Secret to a happy retirement revealed by psychologists

  • Date

    Wed 12 Jan 22

Veronica Lamarche

Close couples who plan their retirement together and have shared goals are more likely to enjoy their golden years, University of Essex research has revealed.

Researchers highlighted that couples who are not on the same page risk focusing on personal needs, rather than creating joint ambitions that could make retirement better.

The study discovered pensioners with strong cognitive interdependence – where they have a collective identity with their partners and integrate the relationship with their sense of self – are more likely to thrive.

Psychologists found it is important for couples to act collectively and align their hopes and dreams before they leave the working world.

This means directly involving your partner in retirement planning before the big day by discussing things like travel dreams, property plans, and how much time to spend with family or each other.

The study built on previous research which suggested picturing a couple as a single goal-pursuing unit leads to a happier and more stable relationship.

Dr Veronica Lamarche and Dr Jonathan Rolison, from the Department of Psychology at Essex, studied 565 Americans aged between 50-70+ to see how their relationships affected their plans for later life.

The paper - Hand-in-hand in the golden years: Cognitive interdependence, partner involvement in retirement planning, and the transition into retirement – was published in PLOS One.

Dr Lamarche said: "Soon-to-be retirees who saw their relationships as more central in their lives and collectively integrated with their sense of self believed that their partners shared their retirement goals.

“They were also more likely to have directly involved their partners in their retirement planning, especially when they felt uncertain about the future.

“These individuals anticipated easier transitions into retirement for themselves. For recent retirees, having a partner that shared retirement goals was associated with feelings of well-being and how positive people felt their transition into retirement had been."

They found that among soon-to-be retirees greater cognitive interdependence led to positive expectations for post-work life, and they involved their partners more in their plans.

Among recent retirees, cognitive interdependence meant couples thought they were on the same page, and they worked towards shared goals.

Additionally having more shared goals led to a smoother transition into retirement and better personal well-being.

Dr Lamarche’s work suggests having a partner who shares your dreams and goals is more important when it comes to happiness in later life.

She said: "We can sometimes shy away from wanting to have tough conversations with our partners about what we need from one another in the future.

“However, our work suggests that taking the steps to directly involve our partners in our retirement plans from the outset can help people cope with uncertainty and creates opportunities to create shared goals for the next stage of their lives together."

It is hoped their findings will help Government’s with greying populations guide policy to ensure a better quality of life in later years.