MassMutual Research: Most Retirees are Happier in Retirement vs. Working Thanks to Financial Preparation, but More than One Third Report Feeling Lonely

Lack of Focus on Social Connections and Health contribute to Unmet Expectations

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--()--Retirees are generally happier in retirement than in the workforce, but like many things in life, there are gaps between expectation and reality according to the latest MassMutual Retirement Happiness Study.

“MassMutual’s research on retirement happiness underscores the importance of managing expectations and preparing for retirement both financially and emotionally,” said Paul LaPiana, head of brand, product and affiliated distribution with MassMutual. “The happiest retirees invest not just in their financial futures but also in their social circles and physical health long before retirement. These investments can help mitigate loneliness in their older years, which the U.S. surgeon general declared a public health epidemic last year.”

Notable survey findings include:


While preparing for retirement, current retirees focused on their finances more than health or social connections.

  • In the lead-up to retirement, retirees were most focused on shoring up their finances by contributing to a retirement account (64%) and increasing their savings (60%), though 13% of retirees regretted not taking better care of their health.
  • Nearly half (49%) of retirees who are much happier in retirement planned by taking care of their health.
  • Only 7% of retirees reached out to their social circles as part of their retirement planning.


While many retirees experience increased happiness in retirement, a noteworthy number admit to feeling lonely.

  • 31% of retirees report feeling forlorn at times. Of the 33% of retirees who are not happier in retirement, nearly half agree that retirement occasionally makes them feel lonely.
  • A third of retirees who are not happier in retirement report less opportunity for dating and romance in retirement than they expected.
  • Retirees who are much happier in retirement are more likely to fill their free time with social activities, including spending time with loved ones (76%), exercising (70%), pursuing hobbies (63%) and travel (62%).


Apprehensions and high hopes abound headed into retirement, though there are discrepancies between what people expect in retirement versus what transpires.

  • 77% of pre-retirees anticipate feeling happier on a typical day in retirement compared to 67% of current retirees who say they are happier. 75% of pre-retirees expect to feel less stressed, which matches retirees’ experiences.
  • Retirees reported having fewer financial problems (46%) and were less bored (45%) than they anticipated. Retirees also enjoyed more free time (30%) and spent more time with family and friends (26%) than they expected.
  • 44% of pre-retirees feel anxious about how their finances will support them through retirement, and 34% of retirees cite health issues as their number one concern.
  • Pre-retirees envision an active retirement lifestyle with traveling (79%) and exercising (71%) rising to the top of their lists. In contrast, watching TV is the top activity for current retirees (83%).


On average, 63 is the ideal age for retirement, and most retirees report retiring earlier than or exactly when expected. However, there are indications that future retirees could have more difficulty retiring at their ideal age.

  • 48% of retirees retired earlier than planned, usually because of changes at work (33%) or being able to afford to retire sooner (28%). 17% retired earlier due to burnout.
  • Pre-retirees are anxious about their retirement savings, with 35% reporting their funds are tracking behind where they believe they need to be to retire at their ideal age. 34% express concern they will outlive their money, which is significantly higher than the 22% of retirees reporting the same worry.


Most retirees report having ample retirement savings for the rest of their lives, likely due to sound financial planning and a disciplined approach to spending.

  • 78% of retirees say they have more than they need or about what they need in retirement savings while 19% have less than they need.
  • Recently retired respondents are more likely to report feeling less secure in their savings (21%) compared to those now retired for over a decade (12%), suggesting a greater need to plan for market volatility, high interest rates and other macroeconomic trends that may impact pre-retirees’ nest eggs.
  • To manage economic headwinds, 52% of retirees are spending less, 30% are consulting a financial professional, and 28% are creating a budget. Pre-retirees expect to do much of the same when they retire.

“In similar research that we conducted a decade ago, we also found a strong relationship between happiness and planning, as retirees who expressed the highest levels of satisfaction were also those who took concrete steps to put their emotional and financial lives in order at least five years before retirement. Taking concrete steps to plan ahead is a time-tested roadmap for anyone nearing retirement,” added LaPiana.


An online poll examining happiness in retirement was commissioned by MassMutual and conducted by PSB Insights from January 26 to February 5, 2024 among 2,000 American retirees and pre-retirees (defined as 15 years or fewer into retirement and 15 years or fewer before retirement). Respondents were required to be at least 40 years of age, have at least $50K in savings/and or investments and, at minimum, share a role in their household’s financial decision-making. A similar survey was last fielded in 2014.

About MassMutual (Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company)

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management, and retirement products and services. For more information, visit


Paula Tremblay, MassMutual:


Paula Tremblay, MassMutual: