The key to wealth and happiness? Living together

Living alone makes you unhappy

The key to happiness is apparently having someone to come home to. The average UK happiness score is 6.6 out of 10, but the happiness of those who live alone is just 6.2. This isn't for emotional reasons, or because we want the company: it's all about the money.

See also: Partners are the key to happiness

See also: Best places to live for a happy retirement

Research from SunLife found that while there is a link between income and happiness, there is a stronger link between happiness and how much cash people have left after paying the bills.

The study showed that the average UK household has an income of £2,083 a month, and once all the expenses are paid, there's £102 a week left for the household to spend as they want. People who live alone, meanwhile, have more than half the average household income - at £1,242 a month. However, once they have met their average outgoings, they have just £44 a week to spend as they wish.

This is because there are certain costs associated with running a house that bear little relation to the number of people living in that property. It means that people who live alone spend 61% of their income on housing, finance and bills, 12% on the things they consider important rather than essential and just 27% on the things that make them happy. Those who live in a two-person household, meanwhile, spend 50% on housing, finance and bills, and 9% on optional spending, which leaves them with 41% to spend as they choose.

Unfortunately, the study also found a link between the amount of spare cash people have, and their level of happiness. Ian Atkinson, head of brand at SunLife said: "Obviously there are lots of factors that affect our happiness, but we know that money is an important one, particularly how much 'spare cash' we have rather than how much we earn."

What can you do?

The good news is that the study also found that there are number of other financial issues linked to happiness levels that we are in more control of. The first is budgeting, because those who budget are 7% happier than those who don't.

It means that by simply drawing up a spreadsheet of income and outgoings, and balancing both sides of the equation, you can get on top of your finances, and add happiness to your life. It doesn't sound like the kind of activity that would cheer anyone up, so probably has more to do with the fact that once you have done this you are more in control of your finances and more able to free up cash for the things that make you happy.

Your level of savings also makes a difference. SunLife found that 89% of happy people have savings, compared to 60% of less happy people. Presumably this at least partly to do with the fact that they have the security of a financial safety net, so they don't have to live in fear of a nasty surprise catching them off guard.

The other option, of course, is to switch from living in a single-person household to living with someone else. It's one of the reason why plenty of people in their 20s move in with friends, to spread the costs. The question is whether this is practical for older people, or whether at a certain age, moving in with someone else and living with their foibles is definitely going to make you less happy - regardless of how much spare cash it leaves you with.

What do you think? Would you move in with someone to cut costs? Let us know in the comments.

How we spend our pensions
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How we spend our pensions

Figures from Saga show that the over 50s now account for the majority of money spent by Brits on travel and tourism. They have the time to spare, the money, and they are healthy enough to take on the world.

A poll from Abta found that in the wake of pension freedoms, 35% of people were considering cashing in at least part of their pension to travel. A separate study by Senior Railcard found that pensioners take an average of three holidays a year, plus two weekends away, and 17 day trips.

Research from Senior Railcard found that retirees eat out an average of three times a month. However, one in ten do so more than twice a week, and one in three people said that one of the first things they did when they retired was to go out for lunch with their friends.

Of course, just because retirees want to enjoy themselves, it doesn't mean they are happy to throw money away. The vast majority are keen to eat at lunchtimes, when a fixed lunch menu tends to be cheaper, and canny retirees are skilled at tracking down pensioner special offers too.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that on average nearly a fifth of the money spent by people aged 65-74 is on leisure. This includes everything from the cinema and theatre to golfing and gardening. They spent more on this than on food, energy bills and transport.

A report by Canada Life found that retirees are spending £4,279 a year on having fun - that’s more than £1,000 more than they spend on boring essentials, and is a 74% increase over the past ten years. It went on to predict that this trend was set to continue, and that pension freedoms would encourage people to spoil themselves a bit more in retirement

Pensioner property wealth is now over £850 billion, and all these family homes don’t look after themselves. The Senior Railcard survey put home renovations in the top 20 activities people got stuck into on retirement, and figures from ABTA found that almost a third of people who were considering raiding their pension pots under the new pension freedoms planned to spend the cash on their home. This seems like an eminently sensible investment - looking after what is undoubtedly their most valuable asset.

Unsurprisingly, while some pensioners are very well off indeed, others are struggling with debt. Figures from Key Retirement found that the average retiree has £34,000 of debt.

Most of this is mortgage borrowing - in many cases driven up by the number of people who unwittingly signed up to an interest-only mortgage. However, credit cards, overdrafts, and loans are also common. It’s why so many pensioners have used pension freedoms to access enough cash to pay their debts.

The day to day basics are swallowing up their fair share of pensioner cash too. On average, people aged 65-74 spend a third of their weekly income on essentials like food and bills - which is hardly living the high life.
The bank of gran and grandad has become an increasingly vital source of cash for families. According to Key Retirement, of those who release equity from their property, 21% of them use the cash to treat their children and grandchildren. This includes an average of £33,350 to help children get onto the property ladder, £6,000 to buy them a new car, £11,000 on family weddings, and £24,780 giving grandchildren a helping hand.

While retirees are quite rightly spending what they need to enjoy retirement, they are hardly all throwing caution to the wind, buying flash cars and spending the kids' inheritance.

Most expect to have something left over to pass onto their family after their death. Some 69% expect to leave property in their wills, and 75% expect to leave cash - according to - because while baby boomers know how to have fun - they also know how to save for the future.

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