Great retirements are thick braids that are comprised of financial, emotional and aspirational strands.
When it comes to retirement, the planning process for financially committed duos is not only more complicated than it is if you’re solo, you’ve got the happiness of two people to consider.
So, specifically for couples, what goes into making retirement a success?
If you want to thrive with a partner, it’s only partly about the money. What it’s also about, is communication, sharing a vision, goal setting, and then following an agreed-upon financial plan.
This is where the nuts and bolts of planning work together to support your mutual aspirations.
With that in mind, the evenings of Wednesday, August 12th, and Thursday, August 13th,I’m hosting two online workshops exclusively devoted to the three unique phases of retirement planning for couples.
Financial. Aspirational. Emotional.
These are free, live events.
While the basis of the article below was inspired by the research we’ve done specifically about happiness during retirement, for these live workshops I'll go in-depth about the financial logistics of retirement planning for couples—that is, simplifying the complex—before also covering the 15 essential questions about money and retirement that couples should ask one another each and every year.
Make no mistake, not only is money the #1 stressor in our lives, it’s no secret that many couples find it difficult to discuss. Then you add in the hardships of COVID-19, and all that additional uncertainty, and our fuses are not only short, but our communication and planning are being compromised.
Not to overlook the unique financial hardships that are being experienced by those of you who are single, if you’re partnered (or merely curious about planning for couples), consider tuning into the workshop together to help you both “up” your planning and communication baselines.
They’ll also be a virtual Q&A period at the end.
That said, when it comes to your retirement—aside from the importance of planning and communication—we’ve also researched what makes people happy once they retire.
What follows are 4 key,non-financial aspects of achieving happiness during retirement that everyone needs to consider.
Prosperity: It’s how you feel about your financial situation.
Everyone worries about money. But is there a point where you can you come to terms with it and learn to let some of that worry go?
Prosperity is about doing the work—the financial planning and saving, the delegating, the accepting what you can and can’t control—so you reach a place where you are confident about your financial situation.
In a way, prosperity is an emotion much like happiness or sadness. It’s a feeling or sense of well-being.
The key for us folks who hate surprises and love control is to learn to understand that a feeling of prosperity is something we can cultivate.
To be prosperous is to thrive. And while that means that each of us has our own definition—it’s personal—our experience has shown us that the people who report feeling prosperous are those people who create plans with tangible goals, and then, relatively speaking, stick to them and embrace the outcome.
People: They matter because they do.
I have a friend who discusses his father a great deal. After health concerns forced the father to suddenly retire, this introspective dad went into a deep depression.
That is not uncommon.
For many of us, work is our connection to people. It reinforces who we are, builds our self-esteem, and gets our adrenaline pumping.
What I encourage people who are over 50 to do is to make certain you’re developing a social life outside of your career. It’s not merely being friendly with neighbors (but that’s a good thing, too). Difficult as reaching out and meeting new people may seem, you need to plan your retirement social life the same way you’ve planned your financial, educational and professional lives. And that includes memberships, clubs, associations, charity work: anything that keeps you in touch with lots of healthy, interesting people.
Purpose: It starts the day off right.
Once you retire, you might want to celebrate and take it easy. Maybe start sleeping in.
But consider this: For almost 60 years, you’ve gotten up most mornings, gone to school, and later work, and probably also kept a family on track.
That’s a lot of scheduling.
With children out of the house (or generally more self-sufficient), and no clock to punch, time can blur, and urgency can vanish. But remember, you’ve spent your life going places and being accountable.
And those are important habits that not everyone should break.
My experience has been that people who are passionate about something—golf, travel, gardening, mountain climbing, the gym, volunteering, writing, elective or part-time work, bird watching—whatever puts wind in your sails, those people whose purpose gets them out the door in the morning are generally happier.
Health and Wellness: Go with what you got.
Reasonable health is a key to happiness during retirement.
And, if I could recommend one thing to help keep you healthy longer, it would be to take a daily walk.
Walking is low impact, it improves mood, balance, and endurance, it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and being outside near plants and trees fills your lungs with fresh, soothing oxygen.
As an added inducement, walking is not only free, if you have a course around your neighborhood that you particularly like, you’ll start to see familiar faces and even make friends along the way.
Prosperity. People. Purpose. Health and Wellness.
Remember, retirement can last 30-years, or more. And if you’ve spent your life on a schedule, it’s likely that your happiest retirement experience may, certainly for a good while, need to more closely resemble the intensity of your career life than the laid back “Hollywood version” we see so often on TV.
Your retirement will indeed be your time. But it doesn’t come with instructions.
Simply, plan for happiness in your post career life and you’re much more likely to find it.