Four pillars of the new retirement

Our research in partnership with Age Wave reveals four key pillars to consider for living well in today’s new retirement.

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How to live well in retirement

Wealth and leisure used to define success in retirement, but not anymore. Today it centers around four pillars — health, family, purpose and finances, which we cover in the following video, in our new retirement reports, and in our webinar “As You Age: Finances, Family Conversations and More”.

Pillar 1: Health

Health is the new wealth

Key takeaways

  • Being healthy is about being able to do the things you want

  • Cognitive ability and brain health are also important

  • It’s never too late to improve your health

As important as sound finances are, today’s retirees overwhelmingly say health is more important than wealth to live well in retirement.1 Good health not only offers choices. It can also help protect retirement savings. But while good health is the ideal, most adults spend 10 years in poor health.2


Pillar 2: Family

The expanding family circle

Key takeaways

  • “Family” is evolving to mean anyone you love and care for
  • Families are becoming more connected and interdependent
  • Memories, values and life lessons are most important to pass along

Family is the greatest source of satisfaction, support and purpose.3 But retirees worry about becoming a burden on their families, often as a result of health-related issues. On the flip side, they’re willing to offer financial support to family even if it jeopardizes their own financial future. 4


“All working people need to understand the quality of their lives in retirement is rooted in what they do to improve their health, their relationships with family and friends, their sense of purpose, and their finances long before they retire.” 5

Pillar 3: Purpose

The key to happiness: finding your purpose

Key takeaways

  • Having purpose is key to success in retirement
  • Finding purpose is especially challenging for newly retired people
  • Feeling useful helps you feel youthful

Retirees with a strong sense of purpose are happier, healthier and live longer.6 Their greatest source of purpose: spending time with loved ones, but also on their list is learning and growing. Yet now, with more than seven hours a day of free time, one in three retirees struggles to find purpose in retirement. 7


Pillar 4: Finances

Financial security and the freedom it brings

Key takeaways

  • Plan for how you want to live, not just want you’ll need
  • Managing money in retirement can be more difficult than saving for it
  • Health care costs can be more worrisome than a recession

For most retirees, it isn’t about accumulating wealth for wealth’s sake. Instead, it’s about having enough resources to provide security and allowing them the freedom to live the lives they want. Over half of retirees wish they’d budgeted more for unexpected expenses.8


The COVID effect

While retirement was changing before COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated this transformation. We tracked these changes via two studies; one study  focused on COVID-19’s impact across the pillars. The other study  looked at the growing importance of family in retirement with the pandemic as a backdrop. Some insights from these studies include:

  • Retirement timing for many Americans has shifted; most plan to retire later for financial reasons, but some intend to retire earlier to follow new personal priorities.
  • The pandemic was a financial wake-up call for most Americans, causing them to pay more attention to their long-term finances.
  • COVID-19’s economic impact deeply affected working women, widening the economic gender gap.9
  • There were some silver linings: families became closer, people refocused on what really matters, and empathy and compassion increased.

Are you prepared for this new chapter?

Retiring well today is about more than money — it includes health, family and purpose. Does your plan take them into account? At Edward Jones we’ve been helping people plan their futures for over 100 years. And we’ve always believed you’re more than just your portfolio. Let’s talk. The first meeting is on us.

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More New Retirement studies

These ground-breaking studies reflect our efforts in partnership with  Age Wave  to explore people’s hopes, dreams and concerns in retirement.

Resilient Choices: Trade-offs, Adjustments and Course Corrections to Thrive in Retirement (2023)
Full report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)

Longevity and the New Journey of Retirement (2022)
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)

The Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes (June 2021)
Full Report (PDF)


Important Information:

1 - 8  The Edward Jones and Age Wave Thought Leadership Study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement," 2020.

9  The Edward Jones and Age Wave Thought Leadership Study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes," 2021.