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How to Have a Retirement Worth Saving For

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But aging also means you’ll be losing connections as people die or move away. Volunteering, joining community organizations or just getting to know your neighbors better can help you build relationships with new people, O’Neill says. The companionship of a dog, cat or other pet also  can contribute to well-being.

Live purposefully

Without work-imposed structure, some people start to drift, with one day blurring into the next. Setting goals and taking steps to achieve them can help restore a sense of purpose and achievement, O’Neill says.

O’Neill started her post-Rutgers life by setting five goals: finishing the book she was writing; staying active in financial education; cultivating friendships; “doing lots of fun things and new things”; and staying healthy by walking 10,000 steps daily, eating healthy foods and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night. (Tending to your physical well-being is key: 81% of retirees in a 2014 Merrill Lynch study cited good health as a key ingredient for a happy retirement.)

Achieving specific, measurable goals can help people redefine their concept of productivity, which is important to many people’s sense of self-worth, O’Neill says. Goals also can help offset a tendency to put things off.

People who are used to saving and delayed gratification may have trouble “flipping the switch” to spending and enjoying their lives, O’Neill says. But time, good health and energy aren’t infinite. Many people in her 55+ community in Ocala, Florida, struggled during the pandemic not just because their plans were canceled, but because of an acute awareness that the clock was ticking, she says.

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