Be Your Best

The Well-Adjusted Retiree

By Tom Foster

Retirement, it seems, is a happiness fest. But it takes preparation to get there.

Retirees overwhelmingly express positive emotions and sentiments, which may increase the longer they live in retirement, according to the 2014 Hopes, Fears and Reality study of retirement by MassMutual1.  Among other things, the study examined the emotional state of both retirees and pre-retirees – those who were one to 15 years into retirement or one to 15 years before retirement, respectively.  With the right emotional as well as financial preparations, the study finds, retirement can be overwhelmingly positive.

Retirees report being happier, more relaxed and less stressed than pre-retirees: “extremely happy” (72 percent compared to 61 percent, respectively), “extremely relaxed” (67 percent, compared to 34 percent, respectively) and moderately stressed (17 percent, compared to 43 percent, respectively).

These findings are a bit surprising when you consider that nearly one out of two Americans (45 percent) who participated in the survey retired earlier than expected.  Some, no doubt, wanted to continue working, with earning a paycheck near the top of their list of reasons. Still, 79 percent of those who retired early have no regrets about their timing.

Retirees indicate high levels of emotional well-being, enjoyment and financial security. For instance, 72 percent of retirees report being “extremely or quite happy”, 67 percent say they’re “extremely or quite relaxed,” and 66 percent say they are financially secure, the study shows.  Few characterize themselves as stressed, frustrated, lonely or distressed.

Financial advisors can help direct their clients to find this emotional oasis by passing on some important lessons: plan as soon as possible, both for your emotional as well as financial well-being, as you may retire sooner than expected. While most advisors are well-acquainted with the financial aspects of retirement planning, you should also encourage your clients to strengthen their emotional and social bonds before retiring.

On the emotional side of the equation, there were significant differences between the “happiest” retirees, those who reported to be “very satisfied” with retirement, and others who were less so. For instance, the happiest retirees:

  • Made new friends or reconnected with old friends. A support network is important for everyone, especially for retirees who are likely to be empty nesters.

  • Renewed their relationship with their spouse or significant other. Once children leave and careers wane or end, couples are left with considerably more time together. Reconnect by building on shared interests.

  • Developed a new hobby or expanded their interests. Many retirees said they engage in activities such as watching sports or theater, participating in hobbies such as fishing or painting, socializing, volunteering, recreating or dining out as much or more than they expected to as pre-retirees.

As for working, few continue to do so, even in the earliest years of retirement, according to the study. Many retirees hope to gradually reduce their hours or continue working at least part-time but less than 23 percent manage to do so.

While the happiest retirees have much to teach us, one of the most important lessons was to work with an advisor. Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) members of the “happiest club” worked with an advisor, 10 percentage points higher than those who were less enamored with life after work.

As a financial professional, you no doubt have the financial and economic aspects of retirement planning nailed. Don’t forget your clients’ emotional lives, though, because urging them to grow and protect their relationships and pursue their interests may help make the difference in their overall satisfaction. You’ll be happy you did.


More from MassMutual

Better than Expected

The Retirement Security Index

Holistic Planning Helps Clients, Advisors



E. Thomas Foster Jr. is Assistant Vice President, Strategic Relationships, for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

Hopes, Fears and Reality, What workers expect in retirement and what steps help them achieve the retirement they want,

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, investment, and/or tax advice. Please consult your own legal counsel and other experts regarding the specific application of the information set forth herein to your own plan and/or circumstances.