A happy retirement

February is a happy month for many because of Valentine’s day so I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at how to plan for a happy retirement in a fun and different way. Here is a musical look at what I found about a happy retirement.

Somewhere over the rainbow (Judy Garland version)

Retirees often experience a burst of happiness over the retirement rainbow in the honeymoon period. This is usually the first six months to two years of finishing work. They relax, catch up on sleep, develop an improved health regime, and revel in doing what they choose to do when they want to do it. They are in control of their lives and it feels great!

This happens if they dodge the Retirement Shock bullet that can come with a forced retirement, a lack of planning, or a health issue at the time of retirement. However, despite the age of retirement, by age 70 to 75 research shows a decline in happiness as the realities of aging and the limitations that may bring begin to kick in. Lesson? Go have fun and play while you can! Come On getting Happy!

I’m into something good (Herman’s Hermits)

That sense of control and power over the decision and timing of retirement is key. About 20% of Canadian retirees do not choose that timing because of pink slips, buyouts, downsizing, and layoffs. This is a difficult pill to swallow as it may feel like a betrayal and rejection. About 25% of retirees lose that sense of control due to a health issue of their own or a loved one’s need for care. The decision then becomes highjacked by unpleasant circumstances.

Thus the best scenario is a sense of control of the timing but also confidence in one’s financial planning and secure future. A switch gets flipped from saving for retirement to being in retirement. The Irish saying is, “Money can’t buy happiness but it may settle the nerves.” Educating yourself about pensions, annuities, RRIF’s, and cash flow may also settle those nerves. Lesson? Get ready, get set with Plan A and Plan B. Forget Your Troubles Come on getting Happy!

Getting better (The Beatles)

“Use it or lose it” is the phrase I hear again and again when it comes to health. Move your body every day, get active and involved, eat healthy meals, drop those nasty addictions, get a health assessment, work your fitness program and a find new lease on wellness. Take a dance class, get a walking buddy, drink lots of water, and get good quality sleep. Author Tom Robbins said that at age 68 he could not believe how much of his life was dedicated to the maintenance of body and mind. A friend of mine got a Fit Bit that tracks her activities and graphs it for her on her computer. She cannot fool herself at all. Regular exercise is one of the best choices for improved mood and bodily function.

I ran into someone who had been in one of my retirement readiness sessions 18 months ago. She is now doing yoga, taking Zumba classes, and has joined a hiking group. She tells me she feels so much more relaxed, in charge of her future and positive about it now that she has her own life back. She has met lots of new people who want to improve their fitness levels and enjoy doing it. Lesson? Exercise helps with balance, strength, flexibility, weight control, heart and lung capacity, and mood. Happy Days Are Here Again!

I will have some more musical tips to follow next month. I would love to hear your ideas for being happy in retirement!


  1. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle

    I need to Take A Chance On Me (Abba) and invest more in my future.

    • Donna McCaw

      Because, Like a Bird on a Wire, we all just want to be free…and that costs money!

  2. William Cowie

    Love the music references! Well done.

    From looking around me (and our own experience) retirement, whether forced or voluntary, early or late, brings us face to face with “that” question: what do I want to be when I grow up?

    And the answers aren’t always pretty.

    Unless we have that question worked out, retirement can be a trap. Boredom, frustration, and aimlessness can be worse that what went before. In fact, several people I know went back to work for no other reason that they like the structure.

    Probe deeper and I suspect “structure” is oftentimes code for “I don’t know what I’d like to do that’s still within my budget.”

    As we plan for those days without a structured job, it’s important to clarify what we really enjoy doing and get started even while we work.

    I’m leavin’ on a jetplane:

    The way I’ve come to think of it is a “runway to retirement.” Just like a plane needs a runway to pick up speed before lift-off, I think we need a runway to pick up speed for retirement so when the day comes, we’re up to speed, as it were, to take flight on our last journey.

  3. Donna McCaw

    Well said. Often we end up like Wiley Coyote hanging in mid air before we fall into the canyon of no planning.
    If retirement is the garden we want it to be, we need to plant the seeds BEFORE we retire. Get activities and interests, new friends, and figure out how we want to regenerate and possibly revocate. Who do I want to be and what do I want to do. Be. Do. Be. Do.

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