Aging Options

Dreaming of a Happy Retirement? Read These 10 Surprising Secrets

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Here at AgingOptions we’re always searching for good, solid, practical information about retirement, the kind our clients, readers and radio listeners can use. Unfortunately, we run across a lot of bad retirement advice – which makes it so refreshing when we discover the good kind. The article described below is a case in point.

On a website called Money and Career Cheat Sheet ( we found this article called “Retire with a Smile: 10 Surprising Secrets to a Happy Retirement.”  As we read this list we were pleased and surprised to find ourselves nodding in agreement. The author, Megan Elliott, really captured some common sense tips that we think can make a lot of difference as you plan ahead for your retirement years. The philosophy Elliott proposes mirrors much of the advice we give our clients.

There’s a lot to love about retirement, but sometimes it can bring disappointment.  “Some people who dreamed they’d leave all their worries behind once they quit working are finding retirement isn’t quite as blissful as they dreamed it would be,” Elliott begins. She cites research from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) that reports that only about half of current retirees describe their retirement as “very satisfying.”  That’s a significant drop of 11 percentage points over the past 18 years. What’s more, “retirement satisfaction is falling across the board” among both wealthy and not-so-wealthy retirees.  “Money, it seems, isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to enjoying a happy retirement. Even the rich can find themselves with a frown on their faces if they make planning mistakes.”

Researchers say the exact reasons for this drop in retirement satisfaction are unclear, but several factors could be involved. Retirement tends to last longer than it used to, for one thing. At the same time, rising health care costs are triggering retirement anxiety among many seniors, which can make retirement less satisfying. Also, more and more people of retirement age are continuing to work, some by choice and some out of necessity, so the dream of a restful retirement is proving elusive for many. The point is, just as society at large is experiencing all sorts of change, retirees are hardly immune. So with that in mind, are there things you can do, or not do, to help boost retirement satisfaction? The answer is yes.

We won’t try to cover all ten “surprising secrets” here, but we’ll do our best to summarize – and we do suggest you click on the link above and read the piece for yourself. The first secret, Megan Elliott writes, is that it’s not all about the money.  “You shouldn’t assume money alone will make the other problems in your life disappear,” the article says. “Retirement planning involves running the numbers. But it also requires looking inward to think about what’s going to make you happy in the next phase of your life.” But at the same time, secret #2 is don’t ignore your finances. We found this statement interesting: “People with consistent sources of retirement income, such as a pension, were more financially confident and less likely to feel pressure to cut spending than those who relied on money from their investments.” If you’ll contact us here at AgingOptions we can refer you to a qualified financial planner who will show you ways to maximize the money you have for greater peace of mind.

Under the topic of finances, we should also highlight retirement secret #5: don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. We totally agree. “Pressure to keep up with your friends and neighbors when it comes to vacations, home improvements, and hobbies can derail your retirement finances — and your happiness,” Megan Elliott writes. We’ve seen this all too often. Our advice: if your friends are leading you down the wrong financial path, you may need to find new friends!

Many of the retirement secrets aren’t “secrets” at all, just good common sense. For example, #3 is stay healthy. As the article points out, 80 percent of those who described their health as excellent said they were very satisfied with their retirement. Among those who said their health was poor, the “very satisfied” segment plummets to 26 percent, according to EBRI. Secret #4 is to find your purpose, which means you start before you retire to consider what brings you joy and satisfaction. “Retirement frees up your schedule,” says Elliott, “and for some people all that unstructured time is a little overwhelming. If you’re not careful, an absence of purpose can lead to boredom, depression, and relationship stress.” If you are one of those whose identity has been closely tied to your career, this can pose a particular danger.

Secret #9 asks an important question: “Should you relocate when you retire?” Maybe not. “Picking the wrong place to move is one of the biggest sources of retirement unhappiness,” says author and retirement expert Andrew Rafal.  Be particularly careful about picking a retirement location simply because it has a low cost of living or because it’s one of your favorite vacation spots. Will you enjoy the community? Do you have friends or family nearby?  Moving too soon “can be a mistake that’s expensive to undo,” Megan Elliott writes. “In fact, pulling up stakes without considering all the consequences is one of people’s biggest retirement regrets.”

Finally, at a time when true contentment seems so elusive, retirement secret #10 is our favorite: be satisfied with what you have. “Your retirement nest egg might not be quite as large as you hoped it would be,” Elliott writes, “but that doesn’t have to mean spending your golden years in misery. Assuming you have enough to live comfortably, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your retirement, even if you can’t afford all the luxuries you might have dreamed of.” Author Andrew Rafal adds, “I think it’s coming to terms with really what makes you happy. For a lot of individuals, they don’t need a ton of money. They live well within their means (while understanding that they) can’t go on three cruises a year.”

If we were to add one more secret for achieving a joyful retirement, it would be plan ahead. No matter what your circumstances, we’re confident you will benefit immeasurably by working with AgingOptions to create a comprehensive retirement blueprint called a LifePlan, weaving together all the different strands of your retirement into one strong cord: your financial plan, your legal affairs, your housing options, your medical needs, and your family dynamics. We invite you to find out more about building a safe and secure retirement by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars in a location near you. Registration is quick and easy: simply click here, select the seminar that works best for you, and register online. You are also welcome to call us at our office during the week so we can assist you.

Creating a happy retirement doesn’t have to be a secret, if you have the AgingOptions team on your side!

(originally reported at

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