Here at The Motley Fool, we frequently review how you can plan effectively for retirement or build yourself a more comfortable retirement. Such articles tend to focus on financial matters, though, when there's more to retirement than money. Here's a Happy Retirement Checklist for you, to help you get those other ducks in a row.
Yes, there's much more to retirement than money, but without adequate reserves, it will be hard to be comfortable in retirement, much less happy. So do take the time to create or reassess your retirement plan and be sure that you're saving and investing effectively, in order to reach your goals.
____ Good health
One of the most critical ingredients to a happy retirement is good health. It's true that many things related to your health are out of your control, but many things are not. For example, aim to quit smoking if you smoke, to lose weight if you're overweight, and to eat nutritious foods. Incorporate exercise into your life, too, no matter whether you're overweight or underweight. It's smart to work on developing better balance, too, because as we age, falling becomes a more and more dangerous risk. (Tai chi or yoga can be helpful here, or even figure skating.) Visit your doctor regularly and have routine preventative screenings for various diseases and conditions. The more proactive you are about getting in good condition or staying there, the happier your retirement is likely to be. After all, if you're not able to get out and about much, or are in frequent pain, it will be difficult to take advantage of many delights that retirement offers.
Along with exercising enough to stay in good shape, you should also aim to fill your retirement days with activities. Many who long looked forward to retiring have found themselves not liking it as much as they expected due to boredom. Some people really thrive on structure, such as having to get up and go to work each day, so they need to find ways to build new schedules. Staying active will give you more to experience, to think about, to talk about, to wonder about, and so on, keeping you engaged in life. You might spend time cultivating hobbies such as golf, gardening, fitness, astronomy, cooking, photography, knitting, crafts, woodworking, or hiking, and you might develop some new ones, too.
Studies have found that socializing is another important part of a happy retirement, whether with friends, family, or both. A recent Age Wave/Merrill Lynch survey of retirees found that 36% cited having loving family and friends as a vital part of a happy retirement. Don't rely solely on a spouse for your socializing, and even if you're not close to your family, you can build a stronger network of friends. Many activities you engage in can have you socializing, and with a little effort, you might increase your social engagement even more. For example, if you enjoy reading, join a book club or two. If you like to sing, join a choir or chorus. Join clubs or a church. Consider doing some traveling with a tour group.
It's also beneficial in retirement to keep your mind active. Consider learning some things you've always wanted to learn, such as how to speak another language, or how to play a musical instrument. You might take some adult-education classes, too -- or teach them! Solving puzzles can be fun, too, but can be socially isolating. Consider forming or joining a game group. Strategizing in card games or board games might help keep your mind sharp. Travel is another great source of learning, and retirees can get a lot out of exploring the world while their health permits.
Finally, consider volunteering. Studies suggest that it can boost your spirits and can even have physical health effects such as lowering blood pressure and lengthening life. Basically, helping others can help make us happier. Don't force yourself to do things you don't enjoy, though. Think about how you might best serve others, whether by tutoring, delivering meals via Meals on Wheels, helping build homes for the homeless, being a Foster Grandparent, visiting children in hospitals, helping with animals at a shelter, being a tour guide, or working on local political campaigns.
There's no one-size-fits-all optimal retirement plan, but the categories in the Happy Retirement Checklist are ones that we should all consider as we plan for and construct the best retirements we can for ourselves.
Longtime Fool specialist Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, has no position in any stocks mentioned. Nor does The Motley Fool. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.