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Can Having Three Good Friends Promote A Happy Retirement?

August 25, 2021

We can reasonably say that the more money you retire with, the more potential you have to enjoy retirement. Now, what about friendship? If you maintain some strong friendships and an active social circle after age 60, can that make a big difference in the quality of your "second act"?

You may need only two or three close friendships to experience a positive effect. The challenge is that friendships are harder to maintain these days. Social media lets us keep in touch, but it can also be a facile, arm's-length substitute for the quality time we spend together in person. Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow who studies longevity data in different cultures, writes in his book Blue Zones that Americans average 1.7 close friends today, compared with three in the 1990s. Wes Moss, a financial columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, contends that the happiest retirees have an average of 3.6 close friends (he has been researching retiree friendships for a book of his own). At financial news websites, articles sometimes warn retirees that when they walk away from the office, their daily social "safety net" will disappear and they will feel alone. While these warnings may make for good clickbait, they discount the fact that some of our closest friendships involve people we don't work with. Two, three, or four good friends may make our retirements feel that much richer.1