How to Be Happy in Retirement

Want to be happy in retirement?

It’s easy. Spend your money and time on leisure activities. Take vacations. Celebrate Bloomsday in Dublin with your old college roommates. Hike the Appalachian Trail with your neighbor. Learn new things. Take a class at the Culinary Institute of America with your best friends. Learn how to make pottery or yogurt, or ride a motorcycle.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to invest in staying healthy. Power walk. Join a stand-up paddleboard race team or maybe join — even if the locker room and your equipment smell like a garbage barge – an old-man ice hockey league. Go see your doctors and dentists at least once per year and for G-d’s sake, take your meds.


“Because retirement is different,” said Michael Finke, co-author of a just-published study, Spending, Relationship Quality, and Life Satisfaction in Retirement. “Our goal isn’t to earn money, our goal is to enjoy life.”

And leisure spending is positively related to life satisfaction, compared to housing and all other categories of spending,” wrote Finke, the dean and chief academic officer at The American College of Financial Services; Nhat Ho, an assistant professor of finance at Eastern New Mexico University; and Sandra Huston, a professor at Texas Tech University.

According to Finke, the study looked at the following: Does what we spend money on make us happier?

“We look at the share of a retiree’s budget that is spent on various categories of goods and services, and find that the only thing that consistently makes retirees more satisfied is spending on leisure activities,” he said. “Spending more on other budget categories, things like clothes, cars, or gifts, doesn’t make us happier.”

To be fair, other factors besides leisure do contribute to life satisfaction in retirement. For instance, there’s “strong evidence to support spouse/partner and friends, and some evidence regarding other family,” to retiree life satisfaction, wrote the authors.

There is no evidence, however, to support children contributing to retiree life satisfaction. Given that, the authors suggest that you might want to think twice before selling your home and moving closer to your children/grandchildren. In fact, they recommend that you do a cost/benefit analysis and assess and manage your expectations before making any drastic changes (i.e. sticking a ‘for sale’ sign on your front lawn).


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