There can be happy retirements and there can be challenging, and perhaps even unhappy, retirements. However, the state of those years is often created long before retirement age arrives, according to U.S. News & World Report in “Retired and Loving It? The Differences Between Happy and Unhappy Retirees.”
Here are some reasons to be cheerful ... or not:
Debt freedom or debt burden? Retirees with no or little debt do not worry about money as much as those who have debt. Paying off a mortgage is the biggest burden to retirement. That is a big amount to cover when you are not working. A big credit card bill and high interest rates can make matters worse.
Knowing what you spend. Knowing how bills will be paid in retirement starts with tracking and monitoring how bills are paid before you retire. Having a budgeting system, regardless of how you do it, will give you the information you need to know how much income will be needed each month or each quarter to pay bills. It can be as simple as a notepad or as complex as an accountant-level system, but this knowledge is really powerful.
Both spouses up to speed on money. It is not enough for one person to know how everything works. Both need to understand their financial status and communicate their concerns and wishes. Eventually, the harsh reality is that one or the other will die, leaving the other to either struggle to catch up or be ready to take the reins.
Multiple sources of income. The most content retirees have saved well and wisely. They have income from a few different sources. You do not want all your income to come from a tax-deferred retirement plan because you will be paying taxes on that income. For many, converting an IRA to a Roth makes sense (so that their withdrawals are not taxed).
It is not all about money. Having an active social life, pursuing interests, and enjoying day to day activities is key to enjoying retirement. Sometimes that comes about when people move from their single-family home into an active community, where there are full schedules and facilities that promote a variety of interests. An active network, especially one that is purpose driven, elevates the spirit and provides a strong connection to the community.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Nov. 9, 2018) “Retired and Loving It? The Differences Between Happy and Unhappy Retirees”