William Paterson University Professor’s Research Finds that Happiness of Retirees is Derived from Active Lifestyle

Study shows that financial planners could provide additional value to clients by helping them better allocate their time

Professor Tao Guo

Tao Guo, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, Finance and Global Business at William Paterson University, is the lead author of a study that shows the life quality of retirees depends not only on finances but how they spend their time. Guo recommends that financial planners provide additional value to clients by helping retirees better allocate their time.

According to the study, retirees who spend more time socializing, exercising, walking, working or volunteering report feeling happier than retirees who engage in passive activities, such as staying at home and watching TV.

Guo is the lead author on the study titled, “Time Allocations and Self-Reported Happiness of Retirees: An Exploratory Study,” recently published in The Journal of Financial Planning.

“The findings of this project have significant implications for financial planners by raising awareness about the importance of offering life coaching and time planning as part of their services,” says Guo. “Whether those services are outsourced or incorporated inhouse, there is a growing need for financial planners to serve as life coaches, providing resources about volunteer and socialization opportunities, and identifying and helping clients who are in danger of social isolation.

Besides asking retirees about financial objectives, Guo says that financial planners could also ask clients what activities they love, favorite hobbies, and connections to friends and family members. For clients living alone, planners could consider engaging in conversations about senior communities and other ways to rebuild a client’s social network, says the study.

Using a national dataset on retirees, the study examined self-reported happiness derived from daily activities in retirement by investigating the activities that lead to increased happiness and the optimal allocation of time for such activities.

The study also revealed:

  • There appears to be a gap between how retirees would like to spend their time and what they actually do in retirement.

  • The need to engage in active activities increased with age, while the desire for passive activities decreased with age. However, most retirees spend more time on passive activities, which contributed to a decrease in overall happiness.

  • Time allocation largely affected retirees’ happiness – household wealth was not related to how retirees allocated their time.

  • Financial planners can not only ensure the appropriate use of retirement assets for their clients, but also provide guidance on how clients might plan their daily activities.

Guo is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Financial Analyst, and has a PhD in financial planning. His research interests include retirement income strategies, household portfolio management, and financial decision-making quality.