Keys to a Satisfying Retirement


While many work a lifetime to get to it, retirement and happiness are not synonymous. In this age, retirement satisfaction doesn’t just happen. It takes thought and planning, just like anything else worthwhile. The baby boomers are accused of spending more time planning their vacations than their retirement. Up until recently, there haven’t been any models to assist in the life planning part of retirement. However, most of the boomer generation realizes they don’t want their parents’ life after retirement.

#1 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Eat Wisely-Okay, you knew this one, but let me give you a new perspective. Our whole approach to adult nutrition is about deprivation and human beings just don’t do well with long term lack. We are programmed to eat. In fact, when you think about how the human brain is programmed, it’s actually amazing more people don’t have weight problems. Coupled with a metabolism that slows with senior age, it’s a miracle everyone isn’t obese over 50. Plato wrote that humans are always in a tug of war between desire and obedience.

Instead of going on a senior diet, focus instead on identifying foods you need to remove from your diet or at least minimize, and balance that with eating more healthy foods.

#2 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Get Physical-This is the other obvious tip, but one that needs to be tackled constantly. I was amazed at the changes in my body as I went through menopause. It felt like there was a suction attached to my muscles stripping the strength from my body. I’ve never been a very physical person. My one claim to physical ability was climbing to the summit of the second tallest peak in Colorado. With the sensation of my body disintegrating around me, I knew I had to do something. If you struggle with exercise then remove the word from your vocabulary. Once again, we’re into suffering and discipline and it just doesn’t work for the long term. Instead, embark on a quest for seniors fitness based on a form of physical activity you can really get excited about.

#3 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Mental Stimulation – After keeping your body fit, the most important thing you can do is make sure you get mental stimulation. Find things to do that stimulate your mind. Most of us are concerned about our brain age and the lapses in memory that occur as we age. Find challenges.

#4 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Live within your means – This is another obvious one, but if spending money was something you did to combat boredom when you were employed, you may find yourself in a very difficult situation once retired. You need to take responsibility for your financial situation, understanding how much is coming in and going out. This is especially true when one spouse has managed the money.

There’s been a lot written about what amount of money you need to retire. And yet the people who report being fulfilled in retirement are not necessarily wealthy. People who report feeling positive about life have close friendships and lots of interests.

#5 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Take risks – You may not have thought about this. We usually think of people taking fewer risks as they get older. Taking risks is something that keeps us young. It gets people out of their comfort zones and allows them to stretch their limits. Taking risks doesn’t necessarily mean jumping out of an airplane at seventeen thousand feet. Think about something you’d like to do, but haven’t because you’re afraid you might make a fool of yourself. It might mean going to a singles group by yourself or taking a class you’ve wanted to take. It might mean starting a business (although make sure you do your homework). Taking a risk doesn’t mean being foolish. Taking a risk means stepping slightly outside the safe place in which you reside. Taking risks is the fastest way to increase your self-confidence and self-esteem.

#6 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Connect with others – Even old curmudgeons are social beings. Recent research has shown feeling connected is a better predictor of longevity than low cholesterol. If you lost your of sense of being connected when you left your work, you will need to put extra effort into getting out there and meeting people. It doesn’t matter where you start or what you do, as long as you do something. Start to cultivate relationships with different ages of people. People who have relationships with multi-generations are much more fulfilled later in life.

#7 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Learn to say “no” – Has someone ever called you and asked you to do something? My mother had just moved into her new home when a charity called her to go around to her neighbors to collect money. They said it would be a good way for her to meet her neighbors. There she was stuck with thirty-five empty envelops. Most of us have found ourselves in this situation. Many people are reluctant to get involved for fear they are going to be asked to do something they don’t want to do. Follow the twenty-four hour rule. Whenever someone asks you to volunteer to do something, tell them you need to check your schedule and will get back to them within twenty-four hours. Then ask yourself, “Is this something I want to do?” At this point, many people cave and think things like, “the person won’t like me if I don’t say ‘yes’”. Has someone said “no” to you in the past? You may have been disappointed, but chances are you didn’t stop liking that person just because they said “no”. Also, keep in mind how horrible you feel when you have volunteered for something you really didn’t want to do. You then either had to complete the horrible task or you had to flake out on the person and come up with an excuse for not completing the task. What is worse? Saying “no” up front and suffering the initial guilt and pain, or the long, slow agonizing pain that comes from saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do.

#8 Key to Retirement Satisfaction

Find a passion at home – Even if you are a social animal, love to be out, keep busy with volunteering and other activities, you will have down time at home. If you do something at home you find engaging and stimulating, home will be more meaningful to you. I love the idea of home being a nest, a place I can get nurtured and reenergized. Not everyone thinks of home that way. For many, home is just a place to hang your hat. If you have something you love doing while you are there, being at home will be more pleasant. As you grow older, you’ll want to spend more time at home. Having activities you enjoy will make that transition easier.

Retirement and happiness take work and planning. A happy retirement is not about doing nothing. Following the keys mentioned here, you can create a meaningful and satisfying life after work.



About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

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