We all know the old cliché that money can’t buy happiness. Having a truly fulfilled life in retirement isn’t solely based on how much money you have. In order to maximize your golden years, it’s important to pay attention not only to your wealth, but to your health and overall well-being. Live a retirement lifestyle free of financial burdens where you can be wealthy, healthy and happy.
When many people think of planning for retirement, their very first thought is money, but what good is all the money in the world if you aren’t healthy enough to enjoy it? On average, a 65-year-old American will have 19.4 golden years, and to make that time truly count, you need to be both physically and mentally fit.
While you can’t control everything age throws at you, it is important to take the steps you can to take proper care of yourself. This can be simple things like eating a balanced diet, taking up yoga or even taking a regular evening stroll through the park to relax. It’s all about keeping yourself active and giving your body what it needs so you can enjoy your time with minimal health related stresses. In fact, 80% of today’s retirees would say health is the most important ingredient to a happy retirement.
But good health isn’t only physical. Mental health is as important as physical health in planning for and maintaining a happy retirement. So, as you prepare a financial portfolio, don’t forget to plan for a social and psychological one, too. After all, retirement is a big change to your life, so as you transition, you need to find things that you enjoy. Invest some time in figuring out hobbies you like, activities to pursue and goals you want to achieve. This type of forward thinking will prepare you for this new stage in life and help you preserve your well-being.
However, as with all good things, this does come with a price (literally). A long, healthy retirement requires funding.
In the end, having established a healthy lifestyle will itself contribute to wealth building. Insurance premiums throughout your life will be less, as will medical expenses in general. In any case, when you retire, you don’t want to worry about bills. You want to know that monthly expenses are covered so that you can enjoy your time without a gloomy financial cloud looming over your head every second.
Despite the need for a substantial nest egg though, wealth is much more than a dollar amount in the bank. It’s not just keeping score of how many marbles you have on the table when you stop working. Wealth is also family, friends, hobbies and the ways you choose to give back to your community. It’s this type of wealth that helps keep you happy in retirement. (Remember that “cliche” that money can’t buy happiness? This is why.) Rather than investing all your time and effort in building tangible wealth, dedicate some attention to what’s intangible. What makes you happy? What is your legacy? Ask yourself, “When I’m lonely or bored, what’s going to keep me company?” It’s not going to be money or possessions.
Surrounding yourself with good people and fun hobbies can help you avoid mental health declines and preserve your well-being. Activities like volunteering, working an “encore” job, and maintaining and developing new friendships keep you entertained and give you a newfound purpose. Indeed, social engagement through retirement activities not only supports mental health – it’s as important as exercise in maintaining your physical health.
But that is not to say that having your financials in order is not also important. On the financial side, there are professionals who can help you make financial plans for retirement. Likewise, make plans for how to address mental health challenges, but also allow yourself flexibility in achieving your changed life. After all, such a new environment and change to your daily norm will require some getting used to. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself a break and allow yourself to get comfortable.
Health and wealth can lead to happiness, or at least make it easier to find, but happiness itself can also contribute to maintaining health. According to a theory of wealth and its relationship to happiness known as the “Easterlin Paradox,” wealth only increases happiness up to the achievement of a certain level of prosperity. Beyond that, even though people in wealthier countries are generally happier than those in poor countries, there is no direct continuing relationship between wealth and happiness. In other words, and with no surprise, money in fact can’t buy happiness.
On the contrary, happiness in retirement and life in general bears out the old adage of doing well by doing good. Volunteering can provide numerous benefits, among them helping you stay active, stay actively engaged with life and make new friends. Exercising, especially in a social setting, can provide similar types of benefits. In other words, the things you do to make yourself mentally and physically healthy can contribute to your happiness as well.
Being healthy, happy and financially comfortable is like winning the lifetime and retirement trifecta lottery. As the retirement years approach, planning to maintain health, secure wealth and stay happy will make for truly golden years.
Andrew Rosen, CFP, CEP is the President and Partner at Diversified Lifelong Advisors, a financial planning and investment advisory serving executives, professionals and retirees in Delaware and Pennsylvania. To learn more, please visit www.lifelongadvisors.com. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @rosen318.