Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grumpy Retirees? NPR/RWJF/Harvard Poll Reveal Happiness wins 3 to 1!!

Look around the room when a group of your friends are gathered together.  Would you say that out of 10 friends at least 7.5 of them are happy with their retirement?  Do those 7.5 get up in the morning  full of ideas and make every day a good one?  And what about the rest; do they act like grumpy old people?  

A poll done done by NPR in collaboration with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health, revealed that 1 in 4 retirees find that retirement is not as good as they expected. 
This poll was conducted in order to capture first-hand the perspective of those
who will shape the nature of retirement moving forward: people over age 50, including not only people who have retired, but also people who plan to retire (“pre-retirees”) and those who do not plan to do so. 
In an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health summarizing the poll they stated:
"Findings show that a large majority of retirees say life in retirement is the same (44%) or better (29%) than it was during the five years before they retired. Many retirees say their stress is less, their relationships with loved ones are better, their diet is improved and the amount of time they spend doing favorite activities is increased—yet 25 percent of retirees say life is worse."(Poll: Retirement and Health Summary. NPR, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health)
There are two ways of looking at this--three are happy and that is good. But why are 25% of retirees unhappy with their lives?

In an article published on Blog Critics yesterday the possibility that  25% were unhappy before they retired was sited as a possibility.  I just wonder if that might not be true.  Not everyone gets up in good spirits.  They probably are not morning people.

But the poll revealed a lot more than just the "happy issue".  In my mind it raised the question about the mind set of those people over 50.  It seems that they do not think that the retirement they had dreamed about was going to happen as soon as they had hoped and some even thought it would never happen.  Issues with health care and affordable insurance and monthly income have them worried.  And 25% of those already retired are discontented in one way or another.

I can only compare this attitude to the one that people take when selling their house in this market.  They cannot get past the value of their house now as compared to what it was worth 4-5 years ago.  I hear them saying "I am not going to come down that much...I am so far down from where I was I just can't see that MY house is worth that little."  They cannot face the reality of our recession economy.  

Retirement is not the end of the journey. It is just a cross roads. You can turn this way or that depending on the choices you make.  Asking yourself if you are happy doing what you are doing is only smart no matter the economy.  But in the end the retiree will be the one deciding what to make of the years to come.  For those of us that were raised by depression parents, the image of parents working to live and enjoying life in simple ways, the answer is very clear.  We know that money is not the answer to happiness.  The financial part is a matter of making do with what you have.  But happiness happens inside your mind.  They are probably not related as much as we think. 

In an article published by Bob Lowery on his blog called Satisfying Retirement, he talked about living on less--a lot less.  Bob knows what he is talking about because he has done it for many years.  He teaches retirees how to live on less.  People give up cars, pay off the mortgage by downsizing and carry no credit card debt.  Coupons and online shopping help cut the cost for necessities and make the non-essentials more affordable.  He touts living off the grid with no cable TV.  The list goes on and on.  He thinks life is good and he quoted one person as saying, "I have less money than when I worked but I enjoy my life even more."

So could it be that those of us over 50 are grumpy and full of gloom and doom because we are now and have always been dissatisfied with what we have?  Have we been yearning for the grass on the other side of the fence?  Couldn't it be that our lives are actually wonderful in so many ways and we just can't see the good side of it all?  But most importantly what would it take to keep that 25% happy?  Maybe there would never be enough.  It is just a thought. 


FYI:  I do realize that poverty and life circumstances can make life simply unbearable for many people.  It is my belief that we cannot abandon humans that have run into situations beyond their control.  It is people like me with adequate income and good health that I speak to.  

Thank you for reading.

A similar article: Article first published as Poll Shows Many Retirees Happy, But What About the Rest? on Blogcritics.

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