To Be Happier in Retirement, Start Preparing Yourself Now

Before the internet, booking travel accommodations could be risky. If you simply picked an out-of-town motel out of the yellow pages, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise—a cramped room, worn out furnishings, and a noisy street right out your window. This is why many people opted to stay only at accommodations that were part of a national chain. At least you could be sure your room would meet a predictable standard of quality.

But even riskier than staying at an unfamiliar motor lodge would be renting a private party’s vacation house. Who knows what conditions you’ll have to live under for the length of your stay?

Now booking platforms like AirBnB have eliminated much of that risk of the unknown. Their listings for most properties include photos from every angle inside and out, a catalog of amenities, and detailed reviews from people who recently stayed there. You have access to so much information that when you pull up to your vacation cabin for the first time, it already feels familiar.

When it comes to the future, we all crave certainty. And this is especially true when planning for retirement. We think a lot about the financial component, which plays a big part. But in some ways this may be the most predictable. While you can’t know which way the stock market will be going, you can run specific scenarios about what you can do if X, Y, or Z happens. It’s just crunching numbers.

But planning for how you’ll experience your retirement is much less concrete. After all, you’ve never done it before. Will quitting work give you a new outlook on life? Will a health challenge limit what you can do? Will you change your mind about where you want to live?

Since you can’t know the answers to these and a dozen other major questions about your future life, the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself to be flexible and resilient. And the best time to start is now.

Albert Costill, a financial writer for Entrepreneur, has compiled a list of five traits that are most likely to make you happier in retirement.1

  1. Have a realistic view of money. You need enough to live comfortably and meet the unexpected, but having twice as much won’t make you twice as happy.
  2. Make your health a priority. Preventable diseases can have a big impact on your quality of life.
  3. Stay connected. Close relationships are the key to happiness at every stage of life.
  4. Have multiple income sources. Diversification can give you the most flexibility when the inevitable financial challenges arise.
  5. Maintain a schedule. It doesn’t have to be like when you were working, but no matter how much free time you have, you won’t appreciate it if you’re not utilizing it.

These are all ways to help you be ready for the unexpected. By developing these traits and healthy mindsets now, you can give your future self a better chance at happiness in your well-earned retirement years.