Retirement will make you healthy and happy

Grandmother smiling

The government's work into what makes us happy has revealed that retirement is truly a golden age. Apparently when we retire we feel a huge weight lift from our shoulders, and we feel more carefree than any other time in our adult lives. We throw off the shackles of work and feel healthier than any time since our 30s.

So what's so great about retirement?
The Office for National Statistics has been measuring well-being by age, and has concluded that health is the most important driver for happiness. It found that young people feel the healthiest, with 75% of people aged between 16 and 24 saying they are satisfied with their health. Through their 20s and 30s this starts to drift south, until only 60% of those aged 59 feel healthy.

Once they hit their 60s, it suddenly improves again, and hits 67% - a rate they last saw in their 30s.

Genuinely healthier

For lots of people it's the lifestyle change associated with retirement that makes the difference, because it makes a massive difference to people's levels of anxiety. For those retiring now on good final salary pensions, who bought their houses decades ago at rock bottom prices, they have lost their cares and gained financial and physical freedom and independence.

The ONS found that people in their 60s were far less likely than their working counterparts to feel anxiety and depression. This peaks at 22% among those in their late 40s and 50s, before dropping to 14% for those in their late 60s.

In addition, once you have retired, you can set your own pace, and therefore are less likely to push your body beyond where you feel fit and well, so physically you are less likely to be suffering the same aches and pains.

Just feeling better

However, the ONS found that two strong themes also emerged which could be particularly important in explaining why retired people are happier. They were 'choice and control". People were happier when they felt in control of their own life, and able to make choices themselves. For many people, especially those in unsatisfying jobs, retirement is their first chance to be truly in control of their life.

Other studies have drawn out some of the other advantages of retirement. A study for the American Psychological Association found that happiness peaks between the ages of 60 and 69 because as people get older they are better able to control their emotions.

Meanwhile a study from Stamford University concluded that older people were just more able to spot what would make them unhappy and avoid it.

But what do you think, are you getting happier with age? Let us know in the comments.

7 ways to improve your retirement
See Gallery
Retirement will make you healthy and happy

If, like many Britons, you have failed to save the cash you need to maintain a comfortable standard of living in retirement, one option is to sell your home and downsize to a smaller property, using the money leftover to cover your living costs.
If moving out of the family home is too much of a wrench, however, the good news is that equity release schemes allow you to stay in your house or flat while still using the equity built up in it to provide some extra cash. The downside of the schemes, which work a bit like mortgages, is that you may not have much left to pass on to any children or other relatives.
But that's a small price to pay for a reasonable standard of living. For more information, try Age UK on 0800 169 6565.

Choosing the right annuity can have a significant impact on your retirement income. And as with most pensions, you automatically have what's called an 'open-market option' (OMO), you can scour the market for the highest annuity rate.
It is worth checking what your pension provider is offering first, though, as some companies offer guaranteed rates for existing customers that are likely to beat those available elsewhere. The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 is a good place to get some free advice.

On retirement, most people convert their pension fund into a guaranteed income annuity that pays out the same amount every month for the rest of their lives.
However, you can also choose an increasing annuity that pays out smaller amounts in the first few years but offers larger payments further down the line. This may prove a wise move if the rate of inflation remains at over 2%.

It is now easier to work later in life because the "default retirement age" has been scrapped.
People approaching retirement age and worrying about money can therefore choose to work for a few years longer - potentially transforming their financial situation. Other than the extra income from working, these people can look forward to higher state pensions, and higher annuity rates due to their greater age.
They can also benefit from bigger tax allowances and the fact that they no longer have to pay National Insurance contributions. Check out this nidirect website for more details.

You could get a much better rate with an impaired-life annuity if you have a medical condition that is likely to reduce your life expectancy.
Incredibly, even snoring, which is a common symptom of Sleep Apnoea could have an impact.
According to figures from MGM Advantage, a man with this condition could receive an extra £12,000 retirement income over the course of their retirement - or £571.44 extra money each year. Click here to find out more.

To maximise your retirement income, it is vital to ensure that you are receiving all the benefits to which you are entitled. These include the basic State Pension, and in some cases, the additional State Pension.
If you are on a low income, you could also qualify for the guaranteed element of Pension Credit, while those with some savings may get the savings element of this benefit. For more information about these and other benefits such as the Winter Fuel Payment, click here.

Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.
The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.

Read Full Story