Maureen Crimmins: Happiness Before Retirement

By Maureen Crimmins

People say things like, “When I retire, I am going to be happy,” or “When I don’t have to work anymore, I will be happy.” The truth is, if you don’t think you can be happy until you retire, you won’t be.

My favorite cartoon character when I was young was Snoopy, so much so that my bedroom was filled with Snoopy. Snoopy dolls, Snoopy quotes and even Snoopy curtains. I learned how to draw Snoopy on top of his doghouse and spent many hours in art class perfecting this skill.

And my favorite quotes were always the “happiness is” quotes relating to Snoopy and all the Peanuts characters: Happiness is a warm puppy. Happiness is cookies. Happiness is a sunny day.

What is happiness to you? Does it have to depend on what stage of life you are in and whether you are retired?
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There are a number of studies about happiness in retirement. Many people who are getting ready to retire hope that this new phase of their lives results in happiness. In fact, a lot of retirement planning focuses on how to achieve happiness in the golden years.

But more often, if you are miserable now, you most likely will be miserable in retirement. Happiness does not just happen when you stop working.

In studies conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that there isn’t one element in the pursuit of happiness but five. They work together to contribute to an overall sense of peace and contentment.

At any age, including retirement age, the five keys to what lead researcher Martin Seligman called authentic happiness are:
Positive emotion. They are, for example, hope, enthusiasm and warmth. A large part of positive psychology, a field of study that seeks to understand happiness, is about enhancing these emotions.

Engagement. People who engage in activities they enjoy are happier. Retirement does help you in this area since it frees up your time to do things you like.

Relationships. Families, friends and healthy social contact are essential for happiness. You should work on bettering your relationships before retirement begins, because leaving your job sometimes means leaving long-time friends at work.

Meaning. Retirement is the time to look at the meaning of life. As you approach retirement, determine what you can do to feel fulfilled. Do not wait until you retire to figure this out.

Achievement. Those with a positive self-image are happier. If your job doesn’t give you a sense of achievement, try getting involved in other activities that do. Volunteer work? Sports? Quilting? This is even more important in retirement.

The ability to enjoy our golden years is the same ability to be happy at all the stages of our life. So, what are the answers to your “happiness is”?
Maureen Crimmins is the co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management LLC in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. She writes for AdviceIQ, which delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors.

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