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The Best Tips for a Happy Retirement – From Our Members!

Category: Retirement Planning

October 22, 2019 — Sometimes the best advice is right in front of your nose. That revelation hit us while researching a new article on retirement preparation and happiness. As we read past Member comments on various Blog articles, we found an unbelievable trove of collective wisdom! Small wonder, as you are the folks actually living and experiencing retirement – you know the territory.

So, rather than us trying to reinvent the wheel, here is a recent sample of wisdom-filled retirement preparation advice from the people who frequent Topretirements. We apologize if we didn’t select one of yours, because undoubtedly we missed many good ones and didn’t have the room for others. This is just a tiny sample, so we encourage you to go through the “Planning” category on our Blog where there are hundreds and hundreds of great comments on all kinds of retirement topics. Also, you might consider taking our “Retirement Preparation” Quiz to get an idea of the state of your planning (see “Further Reading” at bottom).

Your Wise Comments! (comment and who contributed it in ( ) )

I love retirement and wish I had retired earlier. (bill shan)

—–

My advice: if you can, retire the moment you are eligible. Do not hold out another year or two for a measly couple of hundred dollars more a month in your retirement check. Life is too short. I have seen many retirees not live long after retirement and I am battling my second case of cancer myself right now. Enjoy life while you can! (Mike)

—-

Learning from those events, I realized that I needed to set some specific goals to complete. So now I try to keep a project list going all the time and a goal of completing at least 2 projects each week. When school is out I have a few day trips I want to do with my grandkids. Am also contemplating taking a tax prep course and may work part time during tax season for the next few years. I’m hopeful that over the next year I’ll find ways to embrace retirement. (Genie)

The first step is that you have to recognize that this “aimless” situation. Then you must start doing something to change, to drive yourself. Here are some simple options — there are others. Make a list of your strengths AND your weaknesses (like lack of self-motivation). Make a list of what you like and what you don’t like about being retired. Make a realistic list of what you can do (are able to do) whether you want to do it or not. This list should include ANYTHING! Even watching TV, taking a walk or growing a few tomatoes. What you are trying to do with these things is to find a stimulus. Spend some time doing this — weeks or more. If you have to, make a goal of just getting the lists completed. After you feel you can’t add to your lists, you can start working to develop or to eliminate either traits or tasks. (Rich)

—-

The first day of my Silver Sneakers exercise class the woman standing next to me said “I am a retired high school principal, what did you do?” And I thought, great, is the rest of my life going to be defined by the past? No. Am I going to have to play a new game of who’s more important? No. Frankly, my life is more interesting now that I am free of the burden of making a living and can explore everything I missed in the 9-5 rat race…. And I think it’s ok to take a “gap year” like the kids do in order to wander around aimlessly pursuing anything that tickles your fancy. (Daryl)

In the meantime, I advise anyone approaching retirement (especially those workaholics out there, and you know who you are) to do a lot of soul searching before taking the plunge. It is a HUGE change! (Laura)

—-

Paralysis by analysis will only guarantee that you don’t move, don’t travel, don’t enjoy the earliest part of your remaining years and get stuck in a rut until it’s legitimately too difficult to change. My sister and her 75-year-old husband are “thinking” about making a change in 5 years. Ever the indelicate younger brother, I asked, “What do you think your lifespan is?”  The move they’re considering should have been made ten years ago. They are in a house with stairs. Her knees and hips are giving out. I guess a tumble down a flight of stairs is a quick way to avoid planning for the future, but it’s kind of a drag, don’t you think? (Vic)

We began a spreadsheet, looked up data, made notes, compared expenses, talked to people and read forums like this one. We made a trip up in 2015 with a list of things to check out in a week. We estimated costs and worked with two Financial Reps to make sure we could generate enough income to survive then ended up in Maine 1-1/2 years ago and LOVE IT!!!! We both feel like we’ve come home! (Flatearth6)

We did our homework (here and retirement magazines) and planning (traveling to all our favorite spots) and are thrilled with our final decision and two different lifestyles. We combined our love of warm weather and also our desire to stay close to family in the Midwest by having two home bases. Life is exciting. But I can’t stress enough that you must plan many years in advance to pull off a big change. Four real estate transactions in 15 months was not fun, but that’s all in the past now. (kathi)

—-

(responding to a comment about feeling old and a non-person:) I read an article years ago about dressing up when buying a car—they treat you with more respect. America is all about image, not substance. Dress and act like you’re still the CEO when you go out. It works. I’ve reprimanded plenty about their attitude, and surprised the crap out of them. Doctors are the worst, in my experience. (daryl)

—-

Many thoughts. The first being an ability to roll with the punches. Someone said “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you, ” that will determine how content you are with your life. Part of the reason things seem to have worked out is due to a commitment to debt free living, and starting the retirement relocation search many years in advance. (Thank you TR!) We were told by someone this regarding retirement, “Everyday’s a Saturday! ” They were absolutely correct! No regrets here! (caps)

—-

After 5 years I returned to part time work in the community fixing computers, installing new setups, training users and teaching tech classes. The money was welcomed after the 2008 recession. I did learn that you spend more money in retirement than you might think you will. Free time means you want to travel more, shop, entertainment events, dining out, etc. and things like golf are expensive. So, here I am 20 years later and I work about 20 hours a week, still love that. It keeps my brain sharp, learning new things, with a nice little income stream and I control my schedule. It feeds my need to accomplish and feel needed. (ljtucson)

—-

If you won’t have enough money the time to be creative is sooner, not later. Don’t hope that things will magically improve. They won’t. Proactively do what needs doing. Get a roommate, downsize, see about a part-time job even if it’s only seasonal to start with. Use YouTube and blogs to learn simple household fixes and how to cook inexpensively using ingredients like flour, dried (not canned) beans, fresh in-season produce, etc. When something needs replacing, check out thrift stores and Craigslist. If you don’t have heaps of money, take heart. I have a couple of friends who are multi-millionaires, a few friends who are barely scraping by, and lots who are in between. Unless money is in such short supply that the situation is dire, it seems to barely affect people’s happiness index, retirees included. There are plenty of miserable people sailing the world in cruise ship suites and plenty of happy ones pushing little children on swings in the park. Joy is rarely based on circumstances. We bring it along to whatever situations we face. (Jcarol)

—–

At any rate, adding some cushion to your expense estimates is wise. All of this really requires some kind of risk taking. Each person or couple needs to decide the level of risk they are comfortable assuming.
One big thing to realize is that planning is, or should be, an ongoing exercise even after retirement. At least annually retirees should evaluate where they are and if they need to adjust anything. In my opinion, there will always be some short term (1 to 5 years) and long term evaluation needed. And this should be happening a long time before you retire also. (mejask)

Downsize & purge: you need less stuff & less house than you think you do…really! Purge your stuff well in advance (1-2yrs) of retirement, and be ruthlessly practical about how much space you really need to live in. Note: Our personal example is that my wife & I live in less than half the space we did before retiring. It’s one of the ways we were able to live in the much more expensive location we desired. (Mark)

Bottom line: Thanks to all of you great people for your collective wisdom – this is amazing advice for anyone. Now, this is your chance to add more tips in the Comments section below. What has worked for you, what didn’t, what are you still worried about.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on October 21st, 2019

25 Comments »

  1. JCarol summed it up perfectly in her last two sentences “Joy is rarely based on circumstances. We bring it along to whatever situations we face.” Continuing on that theme, people who were happy in the past will most likely continue to be happy and those were weren’t will really need to work on it. So what can make you happy? First step is SMILE! (even if it’s forced). It seems that the mere act of putting a smile on makes people feel happy (read all about it here https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/smiling-happy1.htm ) another area that strongly suggests a link to happiness (or anxiety, depression, ect.) is the microbiome, those trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut. What you eat is on factor that determines what species thrive in the gut, so make sure to eat lots of plants and avoid processed foods as much as possible ( read about it here https://www.well.org/nutrition/your-gut-microbiome-a-source-of-happiness-or-anxiety/ ) in addition getting outdoors every day, even if only for a short walk and getting the right amount of sleep are also associated with happiness. We can’t always control what happens even with good planning but we can control how we react to what happens.

    by jean — October 22, 2019

  2. Jean, you are very right. As for the smile — so easy and many just don’t recognize it’s power. I learned 52 years ago as a shy sophomore when my big smile at a friend’s joke came just as I happened to meet eyes as we passed the newly chosen Homecoming Queen. Her face just lit up in response. Since then, even when unhappy, I try to help someone else’s day with a smile. BTW, I never actually met the girl who gave me that great experience.

    I will add one positive step toward greater happiness anyone can make. Get a pet you can interact with and learn to properly care for it. Despite many tragedies with my dogs over the years, they all have given back so much in companionship and joy.

    by RichPB — October 23, 2019

  3. After being suddenly widowed at 56 I sold the house and moved to myrtle beach with my daughter. 3 years later I retired gave the kids what they would take, sold the rest and took off in a new motor home. Was I scared. Yes I had never driven one but loved the freedom of being someplace new almost daily. After traveling all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico I finally remarried and bought a home in California. I did time on the board of our HOA, we enjoyed golf, cards and many trips to foreign lands. 15 years later I was widowed again so moved back to Ohio near family. I am in the sunset of my life but still enjoy traveling and spending the cold months in a warm climate. I have absolutely no regrets retiring early and wish everyone could. Like Mike said those few extra dollars for working longer don’t mean a thing if you don’t live to spend them. You never have to be bored as there’s a whole big world to see and get involved in. And don’t let the wonderful grandchildren hold you back. They have a life of their own.

    by Ellen Elizabeth Brantley — October 23, 2019

  4. I’m in a conundrum. We moved to a local condo (New York) to be rid of the maintenance, however there is no community center or planned activities/equipment. This is not a retirement area. Most people, including us, have family in the area. We just want maintenance free living so it works for that. I work part time just to keep sane. My husband basically watches tv and we go out to dinner with friends occasionally. I would like more activities and to escape at least during the winter months. My husband is not that social and we both agree that full time living down south is not for us. I believe we could swing two places or even rent for three months or so somewhere warm. We do have a pet who despises any kind of change, so to travel back and forth for the winter would be difficult. I never thought that this was going to be my retirement. How can I convince him that we can afford to go away for the winter and that we aren’t getting any younger?

    by Cathy — October 23, 2019

  5. Cathy, Have you thought about taking a trip without him? If you have grands who would like Disney World perhaps get a little family trip planned in the winter and go with or without him. Or if you are in touch with some retired friends plan a week or two someplace warm with them, husband will be home to dogsit. Or, go on a trip solo. Road Scholar ( formerlt elder hostle) offers trips geared to many interests and if you want an organized trip and you probably wont be the only single traveller in the group. Maybe at somepoint he will decide to join you but if not, enjoy doing something you want to do sometimes!

    by Jean — October 24, 2019

  6. Cathy, there are also companies that organize travel just for women. If you seach ” womens travel” youll find links to a number of companies that offer such travel opportunies.

    by Jean — October 24, 2019

  7. After being home for 2 years fighting cancer, I realized that I am not happy being “retired”. For me, and many like me, working gives me purpose and meaning, which translates to real happiness. Maybe it is a generational thing, or a reflection of my political and religious beliefs, but I have never been one to be content at leisure. I do not have grandchildren and I am divorced, so when I was offered a very good job at the age of 68, I jumped at the chance. I am now back to work full time and loving life again. I am not in the high pressure career that I once had, but in a very meaningful and challenging career. I have many friends who are miserable in their retirements, and to them I say, get busy again!

    Editor’s comment: Good for you Maimi, and well said. Glad to hear you say you are loving life again!

    by maimi — October 25, 2019

  8. To Maimi: I too “retired” for 4 years. Although I did volunteer work and we did some traveling it just wasn’t enough. I am an RN with over 45 years experience and to my delight someone hired me at the age of 73. I am only working 2 days a week. Once a nurse always a nurse!

    by Kathy — October 26, 2019

  9. To each his own….been retired for 6 years after working in a High stressed job and enjoying my retirement and don’t plan on going back to work. I have too many interests that I didn’t have time to pursue when I was working. I was counting the days until I could retire…..

    by Mary11 — October 26, 2019

  10. We hear from people who say they are so happy in retirement, don’t have time to rest because they are so busy. And there is another group that is bored with it. Where do you stand, and what are the things you do that you love, and what is it you miss?

    by Admin — October 27, 2019

  11. I have been retired for 6 years and my wife just retired. We use what we call the S plan. Skill (go learn something) we just took a wine class Social (you may need to push yourself to do this) We belong to Wine Group and a Dinner Club. Sweat (stay in the best shape you can) Any weekday we don’t golf we go to the gym. Share (give some of.your money or time) We were walking to the movies and stopped to talk to a man and his dog. I gave him the $10 in my pocket. I was going to buy 2 glasses of wine. We got water instead. This simple plan has worked well for us

    by Jim — October 27, 2019

  12. I too, find three days a week is enough work for me. I volunteer on Fridays and Sundays at a local Historic property. I am also a former surgery nurse, but while my new work is medically related to my nursing career, I have always done administrative work as well and do so in my part-time job. My skills stay sharp and I have learned many more in a new specialty (for me), Oral Surgery & Dentistry. Luckily, my employer let me write my own ticket and I work three (Mon-Tues-Wed) consecutive eight hour days, depending on patient workload. I do work for the money since I will not receive a pension.

    Wednesday night has become my new Friday night and I get teased by my friends about this. Between this and volunteering I still have plenty of time to pursue my own interests, and take care of my home.

    by Jennifer — October 27, 2019

  13. I retired 3 years ago. I moved from the Midwest to Tucson area and have never looked back. I am now on my hoa board, three committees of a nonprofit organization, and most importantly, I have discovered a new passion, art. I make hand sculpted and carved ceramics and dichroic glass jewelry. I also wirewrap and make chain mail. My little hobby is called The Third Act, which is what it feels like to me. It is not profitable, but I love every minute of it. I also have more time with my dog and my friends, as well as for travel and reading. Could I use more money? Sure, but I prefer my lifestyle to money. Call me a very happy retiree.

    by Patricia reynolds — October 27, 2019

  14. Love these comments, thanks! How about anyone who is bored with retirement – I don’t think that has to be a stigma or poor reflection, it might just be you. Love to hear from everybody on this.

    by Admin — October 27, 2019

  15. I can’t really speak for those who are bored or simply not satisfied with their retirement, though I have met a number who have expressed that. In my case it mostly seems that their jobs were the all-comsuming force in their lives and they did not find things other than a retirement job to fill the vacuum.

    I do have a somewhat different perspective than most responding so far — extended retirement time. My wife and I have now been retired for more than 16 years. We retired on the proverbial “shoestring” — bad market results would have pushed us to our minimum bearable budget (determined before agreeing to retire) and the need to go back to work after six months or so (as we actually expected on retiring). But both of us found by that time that were were far too busy — we met the “how did we ever find time to work” issue. Fortunately, the markets held for us (we did self-manage our investments to make that happen) and we were never forced back to work. To different levels at different times we have volunteered for charitable, community and political interests. My wife finds that training others to assist in her volunteer efforts is a continuing and renewing major activity. Part of my retirement plan from the start was to do all that I could to maintain and improve our home and property so we could avoid those costs. Fortunately I have the skills and love for physical work to successfully do that and have added to those skills. There are a number of skills (like plumbing) I don’t have and in some cases physical limitations prevent me from doing things like laying tile any longer. Fortunately, the savings from woodworking, electrical improvements and just plain yard work have allowed hiring the people properly skilled and able to take care of those needs. The result is that I’ve committed the time to reap savings amounting to many thousands of dollars (plus the associated investment income form not using those funds). I have had more than enough activity to keep me interested and busy and we have significant home and property improvements that added to our escrow value. Still, it has surprised me how many folks in the past year have asked about the age of our 27-year-old home is — most think is is only a few years old.

    As time (age) progresses, all this will all definitely be reduced, but the benefits have accrued. Yes, the skills needed are great to have, but anyone can take local community college classes or do the on-line research to learn and practice new skills. As a very minor example, I literally just saved about $1000 just by spending a few hours updating my electrical knowledge to allow a new installation. There are many other things such as concrete work that can be learned from reading and ample practice. (Our large, stand-alone deck has more than 40 footers that have held for for over 25 years.) Woodworking, electrical and, yes, even plumbing can be learned by most with some dedicated time and effort. After, what better retirement activity?

    by RichPB — October 27, 2019

  16. I love the “S” plan and will be remembering that moving forward. So simple and really smart – another “S”. I retired in May of 2017 after 30 years in education. Started to draw my pension and just de-stress. After a year and a half I looked up a friend still working in education and asked if they needed help part time in administration. They do and I worked two or three days a week. Then my friend moved to another district and I was asked to fill her job. This meant full time, but they made me an offer I could not refuse. Full pensions and full salary. I have a kid in college and I shared that when she is done it is a hard stop for me. Pouring money into our investments while I do this. I loved my time away from the stress of work and it helped me re-center. I loved doing projects around the house and got a ton of projects done that I had put on hold when I was too busy. Now I have to hire someone to complete the things I didn’t get done, but I feel like I now have a really good idea what retirement is actually going to be like. I was never bored! My wife is still working and we know more clearly what things will be like when we actually do retire for good. We know that we are blessed to be able to control our situation and, while I am enjoying my new job, I know that the time for a great retirement is ahead and I get to control when it starts for good! Looking forward to every day being Saturday again!

    by Chris — October 27, 2019

  17. I’ve been retired for a while and have never been bored; I even “schedule” total veg-out days when things get too busy (we introverts relish time by ourselves). I golf with a ladies league one day a week and with husband at least one other day, take pottery lessons at the local arts center one day a week and volunteer there occasionally. Living within an hour or two of my former home allows for frequent lunches with old friends, family and former colleagues. When I’m at home I listen to podcasts on my ipad -( there are so many free podcasts available to subscribe to it is amazing) while gardening or doing chores. I’ve taken care to address the things I miss about work. I worked for a large pharma company and loved learning about the latest in the science behind new medicines so now I read pharma and biotech blogs and subscribe to science news and medical news websites. As for the social aspect of work, I meet work friends for lunch and parties at least on day a month and also keep in touch on social media.
    There are other things I’d like to try but for now need to leave them for less busy time 🙂

    by jean — October 27, 2019

  18. I like reading all the comments and I wonder if it makes a difference for single people? I think that for me, it surely does. I am sure that if I was still married, I would not have experienced the loneliness of retirement and would have a companion and much more money to travel and do fun things. Any other single people feel the same?

    by Maimi — October 27, 2019

  19. Well, we tried retiring, moved closer to grandkids. We enjoyed being involved with their activities, no question about that. It’s the rest of the time…my husband is so good at putzing. He can stay busy with his projects. Me? not so much…my interests are gardening and cooking. That leaves a lot of hours left over in the day. We aren’t hikers, don’t do museums and sightseeing and are not volunteers. My worth, I guess you could say, was in my job. So I got the opportunity to get the old job back and back to the panhandle in Florida we went from the midwest. We don’t want to end up here either. Our or maybe just “my” problem is, I don’t know what to do or where to go. We like traveling but it’s not the sightseeing…it’s just the bumming around, shopping and trying a new restaurant. We are 70 and 71…I don’t know where to look for the answers. Time’s a ticking. I want to be happy. I just don’t know how to get there.

    by Brenda — October 29, 2019

  20. Being single has enhanced my retirement. No spouse or kids to consider in where I moved, just my owns desires. Everything I decided was my choice alone and being single makes it so easy to get out and find new friends and activities. And my dog is happy to have a much smaller house where she can find me when she wants a treat.

    by Pat Reynolds — October 30, 2019

  21. Brenda, While you’re back at your job and wondering what to do next once you retire again why not try some new things? Both cooking and gardening have a creative element to them so you might find enjoyment in some art class, painting, pottery, etc. Many adult schools or art centers offer classes at reasonable costs so there’s little risk. I recently started pottery and love it! my fellow students are mostly retirees and about 1/3 are new to the area like me. My creations are basically a hot mess but I have a lot of fun making them (and I cant wait to see the faces on those to whom they are gifted ) 🙂 The comments under many of the topics on this site also often include activities people fill their time with. Check them out and even if they aren’t 100% what you might want some might be worth a try. Two things I’ve learned over the years that get me doing things are “don’t over think”‘ and avoid ever saying “yes but”; both are thought-habits that aren’t helpful.

    by jean — October 30, 2019

  22. There are the people that are happily retired and those that are bored. But there’s another group that gives me pause. That’s the (healthy) group that had plans to do all these hobbies and activities, and then they retired and spend their days sitting/sleeping on the sofa. Often that leaves the other spouse unhappy and frustrated. I saw this with my parents. I don’t want to sound negative, but I think this is a very real issue for some retired people.

    by Janet — October 31, 2019

  23. Retirement is what you make of it. Like a bowl, you can fill it any way you want. Adopt healthier habits than you perhaps could while working full-time. Rest for a while , bit do not make it a major part of the day. I do a lot of chores in the mornings, when I am at home. On the afternoon three days per week, I do research on any topic I wish to expand my horizons. With the rest of the week, I am working part time or volunteering.

    by Jennifer — November 1, 2019

  24. Brenda, I agree with Jean. Just go out and try a lot if stuff. You liked being involved with your grandkids’ activities, maybe some volunteer opportunities with the schools or scouts. Libraries around here always have something going on, whether a day trip, essential oils, paranormal, the sillier the better—makes for some great stories. I could fill a book with anecdotes from my stint in Meal-on-Wheels alone. Find a way to hang out with kindred souls and laugh. I hear the best stories (and advice) in our senior exercise classes. Let your husband happily putter around, find yourself some gal-pals with good attitudes and go have fun. You might not want to move after all.

    by Daryl — November 1, 2019

  25. Daryl and Jennifer — Right On! In the end it’s up to each individual to actively find what is right for them. Hopefully, they will consider the desires and needs of any partner(s), but each is responsible for themself. The opportunities are there. Very few will be found just sitting in front of a TV. (Among those few would be the home theater geek who has found peace and paradise. I understand that, but personally can take only so much of peace and paradise. :<))

    by RichPB — November 2, 2019

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