A well-planned retirement offers you the path to retirement happiness.
We are attracted to the idea of doing what we love because it sets the path to sustained happiness.
But where does happiness come from and does just the act of retirement guarantee happiness?
Retirement is a life stage choice that you make and is not an element of happiness on its own.
Retirement is just a step that allow you to focus more on things that truly matter in life and will make life more enjoyable.
There are nuances in how different people perceive happiness.
But the basic elements of a happy retired life are broadly consistent across countries and cultures.
The 5 Elements of Happiness in Retirement
The 5 elements of a happy retired life are wealth, health, relationships, meaningful work, and personal freedom.
Each of these components plays an important part in the making of a wholesome and satisfying life.
We need adequate fulfilment via each of these components to enjoy true retirement happiness.
It is not possible to substitute the lack of one component by having too much of some other element.
You may have tons of money but not have any fulfilling relationships with those around you.
More money in this case will be of little use in boosting your overall happiness.
Similarly, strong bonds of relationships can do little to keep you fulfilled if you continue to ignore your health.
Let us take a dive into each of these elements.
It will help you understand how the idea of retirement ties in with achieving happiness in life.
We live in a society where money forms the primary means of exchange.
At the very minimum having money allows you to fulfil your basic needs of food and shelter.
It also allows you to meet your leisure needs and lets you help others through altruistic giving.
Financial independence is about having enough passive income to cover your living expenses without exchanging your time for money.
Getting to a level of financial independence will improve your financial wellbeing and overall happiness.
There is one point though at which accumulation of wealth moves from being a source of happiness to a source of unhappiness.
That is the point when you have reached your “enough.”
Your enough is the point at which additional wealth does bring any additional personal happiness.
Instead, it becomes a source of unhappiness as you realise that the additional wealth is doing nothing to boost your happiness.
The key is to realise where this enough lies for you because your enough will be quite different from everyone else’s enough and unique to you.
If you decide to retire early, it means that some of your peers at your workplace will end up with a final net-worth which will be much more than what you will ever see.
You need to be mentally comfortable and content with this fact. Or else you may not be emotionally ready to leave your job.
Once you have reached a good point in terms of wealth, accumulation of additional wealth should no longer be your objective.
Accumulation of additional wealth will not lift your happiness any further.
As outlined in the early retirement ideology, nature pre-sets the trajectory of this element.
We all follow the natural cycle of infancy into adulthood which then gives way to old age.
The more we remain in shape during the prime years of our life, the better placed we are to live a happier life.
Some things are best done time in the peak of your life from a health perspective.
Going for a hike up in the mountains, playing a sport or helping in the community is much easier when you in the pink of health.
It is hard to undo the harm if you have not tended to your body when you needed to.
A healthy body is a key element of retirement happiness.
However, the corporate lifestyle and lack of work-life balance can seriously hamper that quest.
If your daily commute and job takes up 10-12 hours of each weekday, you may be left with little energy or time to focus on your health.
We are not just talking about your physical health. Your mental health is just as important as it tends to get ignored even more.
A corporate job leaves little scope for mental downtime.
If you are expected to be on call 24×7, your mind cannot truly be in a relaxed place.
Whatever downtime you do have may involve being slumped on a couch watching TV. And the same cycle repeats itself day after day.
Transitioning away from a 9-5 job is one way of breaking this endless cycle by moving to a more flexible working arrangement.
Not only does it allow dedicating more time towards improving your health, but it also ends up boosting your overall productivity.
While a lucky few find meaning in their 9-5 job, for most corporate workers their job is primarily a means to earn a living and pay the bills.
Even if you find meaning in your job initially, it can be tough to find meaning in every position you hold through a career that spans many decades.
At a deeper level we are meant to spend our time on this planet doing personally meaningful work.
Although there is no exact definition of what meaningful work should look like for you, one thing is clear. It is something you would be happy to do even if no one paid you to do it.
Meaningful work is work that aligns with your purpose, your values and true calling in life.
Work that so engrosses you that you forget about everything else when you are at it.
It is a key element in driving up the happiness in retirement.
As we go through school and college, we grow up thinking about future careers that offer us a chance to make a living doing it.
With these blinkers on we try to look for work that provides meaning as well as money at the same time. While some of us find that combination, the vast majority do not.
There are so many potential writers, chefs, artists, volunteers, teachers who are still in a corporate role because at some stage they simply stop looking for meaning in their work.
Financial independence and retirement from your corporate job gives you the optionality.
It is the optionality to pursue work that you enjoy doing even if there is no financial reward in doing that work.
Our ability to thrive in our communities is a key component of our overall happiness. This includes a strong bond with our immediate family and friends.
Developing strong relationships involves investing not money but time into building those bonds.
A busy lifestyle while at our day job limits the amount of time available at our disposal for investing in these relationships.
When you get limited paid time off, you are forced to prioritise the things you want to fit into that limited time window.
Given that your friends are going through the same time challenges makes it even more difficult to maintain the strong bonds of friendship.
Retirement offers the opportunity to get back greater control on your time.
Part of the time you get back can be invested in building and deepening these relationships.
The final element of retirement happiness is about having the individual freedom to live life on your own terms.
When we get the chance to live our lives in harmony with our personality, values, and choices it leads to a feeling of contentment.
A 9-5 job means that you do not have full control of your time.
Your trade your time in return for a salary. You give up on the freedom to pursue other activities in that time.
Living the corporate life requires compromises. You may have to put up with things that may not mesh well with how you would want to live your life.
Once you have been doing this for decades on end it also starts to define who you are.
You let someone else decide your goals, priorities, and purpose in life.
That is one reason a lot of retirees struggle to cope with retirement when it finally arrives.
Your job starts to define who you are, and you are completely lost when you no longer have a job.
Moving out of a routine 9-5 life helps you discover your identity based on who you truly are as a person.
It gives you the opportunity to start living your life which fully aligns with your choices.
There is no longer any corporate manual to guide you on living this life. You make your own personal manual and choose to live it.
A fulfilling retirement is about driving up the happiness you feel in your retirement. Doing more of the things you love is what defines it.
The 5 elements of retirement happiness outlined here are what impact life as we experience it every single day.
Dushyant Choudhary is the founder of dushyantnomics, a retirement blog for Indians. Dushyant retired early from his 9-5 corporate life after a successful international career. He brings his knowledge and experience to his current role where he’s dedicated to helping professionals achieve a fulfilling retirement.