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What Does a Happy Retirement Look Like?

What Does a Happy Retirement Look Like?

March 15, 2024

Incentives are an important factor in life. No matter how self-motivated we are, knowing that something special awaits us helps to smooth the journey and makes us happy when the reward materializes. Get A’s on your report card and you can have that new bicycle. Your first promotion deserves a special dinner out.

So, what awaits us in retirement? What kind of life should one lead after years of discipline, planning, and saving?

A 2018 MIT Age Lab study surveyed 990 U.S. adults and found diverse descriptions of their retired life, ranging from fun to boring. Some preferred being active through travel, sports, and hobbies. Others were focused on feeling fulfilled through philanthropy, volunteer work and time with family.

These two approaches could be viewed through the lenses of leisure or purpose. Is one better than the other?


Eight-hour workdays being replaced by hours of daily leisure certainly sounds appealing. Spending time engaging in hobbies, socializing, and, the most popular leisure activity, watching TV is your reward for years of a successful life and career.

After decades of work, family responsibilities, and challenges, the joy found in leisure is not only appealing, it is linked to better health, creativity, and, couples take note, marital satisfaction.

But is that all retirement is…a low-key extended vacation?


A 2010 meta-analysis, combining 148 studies with over 308,000 participants, found that purpose and social connection boost survival rates by 50%, while the lack of social relationships can create risks as if you smoked, drank heavily, or were obese. 

This concept is further supported by research that was popularized by a National Geographic and Netflix docuseries called “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zone.” It links longevity with purpose.

Ongoing research shows retirees with a strong sense of purpose obtained through philanthropy, volunteerism, and community involvement reported being happier and more content than those who focused only on leisure.

In Conclusion

By the time we’ve reached retirement, we’ve most likely obtained a great deal of wisdom. We know that life is about balance, and being true to ourselves. Happiness lies in finding that balance between leisure and purpose each in our own way.

At One Financial Services, we are here to help you seek to build a financial future that will provide you with the retirement deserve.