How to have a happier retirement


Retirement can be exciting and fulfilling, but it’s also a time of enormous change. So it’s not surprising many new retirees find it hard to adjust. We asked Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan for her insights into making this phase of your life a success.

While we may spend years looking forward to time for ourselves, when we retire we may end up missing the sense of purpose work gave us. Even if you love having the freedom, you may find it hard to adjust to a life without work.

But the good news is that it does get easier. In fact, people tend to get happier as they age, according to Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Honourable Susan Ryan AO. Research shows people in their 70s are often happier in the sense of being more content with their lot than they were in their 40s and 50s, Ms Ryan says. If they have financial or health worries, that’s different of course, but most people report feeling more contented.

Ryan speaks with the voice of experience. Over the last 45 years, she’s had an impressive career in government and the private sector, including Cabinet positions in the Hawke Labor government and leadership roles in the education and superannuation sectors. And, at 70 years of age, she continues to be a tireless campaigner for the rights of older Australians.

Keeping social connections

According to Ms Ryan, there are several factors linked to wellbeing in retirement, including physical health, financial security and social interaction. It’s also important to have access to social and emotional resources, like friends, family, or even a pet, and cognitive resources that keep your brain active, like learning a new language or skill.

But it’s the social elements Ms Ryan believes are most important when it comes to a happy retirement.

People who do best in retirement are those who have a good network of friends and that can include family, Ms Ryan says.

People are happiest if they have others they can relate to; people who they can do things for and who can do things for them, and people they can go on outings and have discussions with. This is far and away the top indicator of wellbeing, even above income, housing and everything else.

Financial security is the second most important indicator of wellbeing

A lot of retirees do have security – they have their own house or super, or manage on the Age Pension with the extra concessions, Ms Ryan says.

But to achieve this security, it’s important to plan ahead, both before and after retirement

The challenges of course, ageing brings its own set of challenges. These include the likelihood of more health problems, and having to deal with loss and grief as people close to you pass away. Another major source of stress can be money. Even if you’re financially well-off at retirement, you still need to take care of your hard-earned savings.

Always be suspicious of unsolicited offers of service or investment products. You need to avoid rip-offs and scams you could lose your lifetime’s savings, Ms Ryan warns. Retired people are targeted by fraudsters who know they often have super or assets, and target them with dodgy investment deals. So never make a decision to invest in or purchase something from an unsolicited email or phone approach.
The different stages of retirement

Of course, retirement has many different phases that can bring different psychological and financial needs. For example, a person who has just retired may be worried about how to structure their time, or how to live on a more restricted budget. For someone who has been retired longer, the issues may be around loss of independence, or dealing with serious health conditions.

Regardless of where you are in your retirement, it’s important to plan for each stage and to regularly revise your plans. This includes having a plan in place if you need to get more support at home, or if you’re thinking about moving to an aged-care facility. So you can relax, knowing you’ve done everything you can to enjoy life now and in the future.

Top tips to make the most of retirement

1. Stay in touch
Maintain contact with friends and relatives, and get involved with new activities and community groups to widen your social circle.

2. Make a contribution
Contributing to the community is not only hugely rewarding, it also helps to give you that sense of purpose so many new retirees miss. There are loads of opportunities, such as homework classes with migrant kids, hospital visits, volunteering at museums or art galleries, or getting involved in local sporting clubs, Ms Ryan says. We know of people volunteering up to their 90s.

3. Get professional financial advice
If you do have assets and you want to invest, always go to a reputable financial planner, preferably recommended by a friend, says Ms Ryan.

Source: Colonial First State

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