Insider secrets to enjoying a long and happy retirement

Money is only a small part of what makes you happy after you retire, says blogger Sydney Lagier, a former certified public accountant who left the working world two years ago at the young age of 44 and now writes about the experience of escaping the grind for U.S. News & World Report.

Here are what she says are the seven secrets to retirement happiness.

  • Good health: Be healthy enough to enjoy yourself.
  • A significant other: It doesn't matter whether you're married or just living with a partner and enjoying life, so long as you have someone to share the good times.
  • A social network: Socialize not just with your children and grandchildren, but with plenty of friends and acquaintances as well.
  • Avoid TV: At least two studies confirmed that unhappy people watch the most TV.
  • Intellectual curiosity: Do things that keep your brain chugging along.
  • Don't be overly ambitious: If it's important to you to be the top dog, you probably won't like retirement.
  • Enough money: You don't have to be rich, but you need to be able to pay the bills. You won't be happy if you spend all your time worrying about where your next buck is coming from.
I thought this was a fine list. But since I'm not retired yet, I decided to seek out an expert opinion. So I walked down the street to Bob's house on the corner.
Bob retired 15 years ago from General Motors, where he worked in the engineering department, and he hasn't regretted the decision to stop working for a single minute. He has a blue 1972 Corvette in the garage, parked next to his Harley. He and his wife spend winters at their home in Florida and summers on Lake Erie. Today, he's out at his dock tuning up the motor on his 28-foot cruiser.

What makes him happy -- besides all those great toys? Here's a guide to retirement happiness, according to Bob:

  • Get up when you want.
  • Go to bed when you want.
  • Go where you want to go when you want to go.
  • Do what you want when you want to do it.
  • Have a drink when it suits you.
  • And don't let anybody tell you what to do -- "ever."
I think that's a good list - maybe better than the accountant's list. One of these days I might check in with Bob's Mrs. I suspect she might have a slightly different list.

But whether you go for the accountant's list or prefer Bob's, the bottom line seems clear. For many retirees, the opportunity to choose and maintain your independence represents the ultimate retirement asset.
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