Life After Retirement Is Going to Be Great (If You Are Truly Ready)

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Robert Kneschke /

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

You might be nervous about your future, but research suggests that you should run — not walk — toward retirement. Get ready to retire, because the best times of your life await you.

Most People Find That Retirement Is the Happiest Period of Life

Cheerful retirees
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Research from Age Wave and Merrill Lynch found that, of all periods in our life, we are happiest and most content between the ages of 65 and 74.

Consider these comparisons showing how happiness, contentment and relaxation soar, while anxiety seems to plummet in retirement:

  • Only 51% of 25- to 34-year-olds say that they often feel happy compared with 76% of people ages 65-74
  • Only 47% of younger folks say that they often feel content, while 71% of those retired report contentment.
  • Feeling often relaxed is experienced by 71% of 65- to 74-year-olds, but only 41% of those ages 25-34.
  • And what about anxiety? Only 12% of 65- to 74-year-olds say that they often feel anxiety. Whereas it is a common feeling for 37% of 25- to 34-year-olds.

However, You Have Got to Be Ready if You Want the Happy Life After Retirement

Happy retiree
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Another study, this one from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, finds that while most seniors are indeed happy, a higher percentage are feeling more dissatisfied than before.

The percentage of retirees who describe retirement as “very satisfying” dropped from 60.5% to 48.6% over a 15-year time period. Experts suspect that the drop in satisfaction may come from either:

  • Difficult financial situations
  • Lack of direction and purpose in this time of life

What follows are eight questions to ask yourself if you want to be sure that you are really ready for life after retirement — particularly a happily ever after.

1. What Do You Want to Do in Retirement?

Retirees riding bikes
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Retirees seem happiest when they have a passion to pursue or some other specific purpose in their life. Deciding what you want to do after work should be an important part of your retirement planning process.

“Even if you’re financially set to retire, you’re now going to have many years ahead — especially if you’re in your 50s or 60s,” says El Dorado Hills, California-based Scott Draper, a certified financial planner with Thrive Financial Planning. “What is this next stage in your life going to be about?”

“Retirement is a great time to revisit old hobbies and dreams,” says Kate Holmes, founder and principal at Las Vegas, Nevada-based Belmore Financial, LLC.

And some of those passions could even prove to become income-generating activities in retirement, she says, noting that a growing number of people pursue new careers in retirement or dedicate their time to volunteering.

Here are:

2. Do You Have a Daily Schedule or Routine for Life After Retirement?

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Waking up and trying to figure out what to do each day can be surprisingly burdensome and depressing.

Successful retirees have a plan for their days. Whether it is a regular golf game, coffee with friends, a volunteer gig or walking the dog, what you do doesn’t matter as much as having a schedule.

Before retirement, life has a predictable routine. Work takes priority, and oftentimes everything else is scheduled around it. From laundry to mowing the lawn, many people plan and keep a routine so that everything gets done.

After retirement, there’s nothing but time, so it might seem that schedules aren’t crucial.

However, a routine is as important as ever. According to Northwestern Medicine, routines help you: sleep better, reduce stress, use your time wisely, foster better health and just enhance your life because you use your time more mindfully.

3. Are You Ready to Retire? Who Is In Your Social Support Network?

Happy retirees
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You may have a love-hate relationship with work colleagues. However, they are probably a huge source of your social interaction. They stimulate you mentally and keep you out of your own head and in the real world.

After retirement, you will still need social interaction, but it can be harder to find.

4. Can You Afford Retirement? Do You Have a Detailed Retirement Plan?

Retiree reviewing financial documents in his kitchen
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This is the question most people think of when considering if they are ready for retirement. It is important. And, it goes beyond just achieving some savings target.

Your retirement security will hinge on how much income you’ll need and how well you’ll be able to supply it. Some retirees move into that next phase of life only to learn that their needs exceed what they’d planned for. That means scaling back in a big way, and it can put a big damper on the lifestyle that you’d hoped for.

You’ll want to get as detailed as possible:

  • Plan your budget — both big one-time as well as monthly expenditures. (Explore nine ways to accurately predict your retirement expenses.)
  • Think about health care and this massive out-of-pocket expense, including what you’ll do if you require long-term care.
  • Figure out how much you will withdraw from savings and when (paying attention to required minimum distributions).
  • Will you have a retirement job or passive income and for how long?
  • How will your investments change and what will you do in a worst-case scenario for the financial markets?
  • Are you prepared for different inflation levels?
  • What will you do about any debt you are carrying?
  • Do you have backup plans and have you anticipated what could go wrong?

5. Have You Considered Your Family?

Happy retiree
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A retirement plan rarely only impacts one person, but too often people plan for everything but their loved ones. Your spouse is an obvious consideration, but so too are your children and parents (if they are still living). And they may impact your finances — positively or negatively.

Family is a huge source of happiness (and sometimes stress). You’ll want to be prepared for expenses related to your loved ones.

And, while we said that planning with your spouse is obvious, lots of couples have a hard time. Here are eight topics to tackle if you want life after retirement to include marital harmony.

6. Where Do You Want to Live?

golden years
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Choosing the best place to retire can be a financial decision, lifestyle choice or both. For most households, housing is the biggest cost and largest asset. Therefore, where you live can be a significant lever in determining your financial security and happiness. Consider if downsizing, a reverse mortgage or a senior community could impact your retirement happiness.

7. What Will Give Your Life After Retirement Meaning and Purpose?

Retiree in Costa Rica
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Research from Oxford University suggests that people with a sense of purpose have a 15% lower risk of death, compared with those who said they were more or less aimless. And it didn’t seem to matter when people found their direction. It could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s — even when controlled for other factors that affect longevity like age, gender and emotional well-being.

The study found that a sense of purpose led to a longer life.

Explore six ways to find meaning and purpose in retirement.

8. Do You Need Support or a Second Opinion?

Senior couple with financial adviser
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You can’t afford to get retirement wrong. And, you don’t want to waste this era of your life.

You might consider getting financial or emotional support.

Have You Considered Hiring a Financial Adviser? A financial adviser can look over your finances, make sure you aren’t making mistakes and give you ideas to maximize your wealth and well-being. According to Forbes, the biggest mistakes retirees make that could be avoided by using a financial adviser include:

  • Lacking a solid financial goal
  • Procrastination
  • Ignoring tax strategies
  • Not knowing how to turn savings into reliable income

Additionally, research from the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) indicates that using a financial adviser is proven to make you feel more confident.

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