No matter where they live, what they did with their lives, or how much money they have, there are three things I have observed over my career that happy retirees have in common.

The good news is, these are things you can plan for.


They’re debt free.

Reaching financial independence won’t be easy until you’re free of debt – especially adverse debt. Not all debt is adverse debt, but consumer debt for car loans, student loans, credit cards and other personal spending is categorically bad. The best way to free yourself of debt is to avoid it completely, but of course, that’s not always an option.

Starting as early as possible, make a clear plan for getting out of debt and stick to it, even if it means delaying or reducing some of your savings or investments for retirement.

They have their health.

Being happy in retirement is undoubtably tied to being healthy in retirement. But a healthy lifestyle is something that must begin years before you retire.

Taking care of your health throughout your lifetime—through nutrition, exercise, preventative medicine and mental health care—is key to preserving your wellness into retirement. Find an active hobby, like tennis or hiking, that you can continue as you age to keep yourself physically fit.

If you already have health issues, take whatever steps you can to improve or preserve your health now and make sure you have a plan for how you will pay for health care throughout your retirement and have a good understanding of long-term care options.

They have a purpose.

As our life expectancy increases, the length of our retirement does as well. Day time television and shuffleboard will only keep you amused for so long.

Have a mission—a reason to get out of bed in the morning—that will keep you active and thriving for all the years ahead of you. This can vary for each person, and I’ve seen it include grandchildren, consulting, part-time work, volunteering and traveling. You can do anything, just don’t do nothing.

Of course, you can take breaks and take time for yourself. But you can’t spend 30 years sitting around and still feel fulfilled.

The lesson:

Being happy in retirement is not a coincidence, and it’s not something you can expect to achieve with no effort. Your plan for fulfillment and happiness is just as important as your plan for sustainable income.

Before you hand in your letter of resignation, make sure you know what you want to be when you grow up.

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Scott Dauenhauer profile photo
Scott Dauenhauer, CFP®, MPAS, AIF
Principal & Owner
Meridian Wealth Management
Office : (949) 916-6238