The Huge Retirement Benefit You Probably Aren’t Expecting

The Best Things Are Free

The good news is that you don’t need to be wealthy to enjoy leisure in retirement. Older Americans with relatively few assets are nearly as likely as the wealthy to agree they have greater freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want, the report found. Granted, having fewer resources mean you can afford fewer and more modest experiences. Still, a whopping 95% of retirees value experiences over things, whether it’s a picnic in the park with grandkids or a trip around the world with extended family.

That fits in with the broader findings of the study—deepening relationships with family and having fun together easily top the list of what retirees want most. Especially spending time with grandchildren, which retirees say is more fulfilling than spending time with their own kids, according to the report.

These new priorities in later life will surprise some. By age 65, a startling 89% of people say they are most defined by the activities and interests they pursue outside of work—not by what they accomplished in their long career or as a parent. What they are doing with their free time, right now, is who they are—whether it’s caring for grandkids, volunteering, or learning to sculpt.

Given that so many will develop a new identity in retirement, it seems odd that so few are planning for it. Only 23% of retirees have done any planning around leisure activities the next five years and only 33% have budgeted for travel, the report found.

“Pre-retirees often dream of taking that big trip with their spouse or having that once-in-a-lifetime experience with their grandchildren,” says Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Merrill. “But when they return, how about the next twenty years?” Retirees need to plan for everyday leisure too.

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