I’ve been retired for more than 4 years, and I’ve learned some secrets along the way.
Most importantly, I’ve learned what it feels like to enjoy a great retirement.
I had high expectations about retirement in my final few years of work, and I’ve found it to be even better than I imagined.
Today I’ll be presenting research that has discovered 7 secrets to a great retirement. As I reviewed the secrets, I realized all 7 are present in my life, and I’m convinced they’ve played a role in my successful retirement.
How many of the secrets are present in your life?Today, 7 secrets to a great retirement. How many of the boxes can you check, and which are you missing? Click To Tweet
7 Secrets to a Great Retirement
What are the secrets to a great retirement?
Is it possible to study retirees who are living great retirements and seek out the common threads? Is there a chance we could work toward incorporating their secrets into our own lives to improve our retirement years? Fortunately, the answer to those questions is “yes,” and today we’re going to do exactly that.
Below are the 7 secrets to a great retirement, as outlined in this article from Kiplinger. You may be surprised that none of the secrets relate to money. (If you’re living a great retirement, you’re probably not surprised at all.) Rather, the real secrets to a great retirement focus on the “softer side” of retirement, and research has now confirmed that it’s from these areas that you’ll find the true secrets. Skeptical? Learn from those who are applying these secrets in their lives before you judge. Based on the data, this is the stuff that really matters.
I know from personal experience that they work.
I’ve written extensively about what I’ve learned that led to my great retirement, but it’s reassuring to see research and a much larger sample size supporting my findings.
With that, the following are the 7 secrets to a great retirement, with photos from my own retirement as “living examples” for each:
Secret #1: Work At Staying Healthy
I’ve never been more intentional about my fitness than I am in retirement, and I don’t need data to tell me it helps. It’s a strange thing to describe, but I can just “feel” it. I’m more energetic than I’ve been in years, and I’m convinced that, just like Chris Crowley demonstrates in Younger Next Year, I’ll be doing the same physical things well into my 70’s that I’m doing today (Lord willing).
From the Kiplinger article: “Studies show that exercise and a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions, increase energy levels, boost your immune system, and improve your mood.”
If you don’t make fitness and exercise an intentional part of your weekly schedule, start now.
What good is that money you’ve saved if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it?
- Do You Know Benton MacKaye? (hiking)
- How To Get In Shape For Retirement (check out my home gym)
- Accept The Challenge! (my 3-mile lake swim)
Secret #2: Foster Strong Social Connections
I’ve read a lot about how people have fewer friends as they age. Strangely, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true in my life. I have more friends now than at any point in my life, driven in large part by the two biggest “Purposes” in my retirement: Freedom For Fido and this blog.
It’s rare that a Friday goes by without someone sending a group text within the “Fido Family” suggesting we have an impromptu meetup at a local microbrew or restaurant. Those informal gatherings are a blast and have become a highlight of our week. It’s fun when a dozen of us “crash” a local scene, and we’re becoming well-known in community establishments (many of whom have become financial supporters of our work). It never would have happened without us being intentional in starting a local charity.
From the Kiplinger article: “a low level of social interaction is just as unhealthy as smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse or physical inactivity.”
I’m intentional in continuing to foster those connections. Last week, I started a “Retirement Mastermind” group in our area at the suggestion of Greg, the guy in the orange shirt above. He’s one of my readers and suggested it’d be great to get a group of us together in a more organized manner to talk about life in retirement. I took the first step and sent a group text to 6 friends suggesting a kick-off meeting for a new mastermind group. It was a great session and I look forward to where this is going. (Stay tuned… I’m considering writing about the group in a future post.)
Secret #3: Find A Clear Sense of Purpose
Secret # 3 is, to me, the greatest of the secrets to a great retirement. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more difficult to achieve. Finding a purpose is an intangible quest, with no clearly defined checklists available to guide you in your search. This one requires dusting off those old “curiosity genes” that have been buried since your childhood and following that inner voice wherever it leads.
The best advice I can provide? If something interests you, take that first step. It takes courage, but it’s a step that must be taken.
I’m passionate about this topic. It’s the main theme in my book, and far too complex to address in a few short paragraphs here. I was pleased to see it included in Kiplinger’s list and support their recommendation that a great place to seek your Purpose is to explore charity work. Hundreds of volunteers have joined us in our Freedom For Fido mission, and their feedback is consistent – having fun and helping others is one of the key secrets to a great retirement. Helping others is, by the way, my primary motivation for continuing to write this blog (another of my Purposes in retirement).
In my experience, focusing on the needs of others is a fertile field in which to plant your seeds.
It’s time to start planting.
- Freedom For Fido – A Story of Finding Purpose in Retirement
- Purpose, Motivation, And Life Aspirations
Secret #4: Never Stop Learning
It’s easy to grasp the value of exercising your body, but there’s evidence that exercising your mind also provides significant benefits in retirement. The Kiplinger article states that challenging your mind by learning new things can actually reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
As importantly, learning new things is fun.
Retirement should be a time of exploration, and learning new things is a great way to exercise your mind. I love the challenge of figuring out new woodworking projects (I enjoy figuring things out “as I go”) and get a great sense of accomplishment when I complete a new project.
If you’re interested in learning a new skill, check out the John C. Campbell Folk School in the mountains of Brasstown, NC. They offer an amazing array of classes with on-site housing for a weekend or week-long sessions. If you decide to give it a try, let me know. It’s not far from Blue Ridge, and maybe we can get together and share a cup of coffee while you’re in the area.
- A Tour of my Woodworking Shop
- You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To
- What 3 New Things Are You Going To Try In Retirement?
Secret #5: Train Your Brain To Be Optimistic
It’s interesting how our outlook often shapes our reality. In life, you’ll find what you’re looking for. In 4 Lessons From 4 Years of Retirement, I shared the story of a relocation we weren’t excited about. We focused on the negatives and it turned out that we didn’t enjoy our time in that city. We decided to look for the positives from that point forward and have enjoyed every place we’ve lived ever since. We applied the same philosophy to our retirement and it’s been one of the key secrets to a great retirement.
We’re not alone.
Research from the Kiplinger article highlights the reality that an optimistic mindset also reduces the odds of cardiovascular disease and has been shown in studies to actually improve longevity. Importantly, the article also highlights the fact that you can train your brain to be optimistic, starting with reframing situations in a positive light and focusing on the things you can control.
Life’s too short to live in a dark cloud. Focus on the sun.
It’s worked for me, and I suspect it will work for you.
- 5 Lessons on Attitude From A 92 Year Old
- 20 Ways To Be Happier In Life
- Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be
- The Positives of a Pandemic
- Don’t Look Back (You’re Not Going That Way)
Secret #6: Practice Mindful Gratitude
A few months before I retired I wrote The Ten Commandments of Retirement, which are summarized above. I was intentionally focusing on having an attitude of gratitude as I made the transition into retirement. In hindsight, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
The Kiplinger article highlights research demonstrating the benefits of practicing mindful gratitude, including the following quote based on research that mindful gratitude also reduces materialism:
“Gratitude enhances people’s satisfaction with life while reducing their desire to buy stuff.”
Those who practice mindful gratitude “had a more positive outlook on life, exercised more, reported fewer symptoms of illness, and were more likely to help others.” I wasn’t surprised to see research supporting my personal experience, as I’ve personally experienced every one of the benefits mentioned.
The great thing about retirement is the reality that you can structure your life to focus on those things that bring you the most joy, a reality that isn’t always present in your working years. I’m grateful for the freedom to write less frequently and reduce my “screen time,” allowing more time to enjoy life outdoors.
Find a way to do more of the things you love and less of the things you don’t.
Then, take time to be grateful for your freedom to do so.
Secret #7: Have A Furry Friend
My wife and I have decided we’ll never live without dogs.
Our four “canine kids” bring a lot of joy into our lives and make our lives better. CoCo (the big black one in the photos above) is “my” dog, and is curled up in her dog bed in my treehouse writing studio as I write these words. She likes being out here with me, as do I. Sawyer (our Aussie, who’s always in front on our hikes) is my wife’s dog and she follows her everywhere she goes. Having a dog who loves you makes life better.
The Kiplinger article highlights research that proves having a dog brings tangible benefits, too. Older adults who walk their dogs “got 20% more physical activity than people without dogs and spent 30 fewer minutes a day being sedentary…” Further, it cites research that dogs help soothe those suffering from cognitive decline, and the physical and mental health benefits of owning a dog can add years to your life.
If you’re on the fence, make the jump and get the dog.
Your life will be better for it.
There you have it – the seven secrets to a great retirement:
- Work At Staying Healthy
- Foster Strong Social Connections
- Find A Clear Sense of Purpose
- Never Stop Learning
- Train Your Brain To Be Optimistic
- Practice Mindful Gratitude
- Have A Furry Friend
I can check every box and I have no doubt my retirement is better as a result. I’m pleased to see legitimate research confirming my personal experience.
What About You? How many of the 7 secrets to a great retirement are present in your life? What steps can you take to implement any you’re missing? Are there any secrets that didn’t make the list? Let’s chat in the comments…