Single Blog

How to Retire Happy

The day you retire begins one of the biggest chapters in the American Dream. It’s the time of your life you’ve been dreaming about: no more blaring alarm clock; no more career pressure; lazy days of doing exactly what you feel like doing. So, why do 69% of people say they face challenges after they retire? Why is the divorce rate among Boomers rising rapidly while it’s falling for other age groups?

Retirement can be challenging. Almost every aspect of your life changes. Most people focus on acquiring enough money to allow them to retire comfortably and where they want to live. But most of us didn’t think about how we are going to replace the benefits that working gave us – the benefits over and above the financial ones.

Your professional life gave you some valuable things in addition to financial compensation. It gave you:

  • Purpose — a reason to get up in the morning
  • Status – a sense of how you fit into the world regardless of what you did for a living
  • Feeling of accomplishment –especially when you completed something successfully
  • Sense of worth – what you did was valuable enough for someone to pay you to do it
  • Structure – a schedule for your day

Being able to do whatever you want to is liberating but it means that you have to re-design your life to replace those work benefits you may not even realize were important to you. After the ‘retirement honeymoon’ wears off (usually after 6 to 18 months) you may be faced with some tough questions like ‘who am I today’ and ‘what will make me feel like I matter.’

The risk of ignoring those questions and simply filling your days with whatever stuff comes along is that you may feel a bit directionless – like something is missing. For some people, that can lead to depression and even threaten your health and mental well-being.

Relationships often suffer too. I worked with a couple facing some “post-career” challenges. Sam and Toni had retired about two years before coming to see me and their relationship was struggling. About a year or so after retiring, Sam got tired of playing golf nearly every day and longed for the days when he had more intellectual stimulation and sense of accomplishment. So, he decided to start a company doing something he’d always wanted to do. Toni supported his decision and he became one happy, re-energized guy.

Toni enjoyed her life. However, as time went on her thinking became more and more negative. Nothing Sam did was right and she started injecting little barbs in their conversation. Pretty soon Sam started working longer hours and she was sliding toward depression. Together we discovered that even though Toni was enjoying the freedom from working, her days felt empty. Most of all she felt like she didn’t matter to Sam or the world anymore. We talked about things she always wanted to do but didn’t have time to pursue. It turned out that Toni always wanted to learn how to make quilts.

She took a few lessons and learned that she was very good at it. She loved it and soon was teaching others how to do it. Toni kept her first few quiltsandgave others away as gifts. Then, she realized that her quilts and her students’ quilts had a lot of value. They started selling them at fairs, fun-raisers, and even online. They donated all of the money they earned to a charity that they cared about. They all thrived in several ways – they enjoyed creating the beautiful quilts, and they were delighted to support a charity that was meaningful to them.

Toni and Sam still working on rebuilding their relationship but they believe it’s moving to an even better place than it was when they retired.

The “post-career” chapter of your life is likely to be nearly as long as your career was. Much research has been done about what it takes to be happy in this “New Retirement.” One thing is clear. People who are engaged in some way doing things that make them feel like they matter are the happiest retirees. You thought it was worth investing in your financial portfolio for those years. Now it’s time to build your Happiness PortfolioTM. This is an exciting opportunity to create a fulfilling, invigorating new chapter in your life.

  • What is something you have always wanted to do or learn but never had the time forbefore you retired?
  • What activities make you feel most engaged or give you a sense of accomplishment?

Comments (0)