In Planning on Tuesday 24th Sep, 2019

Building quality of life: The 5 secrets to a happy retirement

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Creating a happy retirement involves everything from developing connections to finding a purpose post employment. Source: Getty

Entering retirement is for the most part an exciting journey full of new possibilities and adventures but at the same time the transition from working life can be a shock to the system with so much free time on your hands.

Instead of having a job to go to each day to make up the hours retirees are often left twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out what to do with their newfound freedom. This is why it’s important to be prepared and consider what will help you live out a happy and fulfilling next stage of life, taking into consideration everything from how the finances will be kept in check to what measures you’ll take to ensure a positive frame of mind.

1. Managing finances

Before stepping away from work it’s essential to take a look at the finances and figure out how retirement will be funded with no income entering the bank account each week or month. This could be in the way of the Age Pension or superannuation which has been building up over the course of one’s career.

There are, of course, age limits in Australia as to when you can access the funds and the calculator tool provided by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is a handy way to understand how much super you’ll receive. But there are other assets that can only be considered as is explained by financial expert Mike Chesworth.

“There is a few things you’ve got to do, one is to take a stocktake of where you are, and that’s not only a stocktake of your assets, it’s a stocktake of what you want to be doing and who you want to be doing that with,” he told Starts at 60. “If I look at the assets to start off with – it’s what is going to create an income stream for me when I retire, and if it’s going to be super that’s great, and any other investments you have inside or outside of super.”

However, Chesworth advised not to include the home in this list, unless you are planning on downsizing soon, because even though it’s an asset it’s not something you will be making a profit from. Meanwhile, he also suggested taking some long service leave on half pay before retirement to get an idea of how you will manage on decreased funds.

2. Finding meaning and purpose

As retirement goes on and the big bucket list items have been ticked off it’s normal to hit a bit of a road block and question what you should be doing in life. Throughout one’s career you are constantly working towards a goal and without anything of the kind you can feel lost and in some cases depressed.

Though it may be difficult to begin with, getting outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself, by meeting new people and helping out someone less fortunate through volunteering can really boost the endorphins and make you feel valued in society. There are a range of charities or not-for-profits that are always on the hunt for passionate and motivated people to lend a helping hand, such as Vinnies or the Salvation Army at one of their op-shops, or the Red Cross, driving the elderly to medical appointments or managing admin tasks.

You’re doing something worthwhile and important, using your skills built up throughout your career and passion to assist those in need, without the pressure of it being a job or relying on it for financial gain. Even if it’s just once a week, it can really boost your mood and keep you motivated and enjoying retirement.

There have even been studies to prove its effectiveness on quality of life, with one showing having a purpose in life could actually help you live longer. The research published in the JAMA Network Open Journal by the University of Michigan analysed data from 6,985 adult participants in the health and retirement study to assess whether meaningfulness in life impacted death. Participants filled out questionnaires in 2006 and researchers analysed the cause of death in participants between 2006 and 2010.

Researchers defined purpose in life as “a self-organising life aim that stimulates goals, promotes healthy behaviours and gives meaning to life.” Participants who felt they had a stronger purpose in life were shown to have a lower risk of dying.

3. Creating social connections

A career not only brings financial gain but friendships and a support system and without that in retirement you can become isolated and withdrawn from the community. Those days chatting to colleagues about day-to-day life and issues are actually beneficial and this kind of connection should be mirrored in retirement.

Looking after the grandkids and spending time with family is an obvious way to increase that social interaction but sometimes your loved ones may live far away and visits could be difficult. If you’re feeling lonely and need someone to chat to Starts at 60 Meet-ups are a good place to start to grow connections and make friendships. Over-60s generally meet once a month at a local cafe for a chat and coffee, and everyone is there to make friends, so there is no need to feel nervous about the experience.

If that’s not your thing, perhaps you could try joining a gym or walking group, you may be surprised how many great people are out there also wanting to extend their friendship circle. Alternatively, if you want to give yourself a bit of a project, you could begin your own social group with weekly outings to grab coffee, try out new dinner venues, or even get away for the weekend to a relaxing beach resort.  After all, a retirement is more fulfilling with people around you.

As explained by researcher Wei-Ching Wang of the I-Shou University in Taiwan, the end of full-time employment doesn’t guarantee a fulfilling retirement. In fact, from a study of 454 retirees, Wang was able to draw a link between the management of free time and a person’s overall quality of life.

After questioning the Baby Boomers about their daily activities, goals and attitude, the researcher used the quality of life scale from the World Health Organisation to determine just how much the two interact. In the end he concluded: “Quality of life is not affected as much by the amount of free time that a retiree has, but on how effectively the person manages this time on hand. Therefore, it is important to educate people on how to use their free time more effectively to improve quality of life.”

4. Building achievements

You probably spent years at school and perhaps growing your knowledge at university of Tafe but just because you’ve hit retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Feeling successful and as if you have accomplished something is always rewarding and those achievements can keep on being built with further education.

Studying again may not sound exciting but with no intention to set off on a new career path it can be fun, without the pressure to land a job with an impressive wage. Universities and Tafe offer courses to people of all ages, meaning even if your well into your 60s, you can still take up a course. Alternatively, there is also U3A (University of the Third Age) which caters specifically for your age group.

U3A is about studying for fun and not with the intent to pursue a new career, because well as retires, obtaining a new job is probably not on the cards. Unlike other universities, it doesn’t offer formal qualifications or have prerequisites for entry, making it all that more easier to get started. Classes are held in various cities across the country and are run by volunteer tutors with a wide variety on offer on everything from music and creative writing to history and finance.

As it’s just for Baby Boomers and above, you won’t be sitting in a class full of Millennials but with like-minded individuals who also just want to enjoy retirement by learning about something they are interested in. Plus, you never know, maybe you will spark up some new friendships along the way.

5. Staying healthy and active

Maintaining a healthy diet, with some treats thrown in every now and then will boost energy levels and keep you on your feet ready to take on new experiences. Paired with some daily exercise you will be gliding through retirement with ease and a glow that everyone will be wishing they had too.

Weight-bearing exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and skipping are a good place to start with Andrew Wynd, APA Sports Physiotherapist at Balwyn Sports and Physiotherapy Centre, explaining even 10 minutes of this style of training a few times a week can make all the difference. “It’s absolutely critical that we maintain weight-bearing exercise all through life to slow that rate of decline,” Wynd told Starts at 60. “What I usually suggest to my patients is do it daily, even if it is just a small amount.”

What do you enjoy doing to stay happy in retirement? Do you have any advice for those about to retire?

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