When it comes to retirement planning, many people focus almost entirely on financial planning. After all, retirement signals the end of your wage-earning years, so the primary concern tends to be making sure you’ll be able to take care of your needs and maintain your lifestyle without running out of money. But what you might not realize now is that it’s just as important to plan for a happy and healthy retirement, no matter the size of your nest egg.
Declining happiness and rapidly declining health in retirement is more common than you might think. Looking ahead to stress-free days of non-stop vacation is simply an overly romanticized view of the coming years that can quickly turn to disappointment if you don’t put some careful thought and planning into how you will spend your time and how you will face the realities of aging.
Here are five tips for a happy, healthy retirement.
1. Take care of your physical health.
As the old saying goes, health is wealth. Money means nothing if we don’t have our health, and if we have health problems, it can be a drain on our finances. We can’t always control what happens to us healthwise, but we can do our best to take care of our physical health.
Your best bet is to stay fit and active throughout your lifetime and to have the recommended regular check-ups with your healthcare providers. The standard advice still goes a long way: avoid smoking, drink in moderation, cut the junk food, get plenty of quality sleep, move your body, and follow your doctor’s orders. Keep in mind that you only get one body, so you better treat it well. Taking care of your physical health is key to maintaining a high quality of life well into your golden years.
As you enter retirement, be sure to find ways to stay active that you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone. Golfing, swimming, hiking, gardening, yoga, tennis, boating, and much more can be enjoyed at any age.
2. Support your mental health.
After retirement, depression and other mental health issues are more common than you might think. Hanging up your work hat for the final time is a dramatic shift in your identity, routine, and lifestyle. Many people find themselves struggling once they are no longer working at a daily job that had provided them with a set routine, a place to go, a reason to connect with others, and even a sense of purpose.
Even if you don’t like your job and can’t wait to move on, it has likely become central to how you live your life. When you leave the workplace behind, it can be difficult to regain your footing and figure out who you are without your job and what you should be doing instead. As a result, many retirees report feeling bored, useless, and ungrounded; some even find that idle time allows room for old traumas, negative emotions, and buried resentment to resurface.
Knowing ahead of time that retirees are vulnerable to mental health concerns is key to prevention. As you plan financially, make a plan for supporting your mental health as well—stay active, take care of yourself, find hobbies you enjoy, get out in nature, connect with others, develop a meditation or prayer practice, work with a good therapist, and don’t shy away from taking medication for depression or anxiety if your doctor recommends it.
3. Stay creative and productive.
As humans, we are wired to be creative and productive creatures. Keeping up with the hectic pace of productivity that modern life demands may go against our nature, but we all have a deep desire to make things, do things, enjoy the process, and admire our work. This looks different for everyone, and it’s an opportunity for you to explore what matters to you.
Some people pick up a paintbrush, knitting needles, or gardening tools, while other people set out to write the great American novel, take up woodworking, learn to play the guitar, bake the world’s-best apple pie, perfect the family budget spreadsheet, or become a top-notch grillmaster of bragworthy brisket. It doesn’t matter what it is; as long as it’s something you truly want to do, it can be fulfilling and satisfying.
Tap into your creativity, and the possibilities are endless. Make no apologies for spending hours honing your craft beer or tweaking your memoir, even if your creations are never shared with another person. You’ve earned the right to indulge in your creative pursuits, and you’ll never run out of things to do.
4. Maintain your connection with people.
One of the most difficult aspects of retirement is that it can be socially isolating and lonely. You might be surprised by how much you miss interacting with the array of coworkers, clients, employees, students, vendors, or customers you talked to every day for decades. Maybe your spouse and friends are still working or set in their own routine. Perhaps you imagine spending tons of time with your kids and grandkids but realize they have busy lives of their own.
What you need is a plan to get out and connect with other people often. Being involved in social or sporting clubs, getting active in your church or place of worship, attending continuing education classes, keeping regularly scheduled time to meet up with friends on your calendar, and planning family dinners and vacations are great ways to stay connected and plugged in.
The point is, you have to be intentional about maintaining connection. It no longer happens by default, so you’ll need to make an effort, and it will pay off. We all need each other, and science shows that isolation is bad for your health.
5. Find your purpose.
When you reach retirement, not only have you stepped away from your career, but you’ve most likely become an empty nester too. With a lifetime of responsibility and meaning behind you, it’s important to remember that you still have a purpose and a great deal more to give. One of the best parts of retirement is that you have the opportunity to focus on what matters to you.
Your purpose at this stage might be to be a caregiver of some kind. Perhaps you’ll become more active in the life of your grandchildren and ease some of the burden of childrearing for your kids. You may want to help out older family members or friends who are having health challenges get to their doctor’s appointments, coordinate home repairs, or put dinner on the table. That might not sound fun now, but it can be truly fulfilling when the time comes.
Your purpose could be to give back to your community. Maybe you can take on a volunteer leadership role at a nonprofit, join a board of directors, become a mentor in your former profession’s organization or university’s alumni association, or focus on philanthropic giving and creating a legacy.
Your purpose could be anything; don’t miss out on your opportunity to make a difference in your own way in your older age.
Your Happy Healthy Retirement
Financial planning is the bedrock of a happy, healthy retirement. Without sufficient money, retirement can be an incredibly stressful time but don’t forget to plan for your overall well-being, too. Sure, you can kick back and watch sports for hours and sip cocktails at the beach, but if you really want to be happy, healthy, experience longevity, and enjoy the fruits of your labor, you’re going to need a better plan.
Kevin Stoddard is a LPL Financial Advisor with Stoddard Financial in Quincy, Massachusetts. Stoddard helps clients throughout New England to identify, plan, and execute strategies designed for securing their desired financial future. With their Financial Wellness @ Work program, they engage, educate, and empower employees by helping them to understand and appreciate the value of their benefits package.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.