Weekend Reading: Ben Franklin’s Radical Theory of Happiness

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

In addition to being an American Founding Father and innovator, Benjamin Franklin was also our “nation’s first happiness professor”, as described by filmmaker Ken Burns.


A life less stagnant: Franklin believed that all humans are naturally in pursuit of happiness, but when it came to his own philosophy of “happy”, that stemmed from lifelong learning and self-improvement. Even more radical than that during this time, Franklin believed that finding happiness wasn’t just for the upper class, but the masses. According to Burns, Franklin was the “least static” of all the American Founders, focused on always inventing, traveling, learning and trying new things.

A recipe for happiness: However much he counseled others to obtain happiness, author Arthur C. Brooks also analyzes if Franklin truly followed the “four building blocks to well-being”. Those include: Engaging in work that brings accomplishment or serves others, practicing some form of faith, investing in friendships and spending time with family. In work, Franklin was devoted, but when it came to faith, friendships and family, he did not put intentional time toward these areas. From this, we might learn that it is best to follow Franklin’s advice, not mirror how he personally lived.

Not your status quo: If you’re planning an unusually long retirement, it makes sense to practice your retirement in an unusual way as well.