While everyone points to financial security as the secret to a happy retirement, there is something else to consider, too. Research shows the happiest retirees have certain emotional characteristics that bring more joy to their lives. And finding happiness in retirement isn’t just for a lucky few. Seventy-three percent of retirees report being “happy” or “very happy,” according to a study conducted by Athene.* Despite the challenge, for many, of living on less, retirees are happier than younger people who are still working and raising families. Here are four factors that contribute to a happy retirement.
People who cherish their social connections are happier in retirement. For many women, in particular, concern about losing workplace relationships was a primary reason for putting off retirement.
Many respondents were so socially active that they found retirement left them with very little downtime. And that’s a good thing: Having a large circle of friends is associated with psychological well-being in middle-aged adults. Another reason to stay close with your pals? Research has shown that seniors who maintain strong friendships as they age may live longer than those who do not.
The Athene study also showed many retirees discovered little joys they didn't have while they worked. For example, some shared how wonderful it felt to be able to sleep as late as they wanted. For others, the ability to be in charge of their own days and not have to answer to a boss was seen as a real gift.
Studies have shown that having gratitude is associated with happiness at any age, and adults who frequently feel grateful—even for the little things—have more energy, optimism, and happiness.
Enjoying Leisure Time
Topping the list of things that are important to retirees’ emotional fulfillment was being able to relax and enjoy leisure time. Retirees defined leisure as enjoying hobbies they didn’t have time for while working, as well as traveling to new places and spending more time with family and friends. Relaxation doesn’t mean lazing away their days at home. Happiest retirees in the study seemed to be people who found ways to remain active and relevant.
Leisure time can have a positive influence on older adults’ quality of life, happiness, and sense of peace. It all comes down to finding the balance of friends, activities, and free time that’s right for you.
*Participants in this 2015 study were provided through the Harris Panel, including members of its third-party panel providers.