WHEN I WAS WORKING fulltime, my goal was to have enough retirement savings to replace 100% of my income. I knew I could live comfortably on that amount, while still having enough left over to do the things I didn’t have time for when I had a fulltime job. I figured that was the key to a happy retirement.
But after retiring, my thinking changed, as I began focusing on how I could live longer and better. Having enough money means you can retire, but it doesn’t ensure a happy retirement. Money is just one piece of the happiness puzzle. There are other factors that are just as important.
Indeed, optimal wellbeing and aging well have nothing to do with being “retired.” Arguably, just the opposite is true: If you want to be happy and age well, you need to stay active and engaged, even after you quit the workforce. It’s about living your best, happiest life for as long as you possibly can. It’s about being free to do whatever you want on that particular day. It’s about having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning—something you look forward to and which puts a smile on your face.
That brings me to the famous “nun study.” The study found that nuns were happier with their lives than the general population and, because of their higher happiness level, they typically lived longer. A related finding: Happy nuns lived longer than unhappy nuns.
The research makes perfect sense to me. Happiness and longevity go hand in hand. All other things being equal, if we want to live longer than the average retiree, we need to be happier. The key is to stay busy, doing things that make us happy for as long as we can.
Want to live longer and be happier? If we were to summarize the recipe for success in an equation, it would have these elements: relationships + health + financial security + spirituality + positive attitude + purpose. In other words, happy people have strong loving relationships, lead healthy lives, are financially secure, and have a source of spirituality, a positive attitude and a sense of purpose.
By adhering to this formula and turning the desirable behaviors into daily habits, we increase our chances of living a longer, happier life. Unhappy retirees try to hang on and survive. Happy retirees bloom and thrive. I believe it’s as simple as that.