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Can Money Buy Happiness in Retirement? You Might be Surprised…

By Margaret Manning August 20, 2014 Mindset

Financial security is an important concern for a lot of women over 60. Many of us are still working and are in the final stages of planning for retirement. Others have already left the workforce and are looking for ways to make their retirement savings last longer. Some are living on pensions or fixed incomes. But, exactly how much money does it really take to find happiness in retirement?

The answer to this question is complex. For starters, the research shows that money only makes you happy to a certain point. In addition, the way that we spend our money makes a huge difference. Let’s explore some of the factors that determine whether money really can buy happiness in retirement.

How Much Money is “Enough”?

Are wealthier people happier? According to recent research, by Psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton, money can buy happiness, but only to a certain level of income. Once your income reaches $75,000 per year, making more money won’t make you happier.

Of course, $75,000 is not a trivial amount of money. In fact, if you have managed to build a passive retirement income in this range, you are already way ahead of the game. For the majority of women over 60 who have not yet achieved financial freedom, there are still options.

One obvious path is to redefine retirement and look for ways to increase your income. For many women starting a business is still a viable option, no matter your age.

Even if you don’t want to start a business after 60, there are still ways to squeeze more happiness out of every dollar that you spend. For the most part, buying “things” won’t make you happier, but, investing in yourself, and your passions, will.

Here are a few types of spending that tend to make us happy:

Use Money to Make the World a Better Place

Generosity and altruism feel good! No matter what you define as a “good cause,” using your money to make the world a better place will give you a psychological boost. This is especially true if you combine a financial contribution with a gift of your time. Not only will you know that you are making a difference in the world but you will also meet like-minded people who share your vision.

Spend Money on Experiences Rather than Stuff

One of the reasons that the saying “money can’t buy happiness” became so popular is that it is true when it comes to the world of things. Buying a new handbag or gadget may give us a short-term boost, but, the feeling fades quickly. The same is not true for memorable experiences.

In my conversation with Dr. Medina, we discussed the importance of nostalgia for keeping your brain happy and healthy. When you invest in experiences, you build memories that you can return to again and again.

So, get out into the world. Enjoy your hobbies, take a short trip or organize a weekly coffee date with one of your friends. Take pictures and start a diary to keep track of your adventures. Investing time in making social connections is key to building memorable experiences that will enrich and energize your life.

Buy Small Indulgences

According to psychologists, the first bite of chocolate is always the most satisfying. Rather than buying into the “bigger is better” mentality, learn to appreciate the small things.

Instead of buying a Mars bar, purchase a single luxury chocolate truffle. Buy a single rose and give it a place of honor in your kitchen. Book a 20 minute massage, instead of a 90 minute session. Investing in small indulgences will make you happier, without breaking the bank.

Sixty and Me_Buy Small Indulgences

Invest in Getting Out of Debt

Having more money in the bank may not give you more happiness, but, having more debt will certainly take it away. Few things are more stressful than having to deal with your creditors. In addition, every dollar that you spend on paying the interest on your debts is a dollar that you can’t spend on things that really will make you happy.

If your debt has become unmanageable, it’s time to seek advice from a reputable financial advisor or debt support group. Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand. Paying off your debt can mean the difference between a stressful retirement and a happy one. The more you pay down, the more you will have to work with.

However, even paying a small amount every month will give you a sense of being in control and remove a lot of the stress. In addition, reducing the stress that comes with being in debt will free your mind to look for alternative sources of income or pursue your passions.

Invest in Yourself and Your Future

Contrary to what you might see in the movies, retirement does not have to be a time of quiet reflection and “aging gracefully.” Life after 60 can be a time to invest in your passions and expand your mind. Nothing will make you happier than accomplishing your goals. So, show the world, and yourself, what you can do.

Find a new hobby, start a business, be a mentor to a younger woman, read widely and keep your body and mind healthy. An investment in yourself is an investment in your future happiness.

Money can’t make you happy, but, it can allow you to invest in the experiences, skills and small indulgences that lead to greater positivity. Having financial resources also allows you to support organizations that are changing the world. Most of all, money allows you to invest in yourself; it gives you the resources to keep your mind and body healthy.

The question is not “do I have enough money?” but “am I using the money that I do have in ways that will make me truly happy?”

What are your thoughts on this? What’s your favorite way to “buy happiness”? What have you learned about financial planning as you’ve approached retirement age? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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