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  • Writer's pictureMark Fonville, CFP®

Do You Want to Be Happy in Retirement? Here's How (According to Research)

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

How to be happy backed by research

In 1776, the Committee of Five, as they were called, edited Thomas Jefferson's draft of the United States Declaration of Independence and included these words..

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The words our founders put on paper set the foundation for the freedom we all enjoy today. While most of us do indeed pursue happiness, there is no guarantee that we will achieve it.

After all, life is hard.

Recently, my wife and I attended a wedding in Maryland. We had a wonderful time dancing and conversing with old friends. One of the happiest people I spoke to was a young man in his 40s who had been recently diagnosed with late stage cancer. I learned that he had made the decision not to get treatment because, in his eyes, he wants to enjoy life to the fullest while he still can. That must be one of the hardest decisions a person can make. After all, he has a beautiful wife and children who love him.

I'm also in my early 40s and this news really hit me.

We all deserve to be happy but sometimes we delay the truly important things in life that actually create happiness in the first place because we think there will always be a tomorrow. I pray there will be a tomorrow for the young gentleman I met at the wedding. But, sometimes it takes a glimpse of another's suffering to remind us about what‘s important and what makes us happy in the first place.

What does it take to be happy in retirement? Here are four ways to potentially increase your level of happiness.

1. Embrace relationships

In 2017, the longest running study on Happiness ever designed was published by Harvard University. The revelation was that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.

2. Exercise (even a little bit)

Experience tells me that exercise improves my mood. But, as it turns out, academic research also tells us that even people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise.

3. Give to others

People who give money or time to others are happier. Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton conducted a number of studies that showed people are happier when they spend money on others vs. buying "things" for themselves. You may think that buying bigger and better material things for yourself will provide happiness, but research suggests otherwise.

Even more surprising is that giving has also been shown to be good for your health and increase longevity as outlined in a 1999 study by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley.

4. Establish a relationship with a financial advisor

They say that money can't buy happiness. But new research from Herbers & Company published in 2022 tells us that people who maintain a relationship with a financial advisor tend to be happier than those who do not. In a survey of 1,000 random consumers across the US, Herbers & Company found that those with a financial advisor are statistically happier than those who haven't hired an advisor.

Increased happiness in consumers who hire financial advisors
Source: Herbers & Company


What's the bottom line? You can influence your own happiness.

Think about the relationships you have in your life and reach out to someone you care about.

Having money up to a certain point can make you happy. But, studies show that happiness starts to level out at a certain amount of income and spending more on tangible things doesn't increase your feeling of happiness. Instead, consider giving your time or money to people or organizations in need to help boost your level of happiness.

If you don't exercise now, start a new routine of simply taking a one mile walk in the morning. It doesn't have to be hard and the science of habits tells us that creating new habits in small bites is much more likely to create a permanent habit than trying to go "all in" at once.

And finally, if you don't have a financial advisor you can trust to help guide your decisions, contact us. Money stress is real and having a plan may help create peace of mind, help you focus on the things that matter, and bring a bit more happiness to your life.

So, what do you think? What makes you happy? Let me know!

Mark Fonville Fee Only Financial Advisor Richmond and Williamsburg VA

About Mark Fonville, CFP®

Mark is a personal financial advisor and the President of Covenant Wealth Advisors. He manages investment portfolio and provides retirement income planning for individuals age 50 plus who have over $1 million in investments.

He has been featured in the New York Times, Barron's, Forbes, and Kiplinger Magazine. Schedule a call.


Disclosures: Covenant Wealth Advisors is a registered investment advisor with offices in Richmond and Williamsburg, VA. We provide investment advisory, financial planning, and tax planning services to individuals. Investments involve risk and does not guarantee that investments will appreciate. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The views and opinions expressed in this content are as of the date of the posting, are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This content contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Please note that nothing in this content should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax, or legal advice. If you would like accounting, tax, or legal advice, you should consult with your own accountants or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Covenant Wealth Advisors unless a client service agreement is in place.


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