As 75 million Americans approach retirement over the coming decade, they might be in for a rude awakening. We are the sum of our habits and retirement is a time to make changes and enjoy things that were not always possible before. The challenge is bad habits are creeping up on you slowly until you don’t even notice the damage they’re causing. As it turns out, your happiness in retirement could be determined as much by what you remove from your life as what you add. Here are five things you could eliminate from your life to be happier in retirement.
Activities that don’t bring gratification. Once retired, a lot of people might easily assume that you have plenty of free time on your hands. And quickly you become their ideal candidate for serving on committees and boards. This can be enjoyable and be fulfilling for some, but only say yes if you really want to do it. You shouldn’t feel obligated to accept a commitment just because you have the available time or the required skills. Pick only the activities that you know will give you enjoyment. For example, if your vision of a satisfying retirement doesn’t include a lot of time spent on home and yard upkeep, look into ways to reduce or eliminate it.
Stereotypes that used to define you
Mainstream society may try to “put you in your place,” telling you that retired people should dress and act a certain way. You should be modest, they’ll say. You should dress conservatively, they’ll say. You should act your age, they’ll say. Don’t listen to them. You’ve earned your place in society, you’ve paid your dues, and you’ve earned the privilege to act and dress however you please. If you want to take up flamenco dancing, don’t let anyone hold you back. If your varicose veins bother them, that’s their problem, not yours.
After building up your retirement savings, you may be tempted to splurge on a new car or fancy cruises. When living on a fixed income in retirement, it is very important to make sure that your income does not exceed expenses. Enjoy yourself, but don’t empty your bank account with reckless expenses. You may not want to start taking social security payments too early. By delaying just a few years, you can dramatically increase your monthly payments by as much as over 70%. Your retirement savings need to last as long as you do. If you’ve made it 65, there is a good chance you’ve still got at least another 20 years ahead of you.
Plenty of “stuff” you no longer use. Retirement is a great time to get rid of excess possessions that you no longer need. Less “stuff” means less to maintain. Chances are, you waste time looking for things you know you own but can’t find. Many retirees find themselves with homes that are simply too large for them. Downsizing your home is one way that you can really cut back on extra possessions. Take inventory of what you really need and get rid of what you don’t. Downsizing does not mean you have to scrimp and save and deny yourself the things you love. In fact, it gives you the time, money, and opportunity to make the most out of your retirement.
Negative People. Retirement it is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning with the group of people who make up your circle of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends. Of course, you should be available to help your friends through difficult times, such as a death in the family or recuperating from an illness. But if you have people in your life who are constant whiners or complainers, disengage from them. If you know people who are petty gossipers, distance yourself and don’t get caught up in their drama. If you have friends who only call or visit you when they want to talk about themselves or need a shoulder to cry on but who show little concern for you, replace them with friends who are more caring and uplifting. You need to get rid of them because if you want to live longer, a positive outlook will add years to your life. One Yale study has found that having a positive attitude to aging can help you live seven years longer.