MARC FREEDMAN: While having enough money in retirement can’t be discounted, it isn’t the key to fulfillment in the second half of life.
With more time for themselves, individuals are often surprised to discover—or rediscover—new sources of meaning. They increasingly find that happiness is found not in having more, but in connectingmore deeply. Stanford developmental psychologist Laura Carstensen has shown, for example, that as people become more conscious that the years ahead are likely fewer than those behind, they focus much more on the relationships that matter most. And these bonds become a wellspring of meaning and fulfillment.
What’s more, books such as Chris Farrell’s “The New Frugality” and Juliet B. Schor’s “Plenitude” highlight a growing recognition that life satisfaction may actually grow as income declines, as long as basic needs are met. As we reduce clutter—both psychic and material—we are better able to connect with the people and causes that are truly important to us. And with a large part of the population on board, we are far less likely to feel isolated and alone in this experience.
Research further shows that people are notoriously bad predictors of what will make them happy. Psychologists even have a name for this: affective forecasting error. While widespread anxiety about making do with less is understandable, it doesn’t predict the future. To the contrary, retirees often find that the future is bright indeed.
Marc Freedman is CEO and founder of Encore.org, a nonprofit organization working to promote encore careers—second acts for the greater good.
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