Seven Habits of a Happy Retirement

So often, questions about retirement centre around money. While money is definitely a key factor in retirement planning, it is only one piece of a much bigger picture. I’ve talked to a lot of retirees in my career and, when it comes to those who are truly enjoying their “golden years”, I’ve noticed that there are similarities in the ways they have approached retirement and most interestingly, most of their success is not all about the money! Here’s my list of seven habits that are key to a happy retirement.

1. Stay Busy
The happiest retirees I meet tend to be the busiest. I’m sure you can think of many retirees today that are busier in retirement than before they retired. Rather than sitting around wondering how to fill all those hours between breakfast and dinner that used to be taken up with working, happy retirees spend their days doing the things they love to do. Whether those things are home-based such as cooking, reading, crafting or gardening or based outside the home such as spending time with friends or travelling doesn’t really matter. Staying busy gives a purpose to each day and gives you things to look forward to.

2. Develop a Healthy Lifestyle
Many studies have shown that the human body is better able to repair and maintain itself when you keep it well conditioned through good nutrition and regular exercise. This is especially important for retirees. A lot of age related problems such as muscle loss, deteriorating bone density and declining strength and flexibility can be combatted through regular exercise and it’s also been shown that exercising boosts your mood. Whether it’s walking, cycling, yoga or something else altogether, even a small amount of activity every day can make a huge difference.

3. 80% Routine and 20% Impulse
Routine becomes increasingly important you age and move further into retirement. Routine gives structure and simple habits such as a weekly club meeting or a monthly dinner date with friends can make retirement more enjoyable. Routines and structure give you things to look forward to. As important as routine is to retirement, it is also important to step outside of that routine and try new experiences. Spontaneity adds an element of fun to life and, if retirement is a reward for decades of hard work, it’s only fair to incorporate a healthy dose of fun into the mix.

4. Talk to People Every Day
Often, one of the biggest challenges for new retirees is leaving behind a busy work environment filled with opportunities for social interaction. Human beings are social by nature and even the most introverted person needs the energy boost that comes from interacting and talking with others. For some, it can be hard to build a social network in retirement but whether you’re chatting in person, over the phone or via the internet, it’s important to find a way to interact regularly with others.

5. Volunteer and Give Back
The beauty of volunteering is that it is often just as rewarding for the volunteer as it is for the organization that you are helping. Whether you have time once a month or several times a week, chances are there’s a volunteer opportunity that’s perfect for you in your local area. Volunteering can be an opportunity to share your expertise or to learn new skills and it often provides the added benefits of exercise and social interaction that are so important to good health in retirement.

6. Live Within Your Means
Financial stress can be debilitating. It can be especially hard in retirement when taking on a part-time job to relieve the pressure may not be an option. A key component of good retirement planning is to establish how much money you will have coming in each month and a key component of good retirement living is not to spend more than that amount. This is especially important in the early years of retirement when investment and savings accounts look extremely healthy.

7. Automate Your Income
Managing income or paying bills automatic, can be powerful because it takes the responsibility for remembering out of your hands. It also helps ensure that your financial goals don’t get derailed by a poor memory, a great opportunity or a bargain that was just too good to pass up. Automating income in retirement allows you to create a regular income stream that meets your needs and it reduces the risk that you will spend more than you planned to without realizing.

In the same way that each of us is an individual, so each person’s experience of retirement is an individual one. What makes retirement happy may vary dramatically from person to person but I believe each of these habits can definitely make our retirement years more enjoyable and more rewarding.

Jim Yih is a best selling author, fee only financial advisor, a professional speaker and the founder of the award winning blog RetireHappy.ca. You can find him on twitter @jimyih.