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Retirement Happiness Levels High – And Great Advice for Next Generation

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

January 13, 2020 — Many thanks to the over 400 members who took the time to contribute their valuable insights to last week’s “Retirement Happiness” survey, We appreciate your spirit of giving back to this community!

As promised, here is a detailed report on the survey. We’ve included links to hundreds of interesting Member responses to various questions – they are definitely worth reading to get a better understand happiness and retirement. At the end of the article you will find a list of reports to all our previous surveys.

This is the first time we have surveyed on your retirement happiness. Here are the highlights from the 18 question poll. Detailed findings the questions are listed below that.

This biggest, and most satisfying takeaway from this survey is that most of our Members filling out the survey are happy in retirement: 83% are happy, very happy, or extremely happy (with 22% being extremely happy). Most every other aspect of retirement seems to be going well too: quality of life, relationship to spouse, control over your life, and purpose in life — all were rated positively by most people. Retirement seems to be a good thing for Topretirements members, or at least the ones who filled out this survey.

Retirement status. Most people taking the survey are retired (87%), with the remainder either partially so or not yet. The most common age to become retired is between 60-69 (63%), followed by 50-59 (28%). Some 52% have been retired for 5 or more years. Of that, 20% have been retired for 10 or more years. For those people who have a spouse, their partner is also retired (67% in total, compared to 14% whose spouse is not retired or partially so. 19% of those taking the survey do not have a spouse.

Decision to retire. We had two questions that tried to assess how happy you are in your decision to retire, and who/what drove that decision. It turns out most people felt they retired at the right time (70%). As for whose decision it was to retire, 72% said it was their own choice. Some 14% were forced into retirement and 5% had to quit working because of medical reasons.

Planning. Very few people expressed dissatisfaction with their pre-retirement planning. Even 35% said it was “Excellent”, and 41% said it was good. Our takeaway is that people who frequent Topretirements are much more likely to be planners than people in the general retirement age population.

Factors affecting retirement happiness. Of the 10 factors we asked you to rate in terms of driving your retirement happiness, the top 2 highest rated were financial and home. Not too surprisingly, having enough money and living in the right kind of home seem key to a successful retirement. The factors with the lowest ratings were social life, medical, and travel. It seems to make sense that not having a good social life or poor health could lead to unhappiness.
Favorite activities. Four activities were at the top of those contributing to retirement happiness: travel, social activities, walking, sports. It is interesting that travel was bimodal – rated high by many (probably those who travel), but also very low by many others (not everyone travels). But it was clear that you all enjoy a bewildering array of activities – more about that in the detailed findings below.

-Best advice for young people. There were hundreds of comments made about what leads to retirement happiness. Financial and a sense of independence are key. Problems that contribute to unhappiness are health, family and spouse relationships, and a lack of control.

Detailed Findings
1. Is your spouse retired
Most of our members and visitors taking the survey who have a spouse say he or she is also retired.

2. Retirement Age
More Topretirements members (63%) are between the ages of 60 and 69 than any other age. Almost everyone else in the survey was evenly split between 50 and 59, or 70 to 79.

3. Timing or your retirement
Most people feel that they retired at the right time, while very few wished they had retired earlier.

4. Quality of life in retirement.
We were pleasantly surprised by how people rated the quality of life in retirement. Over 65% said it was better than in their working days, and another 23% said it was about the same.

5. Relationship to spouse – the marriage will survive!

The most common response to this question was that the relationship to their spouse was about the same as before retirement (43%). Happily, 27% said it was better, and only 10% said it was worse.

6. So many activities!
Wow, you folks are involved in so many activities of so many types. Once we started listing all we got dizzy!

Ranked up at the top of favorite retirement activities were: travel, social, walking, and sports. Church and volunteering were down at the bottom.

Then we asked you to list your favorite retirement pursuits, and were delighted to get 178 responses. Of those, the ones most frequently listed were: crafts/hobbies, golf, exercise (of all types), biking, spouse/family, and pickleball. Some interesting responses were: field trips with girlfriends, motorcycles, and gardening. We don’t know if two people were kidding or not, but they listed sex (good for them if they were serious).

7. You’ve got purpose
You show a general level of satisfaction about purpose in retirement. We were a little worried that many people would feel a lack of purpose, but that was not borne out. About half (52%) have the same level of purpose now that they are retired, with the rest about evenly split between less purpose and more purpose.

8. In control of your own retirement happiness – words to live by!
There was even better news in the responses to this question. Almost two-thirds (63% of respondents felt they were “quite a bit” in control of their own retirement happiness. Only 13% felt neutral or not in control. No wonder respondents feel so good in retirement, they are in control. There were an amazing 237 write in responses to what makes you feel in control or not. You can read them all here. But some of the ones most frequently named contributors were: health of self or family member, financial issues, and attitude. A very high number of people cited attitude and having the power to act independently as key to making your own happiness. Words to live by.

An interesting positive comment was” “Moved to a place where peers are equal”. A negative reason was this one: “Relocated to an area my spouse wanted & I don’t like. Can’t afford to travel and do other activities I would enjoy.”

9. Chinks in the happiness levels
Although in general our survey takers seem to be very happy, there are some chinks in the armor, as evidenced by almost 300 write-in comments. There were many positive contributors to happiness like those already mentioned (independence, financial strength, etc.). But many people were worried about their relationship to their spouse, their lack of purpose, and health issues – showing that nothing is perfect in retirement paradise.

10. Your advice to young people about retirement
There were so many thoughtful comments – almost 300 in all! It should be a required course for young working people to read through them. They range from the financial to the practical to the philosophical: Save big and often, stay married, live your life like you mean it, plan – it’s later than you think!

I believe this can be attributed to Jan Cullinane – Answer these three questions – Do you have enough? Have you had enough? Will you have enough to do? When your answer to all three is YES, you can retire. Keep those questions in mind when planning for retirement.

A comment attributed to Jan Cullinane

Bottom line: We congratulate our members who enjoy their retirement happiness. For those less fortunate – keep up the faith – it is never too late to change things! Thanks for taking this survey.

Links to Previous Surveys

Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on January 12th, 2020


  1. Interesting survey. The only surprises to me are that people retired in their 50’s, which were my highest earning years.

    by Maimi — January 13, 2020

  2. M aimi, I as many others had to retire in their 50s mostly because it was a forced retirement. I was laid off and then needed to become a full time caregiver for my parent.

    by Mary11 — January 13, 2020

  3. Maimi, When I retired I walked away from an amazing career and even questioned my own sanity in doing so LOL. As in all major decisions it came down to thoughtfully evaluating goals, weighing the pros and cons, lots of introspection, etc. I’ve been able to do things that I woud have missed had I kept working and maintaining social contact with former colleagues (some retired long before me) keeps one of the best aspects of work going.

    by Jean — January 13, 2020

  4. Acronym FIRE, { Financial Independence Retire Early } is very popular today. Basically, the FIRE movement is on fire. Many people are retiring as early as possible. There are a lot of very young tech titans all over the country with massive stock options, who have decided to cash out and leave the corporate life for travel and adventure. The FIRE movement is real and has a very large following of people with the goal of retiring as early as possible.

    by Bubbajog — January 13, 2020

  5. Admin. can you post a link to what activities and what advice to young people was given? I think many of us would like to see that information.

    I am in the same boat as Mary11. I ‘retired’ in my late 50’s because of a corporate lay off. I never found another job that appealed to me and in the end my family member became sick.

    Some people are able to retire when they are in their 50’s because they were financially able to do so. Some also make foolish mistakes. It is human nature.

    From Jane at Topretirements: Thanks for asking Louise. The replies to this question are there, and you will find the link at the very bottom of #10 “See All 300 Advice to Young People”. Full of great advice!

    by Louise — January 14, 2020

  6. Miami and Bubbajog, I am one of those who followed the FIRE movement and retired at the age of 52. By far the BEST decision I have ever made and I have never looked back. My job was very stressful and my work was not appreciated, so it was simply a means of paying the bills and saving for a retirement that couldn’t come soon enough. Longevity is not in my family and I wanted to have some years where I called the shots for a change and be young enough to enjoy them. As it turned out, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness just before my retirement, which, although manageable, is exacerbated by stress. Just after my retirement, I was diagnosed with another condition that required a massive surgery and with some complications, took the better part of my first year of retirement in recovery. I wouldn’t have been able to have kept my job through all of that and felt grateful that I had prepared so well. That issue behind me and the chronic one under control, I have found a great sense of purpose and satisfaction in volunteering, am able to take better care of myself, travel when I want to (not when it was convenient for my boss), and spend my time doing things that I want to do (I have a lot of hobbies and make a point to be social and active). I love my life and I am happy. Following the frugality and simple living movements of past decades made the FIRE movement an attainable goal. Yes, you make choices, but for me the motivation was always FREEDOM!!

    by Shauna — January 14, 2020

  7. My husband and I would have liked to retire at about age 55 together. We probably could have done it if we had not been extravagant in some areas of our life. I don’t really regret some of the things we did. We did take some wonderful vacations and enjoyed them tremendously. However, we did manage to save a lot too. My advice to younger people is don’t get sucked into the mentality that you have to have the biggest house on the block, the newest car off the lot. All the tv commercials that entice you to buy things. Every single holiday the tv is screaming to us to buy, buy, buy! Mattress sales that shout that this is the last mattress sale on earth. Just back away from all the nonsense! All the experts tell us to work till we are 66-67 to collect full Social Security. Well, young people now can’t imagine at their tender age of 35 that in about 15 years, they will be considered as ‘old’ and the first ones to be given a package to leave. My advice is to save like your life depended on it. Your current job might be the last job you work at that pays well so save now! Everyone thinks that they will leave a job when ‘they’ want to leave it. A lot of times that is true, but a lot of times the company has other ideas.

    by Louise — January 15, 2020

  8. While my “age” says that I can retire(68)and I have already begun to consider being one of those “snowbirds” to FL from VT-my question is around not what to “volunteer” wise-I am hoping to continue to work part-time in some compacity in a college/university or high school. What links are out there that might help those of us who prolong retirement BECAUSE they love their current position. Thank you for replying!

    by Dr. Martha Mathis — January 15, 2020

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