How to cultivate a happier retirement

Researchers have identified several factors other than money that contribute to a happier retirement, including good health, strong relationships, and a sense of purpose.

But setbacks are inevitable, in life and in retirement. Not everyone enjoys good health, and no one enjoys it forever. Loved ones die or move on. The activities that he thought would give his life meaning may not be possible or not at all: think of all the activities and plans canceled due to the pandemic.

Still, many retirees remain happy despite hardships, and research indicates that their psychological attitudes help determine how well they cope with change.

“Mindset is key, and it’s one of those things that’s in your control,” says Joe Casey, retirement and executive advisor, author of “Win The Retirement Game: How To Outsmart The 9 Forces That Are Trying To Steal your happiness”.


A 2014 study by two researchers at Kansas State University found that people who are more optimistic tend to be more satisfied with retirement. Study participants’ levels of optimism were measured by their agreement with statements including “In uncertain times, I generally hope for the best” and “In general, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.”

Positive emotions like optimism help people be more resilient and think more creatively, while pessimism can make it more difficult to take productive action or cope with difficult situations, says study lead researcher Sarah Asebedo. , now a professor in the School of Science at Texas Tech University. Financial planning.

But do not despair, pessimists: you can learn to be more optimistic.

“I think certain people may have a disposition toward optimism or pessimism, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change your perspective and change the way you look at a situation,” says Asebedo, who also edits the Journal of Financial Therapy.

Asebedo recommends psychologist Martin EP Seligman’s book, “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life,” which explains cognitive behavioral techniques to combat pessimism. If you need additional or ongoing help, consider talking to a therapist to develop a more optimistic outlook.

“It’s not Pollyannaish’s vision,” explains Casey. “It’s really more of ‘OK, let’s look for the good.'”


While positive thinking in general can help you get through life, positive thinking about aging can actually prolong your life.

A 2002 study led by Yale University professor Becca R. Levy found that people who had a more positive view of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative attitudes. The gap persisted even after the researchers took into account other factors that affect longevity, such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, health and loneliness.

The researchers examined how the study participants’ views of aging predicted their survival up to 23 years later. The 338 men and 322 women aged 50 and older had responded to various statements about aging, including “As you get older, you are less useful” and “I am as happy now as I was when I was younger.”

Positive views about aging had a greater impact on lifespan than many health factors. For example, low blood pressure or low cholesterol each contribute about four years to longevity. Other healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly, add one to three years to life expectancy.

Levy’s research also found that positive views of aging can protect against dementia and help people recover from health problems.

People can change their views by becoming more aware of and challenging negative stereotypes of aging, Levy writes in his book “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live.” She also recommends making intergenerational friendships to combat age discrimination and look for positive role models.


Casey says people can struggle in retirement if they think they’ve stopped evolving and their days of learning new things are behind them. She coaches her clients to develop a “growth mindset” that embraces learning and change.

He points to research by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Dweck found that people who believe their intelligence and talents can be improved, which she calls the growth mindset, tend to be more successful in life than those who believe their abilities are innate, which she calls the fixed mindset.

Casey encourages clients to not only learn, but also challenge themselves. That may mean learning something that takes effort or mastering a skill.

“Dominance gives you a sense of control and gives you a sense of accomplishment, which people often lose when they leave the more professional workplace,” says Casey.

But mastery also requires another aspect of a growth mindset: being willing to risk, accept, and learn from failure. That can be difficult for people who are good at their jobs, says Casey.

“They’re not used to being bad at anything,” he says. “To be good at something, to master something, you have to be bad first.”


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist for NerdWallet, a certified financial planner, and the author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: [email protected] Twitter: @lizweston.


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