Get amongst it in retirement

Maintaining health and happiness in retirement takes effort. Often, the more you put in, the more you get out.

By Angelo Lombardo - 3 min 10 sec read

A little about Angelo

As a Member Solutions Consultant at Russell Investments, Angelo Lombardo understands all the ins and outs of super and retirement legislation, and loves to answer questions and help members.

Few things in life come to us with zero effort.

Want to run a marathon? You’ll have to do the training. Learn to play piano? You’ll need to practice. Even if you fancy eating cake, you’ll have to do some baking—or at least head to a café and open your wallet.

As the saying goes: you get out of life, what you put in.

This is never truer than when you’re entering retirement. When you have wound down from the workforce, there’s no better time to step up your involvement in other areas of life.

The benefits of being involved

Numerous studies show that activities such as volunteering, joining interest groups and meeting up with friends, have significant benefits to your physical and mental health as you age, and may even help you live longer.

Volunteering, for instance, can increase self-esteem and wellbeing, relieve stress, and combat depression. A 2013 study by academics at Carnegie Mellon University found over-50s who regularly volunteered were less likely to develop high blood pressure than people who did not volunteer.

Participation in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation, by Age

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia 2020, Graph 5

Reasons for being a volunteer

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia 2020, table 10.3 (Note: Participants could pick more than one option.)

Other studies have shown that joining a choir is particularly effective in improving social and emotional wellbeing. The researchers found this was “due to the benefits of music exposure, social opportunities, and the act of singing”—although the social aspects may depend on your vocal talents.

If sport is more your thing than singing, the good news is that team sport has been linked with lower levels of depression and anxiety in all age groups, including the over-50s.

Physical exercise has well-known health benefits. In fact, the Australian Government’s Department of Health recommends people aged 65 years and over participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most days, but the social connections that team sport brings are equally important.

The effect of regular team sport on the mental health of people aged 50+

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2013 – December 2014

Strong social bonds

Numerous studies show that maintaining strong social bonds in retirement can improve your mental health, well-being and life satisfaction. Recent research published in the US journal BMC Geriatrics found social connectedness was on average four times stronger than financial security in predicting mental and physical health.

Another interesting finding from that study is the role that financial security plays in enabling social connectedness. Being financially secure in retirement is obviously important for keeping food on the table and a roof over your head but that in itself is not enough to make people happy. It’s having enough to spend on experiences and social activities that improves a person’s wellbeing, the researchers found.

Set up your financial supports

By the time you retire, you will have superannuation savings, and potentially some money outside of your super fund and the government age pension to draw on, as well. The amount you have saved is important but it’s what you do with it that will have even more impact on your life in retirement.

As in other aspects of your life, taking an active interest in your financial affairs in retirement can be beneficial—even if it takes a little effort.

For example, it’s wise to keep track of your income and assets. This can help with managing taxes and ensuring you receive as much age pension as you are entitled to. And if you’re 60 years and above, you will not pay tax on pension income that comes out of superannuation, but income on investments you hold outside your super fund may be subject to tax.

Monitoring your superannuation or retirement account and ensuring your money is appropriately invested will allow your capital to continue growing even while you’re drawing pension income out of your fund. This may help your money last longer and allow you to keep paying for piano lessons and trips to the café. (Just remember that while the cake may be delicious, it will be better for your health if you bring a friend along.)

Whether you’re joining your local Rural Fire Service crew, a jazz ensemble, a cricket team, or simply meeting friends for lunch, you’ll be doing your mind and body a favour. And by looking after your finances in retirement, you will be ensuring you can keep enjoying those activities for many years to come.


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