Can you imagine having the opportunity to study two decades worth of retirement research, and gleaning the keys to a great retirement from the experts? I recently had that opportunity when I took the time to read a 90-page study titled “The Experience Of The Transition To Retirement”, a study that filtered through 1,800 research papers!Pulling from two decades of retirement research, here are The 5 Keys To A Great Retirement. Click To Tweet
Today, I’m summarizing the results from that study and presenting to you 5 Keys To A Great Retirement, along with additional findings from this extensive research.
Using Research To Improve Retirement
The goal of this research project was to understand what led to successful retirement transitions and to “better understand how best to help individuals navigate this transition”, as well as “how to improve the quality of post-retirement life”. Valuable information from which you, the reader, can benefit.
Before I present The 5 Keys To A Great Retirement, there are some findings in the study which I found interesting. For the sake of brevity, below is a list in bullet form. Note that the study did focus on gender/socioeconomic/ethnic/cultural differences, so it’s best to read the findings with that in mind:
- 25% of retirees experience difficulties in the transition to retirement.
- Men tend to have more positive attitudes toward retirement and be more engaged in planning for retirement than women.
- Based on the studies, women appear to have greater difficulty in adjusting to retirement than men.
- Those in higher Socioeconomic positions tend to work longer than those in lower positions.
- Being married is associated with greater preparedness and a more proactive approach to planning for retirement.
- Where work is important to an individual’s identity, retirement causes more conflict and anxiety.
- Nearly half of those aged 50 and over said that they expect to retire later than they had thought they would.
- Governments from around the world have enacted policies that seek to reverse an ‘early exit culture’ and extend the length of people’s working lives, maintaining economic productivity and reducing social spending.
5 Keys To A Great Retirement
Yes, there was a lot of interesting information in those 90 pages (trust me, I read every page). Boiling it all down, below are my takeaways on what comprises the 5 Keys To A Great Retirement.
1. Control Your Destiny
The first finding was that those who felt they had the most control over their retirement decision were also those that most enjoyed their transition into retirement. To quote the study:
“One of the most consistent and convincing findings in this review is that a sense of control is associated with positive retirement outcomes.”
While you may feel that you don’t control your retirement as much as you’d like, the reality is that there are a lot of areas in your retirement planning where you can influence the results. Simply taking the time to prepare for your transition into retirement (See Key #2) is, in itself, exerting some control over your destiny.
Don’t leave your retirement to chance.
Given that you’re reading a blog on retirement, you’re likely ahead of your peers in tackling the first of these Keys To A Great Retirement. You’re taking control of your retirement, and your retirement will be better as a result.
2. Imagine What Your Retirement Will Be
The second of the 5 Keys To A Great Retirement was the finding that those who took time before retirement to imagine what their retirement would be were also those most likely to have a good retirement. Think beyond finances. Finances play a small role post-retirement, and yet most folks think most about the financial implications of retirement when preparing for the transition.
Broaden your scope, and spend time thinking about what you want your retirement to be. Dedicate some time, while you’re still working, to take a Test Run At Retirement like my wife and I did. Take some time to think about:
- What will your life look like when work is no longer mandatory?
- How will you spend your time?
- What will give you Purpose?
- Where will you live?
The research indicates that retirement planning “has potentially important consequences”, not just for financial security in retirement, but also ” in promoting satisfaction with, and adjustment to, the retirement lifestyle”.
It’s been proven by the research that planning for retirement while you’re still working is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you’ll have a great retirement. Make it a priority, it’s one of the keys to a great retirement.
3. Develop Retirement Goals
Retirement is a luxury.
For the first time since you started school, you’re free to do whatever you want with your life. It’s also the first time that you’re 100% responsible for deciding how you’re going to spend your time.
Are you going to Die While You’re Living, Or Live While You’re Dead? Decide what retirement means to you, and develop some goals to help you prioritize the things which are most important to you. Focus on what matters to you, and create a plan to do the things you want to do, and avoid doing the things you don’t.
Create an action plan to move your retirement From Good To Great. Create your own 10 Commandments Of Retirement, and outline what really matters for your life in retirement. Recognize that your role and identity will change from when you were a worker with employer-defined goals. You’re now Independent, and you should define your own identity, supported by your own goals.
The third of the keys to a great retirement is to recognize that you’re entering a new phase of Independence in retirement and to create goals that support what you want your new life to be.
4. Don’t Go Solo
Don’t do retirement alone.
Evidence supports the fact that truly happy people tend to be people who are more social. Be intentional in developing your social network in retirement, and realize that folks from work aren’t likely to be a part of your post-retirement life.
For those of you who are single, find ways to get engaged with other folks before you retire. Join community groups with people of similar interests. Volunteer in some organizations that interest you. Check out Meetup.com for activities in your local area. If you’re still working, develop a close friendship with someone who you can share your retirement ideas with. Ask for their input, and incorporate it into your plans.
For those who are married, there is a direct correlation between the amount of collaboration you do with your spouse and your satisfaction with the transition into retirement. Take the time to have some real heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse about their expectations for retirement, and build a plan that both of you support. The transition to retirement affects both partners, and both partners deserve to be involved. Research indicates that “planning together for retirement is also a factor for having better outcomes in retirement”, as well as helping couples in their transition to retirement.
Consider filling a Retirement Activity Jar, where both spouses drop pieces of paper into a jar with activities to try. Once a week, pull an activity. My wife and I have been doing that, and enjoy trying new activities in our new retirement life in an Appalachian mountain town.
5. Have A Positive Outlook
Don’t worry. Be Happy.
Not only the catchy lyrics to a happy song…
…but also a proven way to have a better retirement.
It’s a proven fact that Attitude Affects Outcome. You can choose to have a positive attitude toward retirement, but many people don’t. From the research: “only half of those who were planning to retire in the next five years were looking forward to it, with 41% worried about managing their money; a third concerned about feeling bored (33%) and missing their social connections from work (32%), and nearly a quarter worried about losing their purpose (24%).
Choose to be among the 50% who look forward to retirement. A positive attitude can positively impact your retirement just as surely as a negative attitude can negatively affect it. From the research: “Negative expectations about the consequences of retirement predict difficulties in adjusting both for the person retiring and for their partner.”
“These findings suggest that negative expectations about retirement could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and that consideration of the retirement experience must take into account the partner of the retiring individual.”
We’re all free to choose the attitude with which we live our lives. It’s a choice. Make the right one. Choose To Be Happy, and choose to be excited about retirement. (BTW, did you know that there are 45 Benefits Of Optimism?)
Focus On Health
On a related note, focusing on your health is a great way to improve your attitude. From the study: “good physical health is associated with a range of positive outcomes in retirement such as life satisfaction and quality of
Also from the study: “More recently Barbosa, Monteiro and Murta (2016) classified adjustment predictors into 26 categories. Those that had the greatest impact on adjustment were physical health, finances, psychological health, and personality-related attributes, leisure, voluntary retirement, and social integration.”
Better yet, find a way to improve your health while also building your social network. My wife and I attend a Barre Above class twice a week. Not only are we improving our health, but we’re making a lot of great “classroom friends” in the process. Even better, we’re doing it as a couple, and enjoy our time together in the class.
The fifth and final of the Keys To A Great Retirement?
Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
There you have it, the 5 Keys To A Great Retirement based on extensive research:
- Control Your Destiny
- Imagine What Your Retirement Will Be
- Develop Retirement Goals
- Don’t Go Solo
- Have A Positive Outlook
Pick one or two to work on and make them a focus in the coming weeks. Your retirement will be better as a result.
Your Turn: Which of the 5 keys to a great retirement do you most relate to? Have you intentionally applied any of these keys to improving your retirement? Was it successful? Let’s chat in the comments…