You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

How to have a happy retirement

Last updated 21st September 2020

6 min read

Think retirement is boring? You’re doing it wrong

Retirement isn’t as scary as you might think.

You’ll find yourself with more free time to spend with the family and to do what you what, when you want.

A happy retirement is possible for anyone, even workaholics.

Whether you’re retiring early or have worked way longer than you imagined, retirement can be what you want it to be.

For some, that’s winding down and relaxing, for others it’s being busier and doing more than you’ve ever done.

Learn some ways you can approach retirement.

Make it an enjoyable adventure spent doing the things you love, exploring the places you always dreamed of, and keeping your calendar topped up.

Man on a bike.

What’s the secret to happiness in retirement?

For a lot of us, retirement is the first time (in a long time) where we can do what we want, no questions asked.

It’s a time when you’ll need to be good with your money and spending.

And not going to work everyday can make you feel like you’ve lost a sense of purpose.

But, retirement isn’t what it used to be.

Nowadays, retirement is seen as a new, exciting chapter in our lives.

We’re healthier and living longer than ever, so it’s the perfect opportunity get stuck into new things.

As this new chapter arrives, you should be looking forward to happiness in retirement.

Here are our top 5 tips for making the most of your retirement:

1. Plan your retirement paydays

Planning your paydays will help you worry less about running out of money in retirement.

By estimating your likely retirement income, you can make sure you have enough saved to cover the lifestyle you deserve.

2. Discover new hobbies

Hobbies not only fill up your time but can also keep you physically and mentally healthy.

The more hobbies you have, the wider your social circle will become.

From BMX racing to scuba diving, we’ve met many retirees whose hobbies may surprise you.

3. Set goals for yourself

Having goals in place will help you focus your mind and give you something to aim towards.

Do you want to learn a new skill, travel, or get back into an old hobby?

Think about what you want to achieve, write it down, and make plans for the next year and beyond.

4. Keep your diary busy

Having things to look forward to is always important in life.

Keep your dairy booked up with days out and quality time with friends and family.

A happy retirement is a busy one!

5. Embrace adventure

Retirement’s the time to finally tick off those bucket list items you couldn’t do before, because of work or family commitments.

If you don’t do them now, when will you? Create new memories and follow wherever adventure takes you.

What to do in retirement

This new period in your life is about enjoyment and exploration.

Make time to visit family, discover new places, and find new hobbies, and you’ll be well on your way to a happy retirement.

Bucket list ideas

During our working years, it’s hard to find time for adventure.

Now you’re retired, though, there are no excuses. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’.

Here are a few examples if you’re in search of some bucket list inspiration:

Take a leap of faith

Why not give a bungee jump a go in your retirement?

Get your heart racing with an exhilarating fall and show the grandkids your daredevil side.

Head below the surface

Visit a recognised scuba site and explore life under the sea.

If you don’t fancy going through the training of scuba diving, snorkelling can be just as rewarding.

Meet Maureen, a 59 year old diving and extreme sports enthusiast.

Visit a faraway land

The world is an extraordinary place, so spend your retirement exploring its far-flung wonders.

You can’t say you don’t have the time!

Great jobs to do during retirement

The idea that you need to stop working after retirement is wrong.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 1.2million Brits over state pension age are still working after retirement.

It doesn’t have to be the job you had before retirement age, but it can be healthy to keep working in some capacity.

It could be volunteering or putting a long-held business plan into action.

Use your skills and experience to make some extra cash.


The experiences you’ve had throughout your life can be used to offer support to charities or communities.

It’s a great way to meet new people and can be incredibly rewarding.

Coaching or mentoring

Everything you learnt in your career is invaluable.

Using your professional knowledge, you could help others develop their own careers and businesses.

The government even encourages mentoring to help economic growth, as they appreciate the value of retirees.

Starting a business

You might have always wanted to start your own business, and it’s never too late to realise that dream.

Being that little bit older, wiser, and more experienced gives you an advantage too.

Meet Jo, a toy-shop owner who pursued her dream of opening a shop at 54 years old.


Expensive childcare costs make your help as a grandparent priceless.

Spending quality time with your grandchildren will be sure to keep you on your feet.

Did you know you could earn money looking after your grandchildren too?

Grandparents who provide regular childcare and support could be entitled to childcare credit.

Our fun ‘grandparent’ salary tool shows how much you could earn if all your grandparent duties were paid.

Best places to visit in retirement

Nowhere in the world is off limits.

Some retirees spend their new freedom and time exploring the world, while others choose to live at home over summer and venture abroad somewhere warmer during winter.

The best places to retire to in the UK

The UK offers something different at every turn.

Why not make a change and move somewhere different in your retirement?

Plymouth has been voted one of the best places to retire, with plenty of affordable homes and seaside views.

In the north, Liverpool is considered a great spot, down to its choice of pubs and cafes for socialising, as well as cheap living.

The best places to retire in Europe

If you’re in search of something abroad, there are a few things to consider.

When retiring in Europe, think about cost, life expectancy, weather, and crime rate.

Spain is considered the best country to spend your golden years, with its hot climate and low cost of living.

While Finland isn’t far behind with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and over 20% of the population of retirement age.

Retirement hobbies to take up

In retirement, you can begin to enjoy the things you never had much time for when you were younger.

It’s also a great time to take up some new hobbies and find talents you never knew you had.

Here’s some hobby ideas that’ll help you stay active and keep your mind sharp.

Active hobbies

  1. Yoga or Pilates
  2. Golf
  3. Salsa or ballet
  4. Hiking
  5. Cycling
  6. Fishing
  7. Running
  8. Horse riding
  9. Open-water swimming
  10. Tennis
  11. Squash
  12. Rowing
  13. Join a gym
  14. Gardening
  15. Surfing or paddle boarding
  16. Camping trips
  17. DIY

Healthy mind hobbies

  1. Learn a new language
  2. Brain teasers
  3. Jigsaw puzzles
  4. Draw or paint
  5. Pub quiz
  6. Knitting
  7. Write a book
  8. Learn to play an instrument
  9. Meditation
  10. Reading
  11. Boardgames
  12. Baking
  13. Colouring
  14. Pottery
  15. Card games

Our final retirement tips

Here’s our final tips for a long and happy retirement:

  • Do what you want
  • Do things for others
  • Have a positive mindset
  • Challenge yourself
  • Do something new
  • Relax and unwind
  • Always have something to look forward to
  • Set yourself goals

At SunLife, we embrace getting older.

That’s why we’ve met and filmed and amazing over 50s who are living life to the full.

Watch our welcome to life after 50 video and get inspired today.

Where to get retirement advice

Retirement isn’t always easy to adjust to.

There are plenty of things to think about, but also a lot to look forward to.

Before making the decision to retire, it’s worth speaking to your family and seeking advice.

To get advice you can:

  • Speak to Pensionwise – a free government service from MoneyHelper to help you understand the options for using your pension pot
  • Speak to a retirement advisor for financial advice

As you get older, there are loads of ways you can save money, from discounts to freebies.

Read our ways to save money over 50 blog article and get started today.