Retirement advice: How to retire happy

May 10, 2024

You may have prepared your finances for retirement, but have you prepared yourself? Follow this advice for retirees to plan a happier retirement.

Retirement can sound like bliss when it's still years away: a break from work, time to travel and a chance to finally indulge in those hobbies you've had on hold. But some people encounter unexpected feelings as they approach retirement, such as stress, uncertainty or loneliness.

It’s not hard to see why. Retirement is a huge life change that can affect your identity, outlook and daily structure. It’s normal to have mixed feelings about it or be nervous when it’s on the horizon.

The good news is that researchers have been studying the pre-retirement period, and there are things you can do to feel better prepared for the change. Follow this retirement advice to make the transition easier and more fulfilling.


Six ways to retire happy


1. Mentally prepare for retirement

While you’ve hopefully followed the retirement financial advice that’s right for you, mental preparation may be equally important in ensuring a smooth transition – and it’s not talked about as often.

Experts note that pre-retirement planning – including financial, psychological and social planning – can help maintain physical and mental health, instill a positive attitude and lower anxiety after retirement.1

Before you retire, think about how you’ll spend your newly unstructured time or any anticipated changes in your emotional state. Talking about your plans with family and friends can also help, as discussing these details out loud may provide a sense of control over the uncertainty ahead.

Purposefully cultivating a positive outlook about retirement ahead of time can go a long way in helping you make the most of this next chapter, too. For example, if you think of retirement as a time to improve your health, strengthen social ties and devote more time to hobbies, you’re likely to enjoy it more. Positive views toward aging can even result in retirees living 11–15% longer and give them a greater chance of living to age 85 or beyond.2


2. Consider a phased approach

One of the best pieces of retirement advice? You don’t have to do it all at once. Some people find that pulling back on work over a span of several years—instead of going from a full-time career to retirement—can help ease the transition.

By slowly paring down your hours or shifting to part-time or consulting for a few years, you’ll get used to working less and can start to fill your time in other ways. This can also help you financially, as you will add some cushion to your retirement fund before clocking off completely.


3. Take advantage of senior discounts

One of the financial benefits of getting older is that you become eligible for senior discounts and certain membership programs. For example, an AARP membership (which you’re eligible for after you turn 50), provides access to reduced car rental rates, health insurance offers, flight discounts and other ways to save.  

Some athletic clubs even offer free or discounted memberships to seniors. The Silver Sneakers program provides free classes online or in-person at more than 15,000 fitness center locations across the nation.

Many restaurants and retailers also have discounts for people 50 or older; it’s worth asking your favorite establishments about these. Making the most of these discounts before you retire can help you stow away more cash for your retirement savings.


4. Pursue your passions

It’s common to let your own hobbies and passions take a backseat during your working years, when building a business or establishing career growth may have been your biggest day-to-day priority. As you approach retirement, take the time to tune into your own interests again and discover what you like doing that’s just for yourself.

Not sure where to start? Make a list of all the things you liked doing as a kid. This is your time to have fun and tap into what feels best for your true nature.

If you’re hesitant about making the leap to full retirement right out the gate, you may also turn one of your interests into a side gig first. It's becoming popular for pre­retirees to take on a second (or encore) career or passion project before retiring fully.

You might also consider dedicating more time to a cause you care about, such as volunteering at an animal shelter or getting involved with a local charity. Turning to philanthropy can be a great way to find meaning by supporting something bigger than yourself. 


5. Consider the perks of downsizing

Where you want to spend your retirement years is a highly personal decision. You might want to stay in your current home, or you might be ready to shift to something smaller. Whatever appeals to you, pre-retirement is a wise time to consider what will be the best solution for you.

Keep in mind that while condos and other facilities usually provide property management services for a fee, such as lawn care, these services can save you time, physical labor and hassle. Some facilities even offer on-site amenities like pool access, community events, fitness classes and more. These may be especially relevant perks as you age; aside from the time benefits, they can provide a built-in community.

Depending on your financial situation, downsizing may also be a sound financial strategy to help fund your retirement or provide an extra cushion for unplanned expenses.


6. Establish solid social connections

For most people, work provides a baseline level of social interaction that’s easy to take for granted when it’s no longer there. If retirement is on the horizon, now is a great time to reconnect with your friends and consider ways to foster a sense of community in your golden years.

One study at Harvard Medical School showed that one of the biggest factors in having a healthy, rewarding retirement was a solid social network.3

Start by reaching out to old friends or exploring classes and programs centered around your interests as a way to meet new people. This way, you’ll build solid social connections to rely on when you enter retirement. 


Retire happy by investing in yourself

In the end, the best retirement advice for you will center around getting back in touch with your own interests and what brings you joy and meaning. Whether that’s traveling the world, reconnecting with friends, or dedicating more time to causes you care about, thinking about what you want your retirement to look like can help you better prepare for the next chapter.

By following this retirement advice, you can feel more mentally and financially prepared for what’s to come—and start getting excited about all retirement has to offer. 


Use our retirement calculator to test retirement scenarios and see where you stand today, plus find more resources to help you prepare for retirement in our retirement planning toolkit.

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