Money Can’t Buy Happiness: 4 Secrets to a Happy Retirement

You know the saying: Money can’t buy happiness. While that may be true, there is one thing you can do financially to impact your happiness in retirement, and that’s proper planning.

Two eggs in an egg carton: One with a happy face drawn on and one with a sad face.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many people believe they need to save a certain amount of money to successfully retire. But there’s a catch many don’t expect: You can have all the money you want and need, yet money alone does not guarantee happiness!

While money is an important piece of being able to afford retirement in the first place, proper planning is key to feeling confident and happy in retirement.

Retirement Planning Secret No. 1: Set your goals

Your dream retirement should not feel elusive. When setting your goals for retirement, be specific. Visualize exactly what you want to do in retirement, and compare goals with your spouse to see if you’re on the same page.

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Setting specific goals makes retirement feel real, and people are more willing to start the planning process. Once your goals are part of your plan, you will know exactly what you are saving for and how much money you need. A meaningful retirement depends on both the satisfaction you are getting from life experiences and the financial means you have to pay for them.

Retirement Planning Secret No. 2: Make health care a priority

Life expectancy for both men and women is increasing. While that may sound like good news, living longer costs more and can lead to more worry about whether your money will last. This is why long-term care should be part of your comprehensive plan.

More than half of people who are 65 today will need some form of long-term care later in life (opens in new tab). However, long-term care expenses and the need for long-term care insurance varies from person to person depending on overall health. An insurance policy or an annuity rider can help fund long-term care needs. Sit down with your financial adviser to determine how you will pay for health care and long-term care expenses in retirement.

Retirement Planning Secret No. 3: Take care of your family

You don’t need to be wealthy to have an estate plan. Whether you’re a millionaire or someone with an average 401(k), you have an estate. Documenting your wishes with an estate plan is an important part of feeling happy and confident in your golden years.

One planning option available to protect your assets as you pass them down to your family is to set up a qualified trust. If your children or grandchildren aren’t old enough or mature enough to handle an inheritance, you can set up a trust that gives them a small amount of money each year, and that amount of money increases as they get older. You can leave money specifically for wedding expenses, paying for college or student loans.

Retirement Planning Secret No. 4: Find your purpose

Entering retirement can be emotionally and financially harder than you expect. You can have all the money you need, but if you aren’t happy, you won’t experience a meaningful retirement. Many retirees find themselves missing the social aspect of working. They’re bored or even depressed (opens in new tab). It’s important to be purposeful when considering how you’ll spend your newfound free time, and that might mean picking up new hobbies, volunteering or working part-time to stay busy.

The bottom line: When it comes to retirement, money isn’t everything. You don’t need a million dollars, but you do need a proper plan that outlines how your money can work for you. If you haven’t taken the proper planning steps, start looking for a financial adviser who can get you on the right track to a happy and confident retirement.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Tony Drake, CFP®, Investment Advisor Representative
Founder & CEO, Drake and Associates

Tony Drake is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™and the founder and CEO of Drake & Associates (opens in new tab) in Waukesha, Wis. Tony is an Investment Adviser Representative and has helped clients prepare for retirement for more than a decade. He hosts The Retirement Ready Radio Show on WTMJ Radio each week and is featured regularly on TV stations in Milwaukee. Tony is passionate about building strong relationships with his clients so he can help them build a strong plan for their retirement.