Skip to main content

See also:

Control is a major issue in retirement

Dancing requires a little control
Dancing requires a little controlPhoto by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

When I was doing research for my books on the emotional effects of retirement, I discovered that the men who were the happiest in retirement were those who felt they had little control of their lives while they were working. Those who had defined jobs with little chance for creativity or a sense of control over their work, wages, or hours were suddenly free to make choices once they retired. They invariably sought out activities where they could exercise some degree of control over their time and interests and how they would use their skills. And they reported a greater satisfaction with that period of their lives.

So it is not surprising that a financial firm looking at happiness in retirement found that those who felt they had control over their investments and retirement funds were the happiest in retirement. According to a survey by the money management firm T. Rowe Price, many baby boomers who have retired report feeling satisfied with their retirement.

Perhaps because it was a financial group that ordered the survey, the conclusions deal only with money. The findings are that this is the first generation that had a choice as to how to invest their retirement savings in 401K’s, IRA's or other defined contribution plans, and thus they feel more in control of their money than past generations that had employer- directed pensions.

Of course, the research was based on a certain demographic—those boomers who were in an earnings bracket that entitled them to choose how and where to invest their retirement funds. Employees who had these plans made contributions but also were free to decide how the accounts were invested. And now that they are retired, they continue to manage those funds and determine how much to withdraw.

Other findings:

These new retirees had other retirement savings beyond their 401Ks.
They still depend on Social Security for their income.
Many are still working either full or part time.
They feel satisfied with their retirement plans.

The survey did find other views:

Married couples are the happiest, and the most financially satisfied. Those who are not married or living with a partner are not doing as well, either financially or emotionally. Single women have less median income and retirement funds and are more likely to be looking for more work or are greatly reducing their spending. And fewer report they are "very satisfied" with their current retirement experience.

So our lesson today, ladies and gentlemen, is that a sense of control over your life (and your money) is one key to a happier retirement. This doesn't mean you should turn into a control freak with every aspect of your life, but if you are not feeling ready to be fully in charge of your financial future, it is not too late to seek help.