Jolly old souls: Retiring makes people happy

We all look forward to a long and happy retirement.

It’s a time for enjoying yourself, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, hanging out with the grandkids, letting go of old work habits and taking up some new leisurely ones.

How much do you need for a ‘happy’ retirement?

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), a single person looking to live a ‘comfortable’ lifestyle in their retirement should save enough for $42,254 per year, while a couple looking to live with ease should budget for $57,817 per year.

ASFA defines ‘comfortable’ as being able to get involved with a broad “range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living” by being able to purchase both necessities and niceties alike.

On that note, there are a few worrying statistics around though that should get you thinking more about this…

Some people aren’t just entering their retirement years without sufficient savings, they’re even leaving the workforce when they still have debt, according to a report released by Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia.

With mortgage and credit card debt up significantly from 2002, households with couples aged 50-64 years in Australia on average had a $75,000 mortgage and $2,300 on their credit cards in 2010. The report cited the main reason for this trend is the fact that people are aware they’ll be coming into money once they retire so they are more willing to take on debt and risk in their later years.

Not only are Australians moving into retirement with higher debts, few are actually working until retirement age. Of the 60-64 years age group, only two-thirds of men and half of women are still working. Exiting the workforce reduces people’s potential to build up their superannuation funds with salary sacrificing or personal contributions, which can greatly affect their levels of comfort later in life.

But it’s not all bad news! There are many things you can do now to prepare you for a comfortable retirement in the future.

Saving as little – or as much – as you can afford to earlier in life is simply the best way to ensure a happy retirement. It may seem tough, but when those golden years roll around all of those accumulated savings will make for a nice little nest egg. Personal contributions and extra savings in your superannuation today are all investments in your own future and will ultimately pay for things like everyday living costs, international travel and trips to see the grandkids.

And retirement is made to enjoy.

A 2011 study from the Melbourne institute reported 60 percent of 1,344 retirees surveyed reported feeling happier in retirement than in their previous life.

Another third felt about the same, while just seven per cent felt worse.

These statistics are echoed by studies from around the world. UK research found levels of satisfaction with one’s mental wellbeing jumped from just over 60 per cent up to 67 per cent between the 59-64 and 65-70 years age brackets.

Related: Study proves Australia is a great place to retire

Why retiring makes people happy

Reasons for the golden years becoming worthy of their name can differ, but some experts suggest that merely the relief of finally retiring is often enough to make the elderly happier.

Other suggestions include the fact that retirees often move into charitable work, while other experts say that the realisation they have reached retirement age in a healthy condition is enough to boost happiness levels.

Boosting your pot of superannuation really could make your retirement the ‘golden years’.