Money really does buy happiness, retirement study finds

Budgeting concerns are affecting how people spend their golden years...

Further evidence today that you should really start saving up for retirement as soon as possible, as a Trinity College Dublin research body proves the close relationship between retiree income and their quality of life.

A new report from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) found that just under a third of retirees (31%) said a "shortage of money never prevents them from doing the things they would like to do".

Some 13% admitted a tight budget "often" limited their life choices in retirement.

Tilda examined 8,000 people over the age of 50 in Ireland and showed that individuals in households with higher incomes enjoyed a higher quality of life.

Focusing particularly on 325 people who transitioned into retirement between 2009 and 2015, Tilda came to the conclusion that it is actual income in retirement, rather than the proportionate change in someone’s income from that received before retirement, that affects quality of life.

Key findings from the study were:

  • Individuals in the highest quintile of household income score on average 29.6 on a quality of life measure. This compares to an average quality of life score of 26.2 for individuals in the lowest income quintile of household income. This means that those in the highest quintile score 13% higher for quality of life than those in the lowest quintile.
  • All aspects of quality of life (control, autonomy, self-realisation and pleasure) increase consistently with household income.
  • Around 19% of retirees in the lowest income quintile report that a shortage of money often stops them from doing the things they want to do compared to only 3% of those in the highest income quintile reporting this.
  • For retirees in the lowest income quintile, 25% report that a shortage of money never stops them from doing the things they want to do compared to 40% of those in the highest income quintile.
  • Retirement income replacement rates are calculated for each individual transitioning from employment to retirement between 2009 and 2015. The retirement income replacement rate is expressed as the ratio of post-retirement pension income to pre-retirement labour income. The median replacement rate is 51.4%. For example, this means that someone with a weekly salary of €500 would be left with a weekly income of €257 on retirement.
  • Retirement income replacement rates are not associated with quality of life post-retirement. The study shows that it is the income that people are on, pre and post retirement that is related to their quality of life, not the rate at which their income changes or the relative proportion of income they maintain from pre-retirement into retirement.

In this case, 'quality of life' was quantified through the CASP-12 measure, a self-report inventory that incorporates four dimensions (control, autonomy, pleasure, self-realisation) specifically developed for use with older people.

Dr Irene Mosca, a Tilda research fellow and lead author of the report, said:

“The finding that shortage of money does not seem to be an important issue for the majority of Irish retirees might be attributable to the fact that consumption patterns do change over time.

"Compared to when in employment, retirees are more likely to have more time to shop around, to have paid off their mortgage, to have fewer dependants and not to have to save extra for their retirement. ”

Dr Mosca continues:

"Overall, the findings of this report suggest that it is the income that people are on, pre and post retirement that affects their quality of life, not the rate at which their income changes.

"It is important to note, however, that a limitation of this analysis is that it only examines follow-up after retirement of up to a maximum of 2 years.

"More waves of Tilda will inform if these relationships between income and quality of life and replacement rates and quality of life are sustained over time”.