Here’s why your retirement will usher in your happiest, most fulfilling years yet.
Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” could be the anthem for your retirement years. That’s because researchers have found that age 66 is the “happiest” time of a person's life—the age at which they experience the least sadness and depressive symptoms. Another study discovered that Americans age 50 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to be very happy.
So what is it exactly that makes 50 and older such a great age to be? Often there is an ideal convergence of emotional and financial well-being that no other decade allowed.
Let’s start with the emotional component, which some experts trace to no longer being a member of the sandwich generation. “For many, caregiving responsibilities—both for children and aging parents—have eased up, as have work responsibilities,” explains Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “There is more time and opportunity to enjoy one’s life without day-to-day responsibility for others.”
Without the burden of child-rearing or caring for aging parents, you have time to focus on yourself. “This is the time of life when people can actually start chomping away at their dreams deferred, crossing off things on their bucket list,” says Levine, “instead of just fantasizing about doing them.”
From a financial point of view, some obvious line items come to mind. You may finally be off the hook when it comes to paying for college tuition, a mortgage, or your car payment. Plus, if you’ve stopped working, “there are many other cost savings in terms of work-related expenses like commuting, office clothing, and lunch,” Levine adds. Also, if you’ve saved well and started collecting Social Security, you may have a little extra cash in your pocket.
Finally, technology has enabled people to remain more connected with family and friends than ever before—even if they live far away. And being connected has been shown to ward off sadness and provide a greater overall sense of happiness.
So if you thought high school or college were the best years of your life, you’re in for a pleasant surprise as you near retirement—the best may still be to come.