulfillment. Your relationships are an investment that don’t offer a financial return but are invaluable in terms of happiness, kindness, and care. Strong connectivity is the best weapon against loneliness.


  • Communication counts. If you have a partner—husband, wife, lifelong roommate—include them in your planning. Clearly outline your goals, wants, needs, and wishes together to best determine how to move forward in retirement. Structuring time in retirement also applies to time spent with your significant other.

A 2013 Fidelity Study found that 40% of couples didn’t align on the expected lifestyle they would have in retirement. So take each other’s retirements expectations and activities, as well as collective finances, into consideration. May decide to move some place warmer (snowbirds!) or to a home with a smaller yard, or to a place with lots of other senior citizens, or to another (cheaper) country. 


  • Health habits. In addition to strong social relationships, physical health is incredibly important in later life. “Good health” was picked as a top key to happiness in retirement by over 3,300 pre-retirees and seniors in a survey conducted by Age Wave and Merrill Lynch. While opportunity for ailment, injury, and illnesses increase as one gets older, regular exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet can mitigate chances for sickness or falls, as well as quicker recoveries.


  • Time management. It’s easy to assume that you’ll have more “free time” in retirement than when you were working full-time and raising children and the like. While more free time sounds like a glorious thing to be faced with, it’s important that the hours are spent well. One telling study based in Taiwan found that how free time is managed—not how much free time one has - was correlated with a higher quality of life. Using free time well means organizing activities that align with your personal goals and priorities on a weekly or daily schedule.