Research reveals 4-step recipe for a happy retirement

Leading up to the campaign, glacier commissioned the ‘Through the Years’ report to better understand what makes a healthy and fulfilling retirement. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were held with 82 retired South Africans in their 60s, 70s and 80s that painted an upbeat picture of the proverbial golden years. Surfing, travelling, working for charities, studying and teaching – retirees today are all about living their best life.

The chosen sample of respondents had retired with a relatively comfortable monthly income – to showcase just how this can contribute to a full and healthy life after retiring – and how financial planning had contributed to this outcome.

Patrick Sheehy, Head of Product Management at Glacier by Sanlam, says, ‘We were delighted to learn that retirees today are more likely to be climbing rocks than rocking in a chair. From a 65-year-old real estate agent-cum-jazz musician to a 70-year-old surfer and beyond, the research sample was happy and contented.’

He said the research revealed striking similarities in the retirees’ ‘recipe for a happy retirement’. ‘The one big theme that came through was planning – planning financially [and saving for retirement as early as possible] and planning to ensure good medical treatment. But interestingly, they all recommend planning for the fun side of life too, in other words, having a plan for how you’re going to fill your days, weeks and years to get the most of this special time.’

Here is their recipe for a happy retirement.



‘I just want financial freedom, that’s all.’

Money is just one part of a happy retirement, but it’s an important ingredient. Eighty-two per cent of the report’s participants who felt reasonably comfortable that they had enough retirement savings had consulted with a financial planner. Of those who were unsure that their retirement savings would be sufficient, 75% hadn’t consulted with a financial planner. Most of the retirees were concerned that the cost of living was rising but their income was not. The impact of inflation, supporting one’s relatives and minimal state support were all key concerns. None of them wanted to be a financial burden to their children and a few were actually supporting their children and grandchildren.

Those who had regrets usually lamented spending too lavishly and not saving enough when they were younger. Interestingly, 75% of the sample were aware they should reinvest the lump sum they received on retiring. Almost all were aware of the need to continue planning and making smart decisions to ensure they were financially secure and could maintain their lifestyles.

Five top tips for making your money last as long as you do:

  1. Draw up a retirement budget in collaboration with a financial adviser. This should include selecting the right investments to provide you with a sustainable income throughout retirement
  2. Consider taking on part-time work or jumping into the ‘gig’ economy to supplement your income
  3. Diversify your investments and review them regularly to make sure your returns are on track – don’t leave anything to chance
  4. Review how you’re spending your income regularly and get your financial adviser to assist you with identifying and cutting out unnecessary expenses
  5. If a lump sum payout is part of your plan, consider how you’ll reinvest this.



‘Health is worth more than wealth, any day.’

Staying in good physical and mental health is pivotal to enjoying retirement to the fullest. Almost all the retirees cited health as their primary concern. Gene Cohen, director of George Washington University’s Center of Aging and author of The Mature Mind: The Positive Power Of The Aging Brain, says exercising the brain will help it form new connections necessary to ward off dementia. Additionally, it’s important to eat healthily and incorporate a daily exercise regime, since the latter releases endorphins – also known as ‘happy hormones’.

Top tips for staying in good health:

  1. Make sure you’re financially prepared for every eventuality. An unexpected health crisis can throw off retirement savings, so ensure you have medical aid, dread disease and other cover in place
  2. Think about the future and settle somewhere with care facilities close by
  3. Stay busy – draw up a daily schedule and try to stick to it. An idle body and mind can lead to depression and declining fitness
  4. Find a stimulating activity that you enjoy such as learning to play an instrument or reading
  5. Avoid stress, which can damage your immune system.



‘I feel very good when I’m able to give back.’

One of the best parts of following a recipe is being able to share the result.

All the retirees interviewed agreed that meaningful connections are crucial to a happy retirement. Many were active in the community as ward councillors, teachers, tutors, consultants, members of policing forums and volunteers. There are multiple ways to keep connected post retirement.

Five ways to stay connected:

  1. Teach, tutor or consult – try to actively share your skills
  2. Get involved in the community through volunteering or in more of an administrative role – such as a ward councillor
  3. Join institutions like the University of the Third Age to meet and mingle with like-minded people
  4. Become part of sports clubs or societies according to your interests
  5. Spend regular quality time with others, be it your partner, children and grandchildren or friends.



‘I’m not a stay-at-home granny who knits.’

To move forward and make the most of retirement, retirees said they needed to come to terms with and accept the past, and look forward with positivity. All recommended having a clear plan for filling the days, with some suggesting drawing up a daily schedule.

And while they take great pleasure in seeing their families, time with loved ones is only one part of the day-to-day lives of today’s retirees – contrary to popular perception that retirees are sitting around waiting for a visit from the time-strapped younger generations.

Here are some of the other activities the respondents prioritised:

  1. A daily surf (female, age 70)
  2. Founding a jazz band and music society (male, age 65)
  3. Finishing a master’s degree in astrophysics (male, age 61)
  4. Travelling to Mauritius and Morocco (60- to 80-year-olds)
  5. Swimming in the World Masters Games (female, age 70).

The secret to any recipe is making it your own. All the ingredients for a good retirement may be there, but you need to bring them together.


Source: GlacierQuarterly