5 Keys to Enjoying a Long & Happy Retirement


Whether you’ve just begun to plan your retirement or have already put in your final two-week notice, you may be worried about the impact such an enormous life change will have on your daily routine, sense of self-worth, and financial security.

Many counselors tell their clients that one of the most important components to a happy retirement is not running from something, but running to something—that is, instead of thinking about how relieved you’ll be to finally say goodbye to a daily routine that’s getting you down, it’s better to focus on the activities and hobbies with which you’ll be filling your future days. This simple shift in perspective can be the difference between finding personal fulfillment in retirement or wondering, “is that all there is?”

Read on for five more keys to help you enjoy a long and happy retirement.

Find a New (or Develop an Existing) Passion

Working full-time, keeping up a household, and taking care of a family can leave many adults without much time or energy to vigorously pursue their hobbies. But entering retirement without some type of engrossing interest may leave you feeling adrift when it comes to constructively filling an extra 40 or 50 hours per week.

Even if you don’t have the time to delve too deeply into a new hobby while you’re still wrapping up your career, contemplate what you’d do for fun if you had a limitless amount of time and money to give yourself a good starting point.

And your new hobby doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking, expensive, or even an overly time-consuming one. You may stumble across your newest hobby organically—for example, gaining an interest in birdwatching after spending a few days watching finches fight over thistle seed in your yard, or purchasing a rock tumbler to polish interesting stones you discover while hiking.

If you’ve always wanted to engage your artistic side, taking a painting or woodworking class can get these creative juices flowing and give you an idea of whether you’d like to continue on this path or pursue something new. One of the biggest advantages of retirement is the time it affords you to pursue (and abandon, if necessary) new interests.

Regardless of which passions you choose to develop, having something in your life that piques your curiosity and gives you some goals for which to strive can keep you mentally sharp for decades to come.

Keep a Schedule

The idea of long stretches of unencumbered time at your disposal can seem like a dream when you’re worn down by the daily grind. But in reality, a complete lack of any daily routine can sometimes lead to anxiety and depression. Having some type of daily schedule, even if it looks very different from the schedule you had while working full-time or raising a family, keeps you feeling motivated and helps you focus on achieving your goals.

Some simple habits you can develop to help you stick to a schedule include:

  •         Get up around the same time every day
  •         Get dressed (down to shoes and socks), even if your plans for the day don’t include leaving the house
  •         List weekly or monthly goals, from running a certain number of miles to having dinner with friends once a week

By making an effort to maintain these habits, you’ll be far less likely to suffer from depression, social isolation, or the other potential complications that may come from a sudden life change—even a positive one like a long-anticipated retirement.

Stay Active

A regular exercise routine has far more benefits than simply keeping one’s weight stable, and as you grow older, maintaining (or starting) an exercise routine becomes even more important.

As the human body ages, it slowly begins to lose the ability to repair itself. This can be evident in slower-healing wounds, muscle stiffness and soreness that persists for days after a heavy workout, or even the loss of one’s ability to enjoy a few drinks without suffering through a hangover. While you can’t turn back the hands of time, you can boost your body’s abilities to self-repair by adopting an exercise regimen.

Studies have linked regular exercise with an improvement in many chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, as well as a decrease in the risk of acquiring other age-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, and osteoporosis.

Exercise can boost your immune function, reducing your vulnerability to seasonal illnesses like colds and flu, improve your heart’s ability to circulate blood, and strengthen your bones to protect you from falls. With post-menopausal women losing an average of 2 percent of their bone mass each year, adopting some weight-bearing exercises to maintain bone density should be a priority.

Even if you have a health condition that restricts your ability to exercise, it’s worth it to talk to your doctor about some simple exercises you can do regularly. Since even mild physical activity can provide health benefits, adopt a stretching routine, take part in a water aerobics class, or lift light weights within the privacy of your own home to make a valuable investment in your future health.

Get Involved

Social isolation is a real risk for seniors, and it can be easy to underestimate the amount of interpersonal interaction you were getting at your job before you retired. Even if you’re generally an introverted person who thrives on alone time, there can be a distinct difference between choosing to spend time by yourself to decompress versus feeling cut off from the world around you.

Many seniors, especially those who live far from immediate family members, may feel reluctant or even embarrassed to reach out to their loved ones and express feelings of loneliness or detachment. And while social media provides a convenient way to keep up with happenings across the globe, users’ abilities to carefully choose what they display to the rest of the world can give rise to the false assumption that everyone around you is having a better time.

Getting involved in local organizations can give you a direct connection to others in your community, all of whom are working toward a common goal. And helping others, whether your co-volunteers or the population you serve, can build your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose that might be missing (or at least on an extended leave of absence) after you’ve retired from full-time employment.

Local animal shelters or rescues, gardening and beekeeping clubs, homeless shelters and food banks, grocery co-ops, and veterans’ organizations are often looking for volunteers who have the time and life experience to become an active part of the organization.

Another source of interaction can be a retirement or assisted living community. These full-service neighborhoods provide their residents with a built-in village of friendly people who have a diverse array of interests and life experiences. If you’ve always had trouble reaching out and making friends, moving to a retirement community can give you a fresh start with people who are in a similar stage of life.

Have a Backup Financial Plan (or Plans)

It can be tough to go from financial accumulation mode to asset drawdown mode, even if your projections indicate you have plenty of money to maintain your lifestyle. And with the average American family aged 50 to 55 reporting only around $125,000 in retirement savings, combined with an average Social Security benefit of around $1,329 per month, many families will need to continually re-evaluate their spending patterns as they enter retirement.

When bidding adieu to the workforce, it’s important to have both a target spending plan and a backup plan in place. This enables you to stay flexible and avoid many of the more common financial pitfalls that may impact retirement plans. Review your plans with a fee-only financial advisor to be doubly sure your asset allocation and retirement income plan are in line with your goals and risk tolerance.

One potential backup plan may involve shifting the age at which you claim Social Security benefits. In some cases, especially if you’re fully invested in the market and the future looks positive, it may make more sense to claim your SS benefits at age 62 and use this money to cover living expenses while your investments continue to grow. In other cases, you may be better off taking a more conservative position in cash, using this money to support yourself until you can claim the max SS benefit at age 70.

If you own your home, you may also want to make any future improvements with an eye toward resale. This means not investing tens of thousands of dollars into a kitchen or bathroom remodel if you’re not confident you’ll recoup this money (and more) when you list your home. Instead, you can paint, revamp landscaping, or declutter to inexpensively boost curb appeal.

Not only can being in a position to quickly list and sell your house provide you with some valuable financial flexibility in retirement, it can give you the opportunity to relocate to a retirement community if or when you decide that owning your own home no longer fits your physical, emotional, or social needs.

Life at Cambridge Village of Apex, North Carolina, goes beyond retirement living. By focusing on improving every aspect of our residents’ lives, we create Optimal Living. We aim to make every resident feel welcomed, provide them with opportunities to build friendships, and help them find a niche where they belong. Experience the new retirement at Cambridge Village of Apex, North Carolina. Contact us to schedule a tour of our senior living community or give us a call today (919) 363-2080.