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How do you find happiness in retirement?
Have you ever stopped to think more consciously about finding or creating happiness and fulfilment in your life? Scientists have discovered what they say is the foundations of happiness.
I went to an inspiring keynote address last night from one of the world leading scientists addressing happiness, Dr Robert Waldinger, the fourth Director of the Harvard Study on Adult Development. This is a study that has been running since 1938, that has evolved over the years to offer some definitive insights into what drives happiness and fulfilment. His speech on the subject was inspiring enough to make me want to come straight home and rewrite my newsletter for you … so here goes.
In this newsletter:
Article: How do you find happiness in retirement?
Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Article: Higher interest rates are good news for retirees
From Bec’s Desk
Buy the book for Fathers’ Day (or just because)
It’s hard to believe that scientists only started to study and understand how happiness is created in the late 20th century, so the things we know about this increasingly critical and keenly sought after topic are only 20-30 years old. And yet understanding happiness is so darned important to living a purposefully fulfilling life. Those who’ve read my book know that ‘happiness and fulfilment’ is one of the key pillars of an epic retirement and I talk at length about how you can do this. But today I want to add to this some additional and helpful insights.
To give you some of the foundations again, scientific studies say there is two key ways that happiness and wellbeing manifests in our lives.
Hedonic happiness or seeking out activities and experiences that bring immediate feelings of joy, pleasure, and contentment while minimising discomfort or negative emotions. That is, enjoying life in the moment - consciously smelling the roses, eating the ice-cream, sitting with your grandchild and chatting.
Eudaimonic well-being which comes from living a life of purpose, meaning, and self-realisation. Eudaimonic well-being is based on the philosophical idea of eudaimonia, which suggests that true happiness and fulfilment come from engaging in activities that align with one's values, strengths, and passions, leading to a sense of flourishing and personal growth.
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And these things form the foundations for short-lived hedonistic happiness which you can pursue for moments, and longer lasting, meaning-driven happiness.
The discoveries grown from watching people in America age have allowed scientists to lay out a framework for what usually makes people happy. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, there’s seven big things you need to think about in your pursuit of happiness. And most of them boil down to pretty simple stuff.
The first important element of happiness is financial wellbeing - or enough income to be able to meet your basic living costs and keep you in comfort. The studies show that being wealthy does not necessarily make you happier, in fact, there is no correlation in the data between high wealth and increased happiness. Only a correlation with ‘having enough’ and being happy. As wealth increased in people’s lives, happiness went in a sideways to downward trend, Dr Waldinger says.
The second and potentially, the most important is cultivating meaningful connections - building and maintaining strong relationships and social connections in our lives will not only help us live both happier and longer lives, it will also help us live longer. Loneliness is toxic according to Waldinger, and more pervasive than ever with 25% of Americans reporting in 2022 that they do not have a confidant to share with, up from 14% in 2018. It results in earlier cognitive and physical decline; an increase in stress induced hypertension; and impaired sleep. The wonderful thing that the research uncovered is that relationships and connections with other people actually get into our body and protect us, and help us maintain good health for longer in life.
The third is taking care of your health - and as you can see, this is not only looking after our physical health with good diet, regular exercise and proactive and preventive healthcare. It also connects back into the second point, because our relationships offer these protective health benefits.
The fourth is setting goals and pursuing passions - The study suggests that striving toward meaningful goals can enhance our motivation and drive. Achieving goals, whether big or small, can result in a sense of accomplishment, boosting our self-esteem and contributing positively to overall well-being.
The fifth is gratitude, which is said to nurture positive relationships, aid in coping with challenges, and tends to underpin feelings of optimism and positive emotions. Gratitude is an important part of being mindful, and enjoying the present which scientists say contributes to overall emotional well-being.
The sixth is giving back to others: Engaging in acts of kindness and contributing to your community can provide a profound sense of fulfilment. And that’s why volunteer work and helping others can create such a positive impact on both your life and the lives of those around you.
And the seventh is maintaining a positive attitude: Cultivating a positive mindset by focusing on the things you can control and letting go of negativity. A positive attitude can contribute to resilience and enhance your ability to navigate life's challenges.
So how do you put that into action in your own life?
Dr Waldinger spoke about, and I want to impress how important it is to be proactive and responsible about our relationships and scheduling in time for friends and family, and time for your health. In this modern world, it is very easy to let relationships wither away, and this damages our overall social fitness. He speaks of the simple steps we can all take, in our everyday lives like:
Taking a brief moment to text someone you haven’t connected with lately who means something to you and tell them you’re thinking about them. Connect! You might be surprised at how much joy this brings both you and them.
Think about applying more time and deliberate connection to family dinners. Get everyone to put the phones away and really interact, creating a dynamic that can otherwise be lost. The statistics show that if phones are on the table, the conversations will be more shallow as people are expecting interruption.
Be responsible for booking, arranging and doing things with friends. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first moves. Your healthspan, happiness and longevity will benefit from your proactivity.
Higher interest rates are good news for retirees
This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today on Sunday 20th August 2023, in both print and digital.
The squeals of cost of living pain from families and first homebuyers are real, as inflation and interest rates both bite hard. But at the same time, an important shift is taking place, particularly among retirees and pre-retirees, as their purse strings loosen, and they feel more confident.
The annual results reported this week by Commonwealth Bank (CBA) chief executive, Matt Comyn showed a renewed sense of optimism and freedom among older Australians with higher interest rates fuelling significantly higher spending and saving for those over 55 in the last quarter.
Could this be the beginning of a period of optimism and newfound freedom for a whole generation approaching and in retirement?
Data in the CBA annual results report showed that among their 15.9 million customers, spending is up close to 5 per cent for the quarter among 55-64s and 6.4 per cent among 65+ in a year-on-year comparison. That’s a huge jump and a large turnaround in sentiment from the years before.
The financial shift was not just seen in spending behaviours, as those in the older bracket also managed to increase their savings significantly in the same period. This is two-pronged progress – increased spending coupled with a hefty growth in savings – and it underscores a remarkable reversal of fortune for pre-retirees and retirees driven chiefly by interest rates and investment returns.
There’s no doubt among any older retirees that this shift has been a long time coming. For nearly 13 years, historically low interest rates have caused enormous pain for a whole generation, forcing people to navigate retirement with restricted investment returns by lowering their cost of living. Interest rates even sat below CPI for several years increasing the anxiety of older consumers, particularly those dependent on superannuation income streams.
But the turnaround, driven by interest rates designed to combat high inflation appears to have a little momentum, even though inflation is expected to hang around for some time. Solid annual results from superannuation funds in 2023, alongside strong dividends from the ASX reporting season should add to the building levels of confidence in over-55s.
And keep an eye out every Sunday in Nine Newspapers for my weekly column.
From Bec’s Desk
I wondered how many of you are feeling lonely (or happy) today, so I’ve opened up a poll in our Facebook group to explore it. It might be time for some community activities to start in Epic Retirement that we can come together to enjoy. I’d love to hear your honest answers. Click here to take the poll… Facebook.com.groups/epicretire
On a different note, I’m delighted to share with you that How to Have an Epic Retirement has enjoyed another week as the #1 bestselling self improvement book by an Australian author. And we’ve already gone into our first reprint. Thank you for purchasing it.
The audiobook edition was finally released last week. So you can listen to the book on audiobook or via Audible, read by me!
I’m looking forward to an appearance on Radio National’s Life Matters Program on Thursday morning (today!) at 9am, which you can listen to online at https://www.abc.net.au/radionational or watch it on your TV, on channel 26 or ask your smart speaker to "play ABC Radio National".
I’m also on ABC Afternoons in Sydney with Josh Szeps tomorrow, listen in at 2.30pm.
My favourite radio show this week was an interview on 6PR Money News with Karalee Katsambanis, which you can listen to here.
Don’t forget to email me with your ideas and feedback. Bec@epicretirement.com.au
And I’m looking for people to interview for Retirement Diaries with epic retirement stories to tell. - so reach out if you’re living an epic retirement in your own way and think others can learn from you!
Have a great week ahead! Make it Epic!
Bec Wilson Xx
Buy the book, audiobook or ebook
If you haven’t ordered your copy of How to Have an Epic Retirement already, here’s how you can
It is the ultimate guidebook for modern retirees.
How to Have an Epic Retirement guides readers through the way the systems of retirement work, and is packed with tips, insights and guidance that spans six pillars of an epic retirement. It is designed to help you learn the valuable lessons that modern retirees wish someone had shared with them before they kicked off the changes and stages of life that come after retirement.
How to Have an Epic Retirement is on the Hot Picks for Fathers’ Day list for Booktopia. You can buy it 30% off here.
You can also get it on Amazon and Audible here.
Or, you should find it wherever books are sold - see the stockists here.
Join me on Facebook & Instagram
I’m about to start a stream of micro-lessons about retirement on Instagram and Facebook (and heavens forbid - Tiktok), so depending on which is your favourite, please, come along and be a part of the conversations.
Follow me on Tiktok here (yes heaven’s forbid - we’re going to be doing this!)
And you should already be a member of our Epic Retirement Facebook Group. If you aren’t you can join here: facebook.com/groups/epicretire
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