Tips from happy retirees

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting lots of successful and happy retirees. They have become a great source of inspiration and knowledge not only for me but also for others. Allow me to share some of these wonderful tips from happy retirees.

Have a backup plan

One person who volunteered this advice had a health issue that meant an unexpected early retirement. He is not alone in this as, according to a Royal Bank survey, about 40% of retired Canadians left work earlier than they had planned. Almost half of these said it was because employers initiated that severing of employment ties either through downsizing, relocating, or presenting a pink slip notice or a retirement package. For others, it may be a health issue of their own or a loved one, a major life event like a sudden death in the family or a separation or divorce. Each person’s choice of timing is not always what happens and that means being prepared for such surprises with a fallback plan. Getting back into the workforce may not be an immediate solution and so savings, selling assets, insurance, a line of credit, or a loan need to be available in an emergency situation. Figure out what that emergency plan is just in case.

Get used to being a nobody

This is not how I may have worded this one but the person who did suggest it said, “I went from being a legend at work to a nobody in one day!” Identity issues are the ones that are most often presented as the reason for going to a counselor post-retirement. He suggested that joining clubs, interest or volunteer groups, fitness facilities and continuous learning programs are something to start before actually retiring. It may take a year or two to get reoriented to a new way of living, a new pace, new friends, and so, the earlier they start, the better and easier the transition. A person needs to figure out how to get some positive feedback outside of work to feel a sense of meaningfulness, usefulness, and accomplishment. He also suggested watching Red and Red 2 but I think that is just for fun although it is geared to retirement adjustment issues in part.

Have a game plan to stay connected

This may surprise you but many coworkers and colleagues do not keep in touch. If you want to stay in contact, you need to figure out a way to share some activities with those you choose to maintain friendships with like a movie or dinner out the night. These people are part of a work family and, when someone retires, that person has left the family. You need to take the initiative to get together outside of the work setting.

Have a game plan for who the people are that you want to hang out with, and do activities with and then they become the new social network. Get a new community of positive people. You need to stay active physically, mentally, and socially and the game plan is how you are going to do this.

The person who suggested this one said that she had retired quickly because she could not face going back to work after her summer vacation and had not put any game plan into place. She found that she had way too much time on her hands and nothing to do and no one to do it with leaving her regretting her decision to retire. It took a long time to rebuild her new life.

Just say yes

Life will bring opportunities and you do not know where they will take you and so go for it! Try out new experiences and do not be afraid of change. Figure out how to use your skills for a volunteer organization, take courses, teach courses, go backpacking, hike in the Rockies, go back to stuff you love and did not have the time for because of work, get creative, take dance lessons, start a new business or coach those who need it. Just get out there and have fun!

This tip comes from an extroverted risk taker and I do agree to a point. My warnings here would be to watch for “voluntourism” where you get suggested or pushed into things you do not really want to do. This can range from the long honey-do list to involvement in fundraisers, a board of directors’ positions, to projects that take your time and energy to a dead end. I would suggest that you balance the SAY YES with conscious choices on your part.

Retirement is anything you want it to be. Make it what you do want.

If you have any other tips for a happy retirement, I would like to hear them.


  1. Glenys

    I think retirees need to set a structure or routine for their day as well as for their week.

    I find that those who transition into retirement more easily are those who have a number of hobbies that they have already developed over a period of time. But of course, a new hobby can easily be started and many hobbies have the added bonus of connecting you with the outside world.

    That is what I like most about one of my most successful retirement designs found here: . It infers that retirement is a new adventure rather than a closing of a career door.

    • Donna McCaw

      Thanks for that and you are right. The three basics for a positive lifestyle are structure, a sense of purpose, and a sense of community. Once work is not providing these, something and someone else will need to do so.

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