Retire with a Smile: 10 Surprising Secrets to a Happy Retirement

couple enjoying happy retirement on the beach

Couple on the beach | iStock.com

Some people who dreamed they’d leave all their worries behind once they quit working are finding retirement isn’t quite as blissful as they dreamed it would be. Fewer than half of current retirees describe their retirement as “very satisfying,” the Employee Benefits Research Institute found, down from 61% in 1998.

Retirement satisfaction is falling across the board. Both wealthy and not-so-wealthy retirees were less happy in retirement than their counterparts in the late ’90s, though the richer retirees were more satisfied overall. Money, it seems, isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to enjoying a happy retirement. Even the rich can find themselves with a frown on their faces if they make planning mistakes.

It’s not clear what’s causing the dip in retirement satisfaction, but part of the problem might be the nature of retirement is changing, and it’s taking people’s expectations a while to catch up. Retirements can stretch for decades, health care costs are rising, and people are more likely to want (or need) to keep a foot in the working world rather than transitioning to a life of full-time leisure.

“What we’re seeing is that retirement, the word itself is changing,” Andrew Rafal, president and founder of Bayntree Wealth Advisors and co-author of Climbing the Retirement Mountain and Getting Safely Down the Other Side, said in a phone interview with The Cheat Sheet. “We look at someone that’s maybe worked in the corporate world, and their purpose over 30 or 40 years was their job. They did very well at it. [Now] it’s trying to envision what these next 30 years could look like.”

That transition from worker bee to chilled-out retiree isn’t always simple. Although retirement boosts happiness overall, some retirees are happier than others. What separates the happy from the miserable? The people who have the biggest smiles on their faces in retirement are clued in to the following 10 secrets about retirement.