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Poll Shows Many Retirees Happy, But What About the Rest?

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Life in Retirement, Tucson AZ


What are you going to do?

The question here is not what is your retirement going to be like but what are you going to make of your retirement? Retirement is just like graduating from college or high school. You get to make the choices and you get to make it work or turn it into a failure. You get to decide! There are lots of manuals but not even The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Retirement Planning can prepare you for what is to come.

A recent poll done by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health called Retirement and Health Summary, September 2011 formed the basis of an NPR series called Life in Retirement on their All Things Considered morning show. The series began running last Monday, September 26. The poll’s stated purpose was:

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. The poll covers the following areas: 1) The retirement experience of retirees and the expectations of pre-retirees; 2) Perspectives on the timing of retirement; 3) Steps taken to stay healthy in retirement; 4) Views on the role of Medicare and Medicaid in retirement; 5) Perceptions of what makes a community a healthy place for retired people; and 6) Concerns about being admitted to a nursing home during retirement. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

As I began to read the different related articles and the research I began to wonder: Do I really want to know this? See, I love my life each and every day. Even the bad days that I am alive are much, much better that the alternative. Forgive me for that old joke. But it is true. So when I read through the transcript that NPR posted online for the radio segments called Life in Retirement I could only think “Just shoot me now!” These commentaries are just the down and dirty facts. Really, there was not one thing in those articles that made me feel better about tomorrow. No money, Medicare problems, extended nursing home stays, etc.—you name it, we are just never never going to survive, or so they are telling us. (You can also find the article relating the information from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called Retirees and Those Near Retirement Have Different Views of Golden Years.) If we are to believe NPR, RWJF, and the Harvard School of Business, older people are not thinking in a very positive way; in fact those of us over 50 are a very gloomy group. I wonder whose fault that could be? Better yet, what are we going to do about the attitude?

The survey says that 75% of retired people are happy with their retirement. Almost all say their relationship with their families is better, 76% watch their diets and exercise, and 88% see their doctor regularly.

But what about the 25% who say their retirement is not good? Who are they and why are they so unhappy? I wondered if a great many of these people were unhappy with their lives before. See, we all know that not everyone is just thrilled about each new day. Some people are never happy. Depression, dissatisfaction, life’s circumstances, education, and health issues can take a toll. I have always said that retirement did not change much in my life. I am a wife, mother, grandmother and educator. I just kept doing what I had always done. I just did all those things at my own pace. I was happy with my life then and I am happy with my life now. But then that is just me. I will admit that it was harder for my husband…but then that is another story.

Being realistic about our situation is always a good thing. Not everyone will move to the beach and sit in the sun all day, every day, day after day, 24/7! In fact, like working at the candy store, it would get old after a while. The trick is to work a little and play a little. It could be that we will all work a little more. Does that mean a dark cloud should hang over the sun? I just don’t think so. It could be that people might find a way to retire and use their retirement as an opportunity to work at a job of their own making—one that they love.

We have a friend who was a teacher in wood shop at the school. When he retired he started a handyman business and even employed his children. Another woman taught piano and yet another tutored.

I have been retired a long time. My husband and I have worked at this retirement thing and let me tell you, if I had known then what I know now, I would have done it differently. But, isn’t that the way life is? Where is the fun and adventure of knowing how it will end before you have even begun? As I have said many times before, retirement is good…you get to decided how you go about it…the decisions are up to YOU. Maybe that is why many people are unhappy…maybe they just aren’t looking within themselves for the answers! The trick is to live within your means and keep busy. The tradeoff for a smaller lifestyle is the fact that your life is your own. I think that is a very good thing. But then that is just me—I am part of the 75% who are very happy!

What is the solution? I’m not sure if we will ever get it right. But I do know that if someone does not begin talking about the good things soon, our ship is sunk. The study said that this is “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.” Retirement will be what you make of it. Only you can “shape the nature of retirement moving forward.” The quality of this time in your life is up to you.

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About RetireInStyleBlog

I am a retired educator that has been blogging for 6+ years. I talk about my life as a retiree out here where the rubber meets the road. I love good books and love my TV. I write for Retire In Style Blog as well as It Crossed My Mind Blog. The first is real life and the second is purely fiction or something that resembles it.
  • Igor

    ¨Igor, age discrimination is illegal now, so what happened to you should be a thing of the past.¨

    Ha ha ha. Sure.

    Maybe the 15 yr. old HR manager they hired last week has finally quit discriminating against 40 yr. olds. But to hang onto this job (which he got after 6 weeks as a Burger King manager and sucking up to the boss) he will quickly reflect the moods and fantasies of his boss, whoever that is, because he feels so insecure himself, knowing that brown-nosing is his only real skill, but enough to get him his next job at McD or Home Depot, or whatever.

  • If I were to go out on the street to find a group of people that exemplify the attitudes that determine how people choose to live the last part of their lives I could never find a group like the people commenting above.

    It is wonderful when you can find a job niche that will allow you to work forever. Good health is a wonderful gift that needs to be protected and nurtured. As for the attitude that we will all be sunk in a few years…well it is very possible that if you think that is true then it will be.

    As for me, I love retirement. Living “beneath” our income has paid off for us.

    Igor, you are an inspiration. I am coming up on 70 and life is very good.

    Thank you all for your input.

    b (retireinstyleblog)

  • My goodness, Igor, your posts are vibrant and full of energy and don’t in the least reveal anything close to your chronological age.

    Keep on plugging.

  • Arch, I know you love to splutter and bluster a lot but if you actually thought about it, what you wrote boils down to the same thing I wrote.

    I didn’t say anything about compelling people to work.

    Please try and engage your brain before operating your keyboard…

    Igor, age discrimination is illegal now, so what happened to you should be a thing of the past.

    Glad things are working out for you though.

  • Igor


    I planned to NEVER retire since I always did work that I enjoyed, and since it was mental (engineering) I always figured it was a lifelong possibility, but age prejudice by hiring punks ended that.

    Plan B was to make a pile of money, but business crooks are pretty good at stealing the fruits of an ordinary guys labor.

    Plan C was to marry a rich and beautiful woman, which I did, but eventually even that loses it´s charm.

    Plan Z was the best: keep good health and never sacrifice it for The Company. And NEVER believe the false promises of businessmen or politicians. I ALWAYS took my lunch hour for vigorous exercise and refused to eat the unhealthy communal business meals at McD and various overpriced restaurants (even famous ones).

    Now I´m 74, healthy (no need for medicare), ingenious, flexible, well-read, etc., and live on half my SS mite alone.

    The best thing we can do for our retirees is defend SS and medicare, and provide lifelong Universal Healthcare (Single Payer) along with active health promotion in the interest of public health and disease control.

  • Arch Conservative

    I meant to write Christopher, not say it.

  • Arch Conservative

    I called you Roger when I meant to say Christopher.

  • Arch Conservative

    Gee Roger does your plan for retirement come with a nifty little tatooed serial number….like the ones that Adolph and the boys came up with not so long ago?

    I know you’re British but you can’t be serious.

    How about this. People should work until they don’t feel like working any more and it’s pretty much their own damn business. As to the funding of whatever lifestyle they choose in retirement…well that’s their own damn business too.

  • Personally, I plan not to retire at all. Retirement is boring.

    I also think there should not be any such thing as an old age pension. Except for the mega-rich, who arguably don’t need one, neither the state nor a private pension can provide enough funds to keep a person in anything like a lifestyle worth living.

    People should work until they are physically or mentally unable to and then the state should help make their final days a dignified passage to extinction that doesn’t impoverish their families.

  • Arch Conservative

    In another 15 years this article will be a moot point as no one with less than half a billion dollars in the bank will be able to retire at the rate this country is going.

    We will all just drop dead at the workplace well into our seventies. That is unless you don’t get killed by an illegal alien drunk driver while crossing the street before then.

  • Pat, I appreciate the kind words but most of all I appreciate the shared attitude. If the morning is a little cloudy, a good weather man says it will be partly sunny today…be careful how you choose you weatherman. Retirement is like that!


  • I love Barbara’s attitude. And, that’s the key – our attitude towards retirement is what makes it good or not so good. Being around other active, like-minded retirees is good. Keep up the good life, Barbara! And, don’t stop blogging about it! We are all still learning! Hugs, GraceinAZ Growing Old With Grace

  • You are absolutely right Susan. I think that is one reason seniors are attracted to communities of age mates. The study showed that seniors valued communities with accessible health care, low crime rate and easy availability of necessities like groceries. I think that friendships probably are very valuable too.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Barbara (RetireInStyleBlog)

  • Sunie Levin

    Retirement can be lonesome without friends. Old friends die or move away, yet you are never too old to make new friends.
    Studies reveal that making new friends can help you live longer and better.