Why Are More and More Retired Americans So Unhappy?

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More people than ever before say they're not really that happy in retirement. Find out what's behind the trend.

It turns out many Americans’ “golden years” are more tarnished than golden.

More retirees than ever are saying they’re “not at all satisfied” with their golden years, MarketWatch reports, citing a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, using data from the University of Michigan’s 1998-2012 Health and Retirement Survey. More than 10 percent of retirees reported their total dissatisfaction with retirement. In 1998, fewer than 8 percent of Americans said they were unhappy in retirement.

The proportion of people who described their retirement as “very satisfying” dipped from 60.5 percent in 1998 to 48.6 percent in 2012 — the first time that number had ever fallen below half.

Although the EBRI study didn’t identify reasons for the increase in retirees’ unhappiness, other research suggests that financial woes are at least partly to blame.

According to a paper published in 2004 by Constantijin Panis of the Rand Corporation, receiving pension payments is positively linked to retiree satisfaction.

“But as the number of retirees drawing on traditional pensions declined — from 1980 to 2008, the proportion of nongovernment, salaried workers who got a traditional pension fell from 38 percent to 20 percent — retirement satisfaction may be dipping accordingly,” MarketWatch explains.

Other research suggests that baby boomers are less happy overall than the generation before them — known as the silent generation — which could also explain why more retirees now are reporting being unhappy.

It may not be possible to control some of the factors that figure into our late-life happiness, but there’s a lot you can do to put yourself on good financial footing in retirement. Check out “10 Guaranteed Ways to Retire Rich” and “Retirement Is Coming: Make These Moves in Your 50s.”

Why do you think studies show register such a marked decline in satisfaction among retirees? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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