Retirement reality: Are we happier when we leave work?

13th May 2016

Retirement reality: Are we happier when we leave work? We carried out a survey with 2,000 UK adults – half employed and half retired – to uncover the realities of retiring.

The results revealed that retired adults are happier than those who are working: 72% of retirees rate themselves four or five out of five on the happiness scale in comparison to only half of those still in employment.

More than a third of retirees say having free time for hobbies is what makes them happy. 41% believe contentment comes with a lack of work stress, while 36% think spending time with their partner is what puts a smile on their face.

Having money is what 44% of working adults attribute their happiness to, and more than a third are glad to be in good health.

Retirement only gets better with time

The happiest retirees finished work at least 10 years ago; just under a third who retired over a decade ago rated themselves five out of five on the happiness scale. This is compared to just under a quarter of people who retired up to four years ago.

The average person expects to retire between 65 and 69, but almost one in 10 working adults think that they will be 70 or older.

In comparison, the majority of those who have already retired did so between 60 and 65, and a huge 40% did so before they hit the age of 60.

Couple in cafe

Budgeting is biggest retirement stress

Almost three quarters of retirees say that retirement is better than they had expected, but 41% wish they had saved more money when they were younger.

One in six admit they struggle to ‘make ends meet’ on their current pension and almost a third want to travel more but can’t afford to.

Nearly two thirds of retirees worry about the younger generation being able to afford homes. A further 70% think it’s harder to get a job today than it was during their days of employment, and over half believe it to be more complicated raising children for the working generation.

One in seven retirees have admitted they get bored now they’re retired, with 8% revealing that they went back to work for a period of time. One in six said they felt lonely despite 70% claiming they get to see more of their family now, while 63% see more of their friends and one in five volunteer.

More than a third of retirees still with first love

Aside from finances, retirement can play a big part in relationships too. Spending more time with a partner can bring a couple closer together or drift them apart.

39% of retirees revealed they are still with their ‘first love’, whereas 19% have retired with another partner. 29% have retired alone and 1% are still looking for love.

Around two thirds of retirees have no regrets when it comes to letting go of past relationships, but a quarter regret not trying new things when they had the chance.

Although less than a third of those surveyed admit they still have sex, a fifth of retirees confessed their sex life has improved since retirement and one in four said their relationship with their partner has improved since leaving work.

Couple walking dog

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”

Retired blogger, Christine Human, claims there’s nothing she dislikes about retirement.

What makes her so happy? “My grandchildren, having time to enjoy things that I want to do, time to stand and stare (though not much), travelling and partnership (with husband).

“Since retiring, I have thrown myself into writing and a hobby has turned into a feature of my life, as I belong to a local writers group. I have also become an Indie Author and have a blog. My first novel, Middle Age Spread, is available on Amazon as an eBook.

“Regarding stresses of retirement, budgeting comes high. We are currently living where we brought up our family and intend to stay near family and friends although a smaller house is on the agenda.

“My top piece of advice for younger people today would be to live life to the full, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, spend as much time with your family as you can but make and keep friends too


Family time is something listed by both retirees and working adults as being key to their happiness. Proud grandparent Christine Human also told us,

“My family are my life! Our eldest now lives in Australia so we have the opportunity to travel too, to see him and combine it with stop-offs at exotic locations. Our other three children live locally and we have lots and lots of grandchildren time.”

To celebrate family and the special moments shared between children, parents and grandchildren, we at Cotton Traders are challenging the nation to spend more time with their family. Making memories to treasure doing things you both love to do.

From time spent together in the school holidays, to birthdays and celebrations share your memories, new and old using the social hashtag #mymemories.

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