7 Ways to Live a More Fulfilling and Happy Life in Retirement

Chances are, at some point in your life, when you thought about retirement, you imagined playing tennis or golf in the mornings, long lunches with friends, or traveling to places you never had time to visit.

There’s nothing wrong with these activities. But after a while, doing the same thing day in and day out is bound to get old. Fast.

When most of us think planning for retirement, we think of 401(k)s, IRAs…investing for our future. And we spend decades ensuring we’ll be financially secure when the time comes to walk away from our 9 to 5.

Yes, it’s important to set a financial goal based on the type of lifestyle you want to have. Yes, it’s important to save as much as you can so you don’t outlive your retirement investments.

But retirement isn’t just about how much money you’ll have.

It’s about your purpose, your ability to really live life and to leave a lasting legacy.

After all, you can’t buy a fulfilling life, unless you plan for it.

You might know how much money you’ll have and even have a budget in place. But one overlooked aspect of retirement planning is figuring out who you will be and what you want to do with your new-found freedom.

One of the best ways to plan for a happy and fulfilling retirement is to visualize what your future looks like. Not just daydream, but put a pen to paper and write out the details of where you might live, what you will do with your days and evenings, and who you will be.

If you’re nearing retirement or you’re already there, we encourage you to take time and think of the kind of lifestyle you want. Need some inspiration to get started? Check out our 7 tips on how to live a more fulfilling, happy, and active life in retirement.

1# Have a Purpose in Retirement

Live a more fulfilling and happy life in retirement
According to a study conducted by Patrick L. Hill and Nicholas A. Turiano,¹ those with a meaningful life and direction outlive their peers. Specifically, people with a sense of purpose in life have a 15% lower risk of death compared to those without much direction.

Many of us in the workforce measure purpose and success by our professional awards, raises, and recognition.

When you retire, you’ll need to find new meaning to fill the void.

Knowing what will bring you a sense of purpose after you’ve retired is the key to a happy and fulfilling retirement.

To answer this, you need to look inward and ask yourself:

  • What truly makes me happy?
  • What do I really want to try?
  • What passions have I not pursued?
  • What can I do that will make a difference in my community?

Start a vision board and collect images of what brings you a sense of fulfillment. Journal daily about what brings you purpose. Do what you can to get clear, and then create a plan for your life that revolves around what brings you meaning.

If you need help gaining clarity, hire a life coach or read books on the topic, such as our very own Matthew Jackson’s Retirement Dreammaker.

#2 Set and Keep a Schedule

It’s one thing to dream about what you’ll do during retirement; it’s another thing to be retired.

What will you do with your time when you no longer report to an office or have clients day in and day out? While it may sound novel and enticing while you’re still in the workforce, there’s only so much TV, tinkering around the house, and napping one can take.

One way to avoid restlessness and boredom that comes with a less structured life is to set a schedule. Whether it’s exercise, volunteering, hobbies, or social events, sticking to a weekly schedule will help you stay active and feel a sense of accomplishment each day.

#3 Give Back

Live a more fulfilling and happy life in retirement
Making yourself useful not only creates purpose, but it also generates new friendships and a sense of belonging to a community. And giving back–whether it be your time, knowledge, or experience–is rewarding, no matter your age.

If you are a retired executive, consider mentoring through entrepreneurship or start-up programs. Enjoy gardening? Join a community garden club that teaches kids how to grow their own food. Or volunteer at a local homeless shelter that provides hope to people in need. Decide what you’re most passionate about and get involved.

If you’re nearing retirement, why not get involved in community service projects or volunteering now?

#4 Spend Your Days on Your Terms

Spend Your Days on Your Terms-401lk Maneuver
You’ve spent your adult life working for someone else or for yourself. In retirement, there’s no one telling you where to be or what needs to get done ASAP. No clients to answer to. No account reviews happening Tuesday.

So, if you don’t want to do it, don’t! Live where you want to live. If you’d rather spend time playing with the grandkids than playing bridge with the neighbors, then don’t play bridge. If you’ve always wanted to spend your afternoons reading, don’t apologize for it.  

Whatever it is, do what you’ve always wanted to do. Go for it. No one is stopping you.

#5 Travel to Places You’ve Always Dreamed Of

Live a more fulfilling and happy life in retirement

Travel is one of the most popular pursuits of retirees. From cross-country road trips to foreign travel, the sky ‘s the limit with the right planning and prioritization. If you’ve planned for the type of retirement lifestyle that includes frequent travel, great.

If you’re living on a tighter budget, you can still see the world without tossing your budget aside. Travel with friends and share expenses. Be adventurous and stay in hostels. TrustedHouseSitters and similar organizations allow you to live abroad for free, and you can stay for longer periods of time. In addition, there are a variety of volunteer travel organizations to choose from.

#6 Achieve Goals You Couldn’t Reach While Working

Live a more fulfilling and happy life in retirement
Go back to school. Finally take up painting. Become an expert hobby farmer. Whatever you put on hold while working, why not give it a try now.

Think about what goals and dreams you had when you were younger or promises you made to your future self while sitting in traffic on the way to work. What do you want to try that you didn’t have time for? What passion have you yet to pursue?

If you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, register for local classes or hire a tutor. Or, venture down to Mexico or Central America and attend a language immersion school for a few weeks. Always wanted to teach? Research what certifications you might need, and then go for it! It’s a vast world out there with ample opportunities awaiting you.  

#7 Have a Young Mindset

Live a more fulfilling and happy life in retirement
Harvard conducted a four-decade study which showed mental attitudes can improve physical health and reverse the effects of aging.² If you think you’re old, you’ll be old. If you think you’re young, you’ll be young. It’s not your age that matters; it’s your mindset.

In a society obsessed with age and that worships youth, it’s easy to buy into the belief that retirees should act “this way,” or if you’re 72, this is what you look like. Ignore the media chatter and find your inner child. Get curious about the life that’s ahead of you. Expand your horizons. Learn new things.

You get to choose how you view age. So why not see aging in a positive light and reap the rewards of feeling and looking better?  

What Does Your Ideal Retirement Look Like? Leave Us a Comment Below and Let Us Know!


  1. Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood, Patrick L. Hill, Nicholas A. Turiano. May 8, 2014 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614531799
  2. https://scholar.harvard.edu/langer


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