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Future of Retirement: Surprisingly Optimistic

Retirees are more likely to say "I am happier now that I am retired" (77% of them agreed); 64% of those who have yet to retire agreed with the statement, "I will be happier after I retire."

Other than wishing they could retire earlier, or could have retired earlier, many recent and soon-to-be retirees see few negatives about retiring.

Twenty-six percent of those nearing retirement said they feel "hopeful" about retirement, while 27% of those who have recently retired say they feel "peaceful."

John Diehl, senior vice president of The Hartford's wealth management division, says people are redefining the concept of retirement.

"I think they are getting more realistic," Diehl says of pre-retirees. "They are going to have to work longer and they may work part time once they retire, which means we are redefining what retirement is. Full-time leisure is now actually part time."

But unlike the dire state of affairs often portrayed, he sees a less frantic view of retirement preparation.

"We didn't ask the tired old questions like, 'Are you afraid you don't have enough money in retirement?' That's like asking somebody who is retired, 'Hey, do you wish you were younger?' or 'Do you with you were better looking?' Of course they are going to say 'I wish I had more money,'" Diehl says of the study conducted with MIT. "We wanted to look, holistically, at lifestyle. To ask, 'Now that you are retired, how is it going?' We found that people were happy. Three out of four people were happier than before they retired."

He says the reason for that bliss has more to do with activities involving family, travel and volunteer -- having a "more balanced life than we had when they were younger" -- than it does with meeting a monetary goal.

"Where other studies took a wrong turn was where they equated wealth with happiness," Diehl says. "If you look at studies about happiness you see is that wealthy people are happier, but only slightly more so. You can be rich or you can be poor, and that doesn't necessarily determine your happiness. People who are older finally get it."

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