Surprising Solutions To The Loneliness Epidemic

For the first year in retirement, I murmured this phrase over and over again, “I'm bored.” After regularly working 60 hours a week and interacting with clients, I suddenly had too much time on my hands. Instead of being bored, maybe what I really felt was loneliness.

After my wife took the bus to work at 8:30 am each morning I was left twiddling my thumbs. After 13 years of working in finance, I had been accustomed to waking up by 5:30 am. So I spent my time writing while she was sleeping instead of writing while she was away.

The vast majority of my friends couldn't play tennis or hang out during the day because they had jobs. Therefore, there was a constant struggle to fight FOMO as they went on to do bigger and better things. Eventually, I found more productive things to do by consulting for startups.

The pandemic seems to have exacerbated the loneliness epidemic as more people distance themselves from others. Here's the data to prove it.

The Rise Of Loneliness In America

The first chart is from The Washington Post and the American Time Use Survey by the BLS. It shows since 2013, Americans 15 and older are spending nine hours more alone a week today. Americans are also spending four-to-five hours less time a week with friends and companions.

The rise of loneliness

This second chart is from The Financial Times and analyzes the same American data. It shows:

  • Male and female Americans ages 15-33 are spending about 100 more minutes alone (50% more) a day today compared to in 2011.
  • Loneliness starts to tick up between ages 38 – 40 and doesn't stop until death.
  • More women start spending time alone after age 60.
Minutes per day spent alone by women and men

Even the U.S. Surgeon General published a report in 2023 about the healing effects of social connection and community. It's clear that loneliness is a big problem that is ruining the lives of many people.

Feeling Sad About The Loneliness Data

Life isn't as enjoyable without a companion. The loneliness data makes me feel melancholy. But it also makes me want to take action to counteract the loneliness epidemic.

At 45, I'm at an age where the data shows I will get dramatically more lonely from now on. As an extrovert who loves taking action, this is an undesirable outcome I plan to fix.

At the same time, I've come to realize maybe there's no need to fix anything in my life. All that's needed are some minor adjustments that you or I can do to increase our happiness.

Here are some solutions to loneliness I can think of. I've come to the conclusion feeling loved and less lonely takes effort. Therefore, maybe we don't have to follow the path of the Rônin if we don't want to.

Solution To Loneliness #1: Have Children Later

As an older parent, I used to regret my decision for focusing so much on money and career. However, I've come to realize we older parents can actually spend way more time with our children than if we had children earlier.

The second realization I have as a writer and as an older dad is that since 2017, there is almost never a moment of loneliness! 100% of my free time can be filled with the demands of our two children. We are like magnets to them where they want to cling to us 24/7.

I can't wait to give my kids hugs and play with them after I finish writing this post. However, as two stay-at-home parents, sometimes we feel like we spend too much time with our kids. As a result, we sometimes feel like we need alone time to decompress.

Therefore, the solution to not feeling more lonely after age 40 is to have children later! Instead of having your first child by age 25, maybe have them at age 35. Alternatively, just have a lot of children throughout your adult life.

If you have your first child at age 25, they will potentially be out of the house by the time you turn 43. So much loneliness thereafter! But if you have your first child at age 35, they won't be out of the house until you turn 53, at the earliest.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau figures show that, for the first time, the average age of women giving birth is now 30. So at least the trend is going in the right direction to counteract loneliness. However, there are significant risks to having children later.

To combat loneliness, having children later. Fertility and abortion chart by age

Solution To Loneliness #2: Retire Later

Loneliness is another reason why the ideal age to retire is not before 40. In this age range, there are simply too few people available to share time together during the day.

Once you get to your mid-40s, the ideal age range to retire, you'll find many more people to drink mimosas with during the weekdays. If you're working 60+ hours a week until you're 65, it's much harder to have any alone time!

Although I disliked my career enough to retire early, I also enjoyed a lot of my time with colleagues and clients. For example, every year, I'd fly to Hong Kong to attend the Asia Investment Conference. The conference always coincided with the Rugby 7s tournament, which was one huge party.

Not only would I go out and bond with clients every day for dinners and drinks, but I'd also have fun with colleagues from other offices. After the conference was over, sometimes I'd tack on trips to China, India, or Taiwan for more company meetings.

One of the negatives of early retirement is not having a sense of purpose. Until you find something you enjoy doing, you have to be OK with feeling like a nobody.

Even if you retire to something, chances are you will still feel this huge emptiness inside for an unknown period of time. Be forewarned. Loneliness in retirement is real.

To cure loneliness, retire later. The percentage of Americans who retire by various age groups

Solution To Loneliness #3: Find An In-Person Hobby

Finding a hobby other people also enjoy doing is one of the best ways to counteract loneliness. People come together due to a shared interest. The hobby can be in the arts, sports, activism, philanthropy, and more. The more hobbies you have, the better.

For my entire early retirement time period, I've played league tennis. The hobby is perfect for keeping loneliness at bay due to the formation of teams. You make friends with team members and have a unified goal to be the best team in your district. If you win districts, you move on to sectionals. Fun!

Having online friends is better than nothing. But I think an online friendship is equal to no more than 5% of an offline friendship. There's no substitute for in-person relationships, which is part of the reason why there's a strong push for many relationship businesses to go back to the office. Don't confuse your follower count with meaningful relationships.

During the pandemic, I enjoyed playing lots of softball. However, due to the risk of injury, I've decided to focus more on pickleball, which is way more action-packed. It's been great getting to know a whole set of new people from the San Francisco pickleball community.

People who become fanatical about a hobby also become fanatical about keeping in touch.

Solution To Loneliness #4: Add More Value

The more value you can add to society, the more people may want to spend time with you. You will be invited to more parties and more events. From there, you will grow your network and potentially find more companions with shared interests.

For example, I partnered up with a woman named Shannon to play Pickleball the other day. It was our first time meeting so she asked me what I did. I told her I am an author. She asked about the title of my book and I mentioned, Buy This, Not That.

She then said, “I know that book! Other parents at my daughter's school were mentioning it. They told me I had to read it because it talks about education, marriage, and divorce. Maybe I can organize a get-together with other parents who've read the book?”

Small world! I'm always surprised when someone says they've heard of my book or Financial Samurai. But maybe I shouldn't since this site has been around since 2009.

It's nice to know I can meet a bunch of potentially interesting new folks who are all parents. If my daughter wants to attend this private school one day, perhaps I can more easily gain recommendations. But I must say “yes” to the invitation and make an effort.

The longer you can help people without asking for anything in return, the more people may want to help you down the road. Hence, if you don’t want to be lonely, start giving more of your time and money today. Volunteering is great for loneliness because it makes you feel good that you're helping others.

Not only might you get rewarded with unknown favors in the future, but you might also make new friends. At the extreme, the wealthiest people who give the most are always getting invited to fundraisers. But that doesn't mean they are less lonely given it depends on the strength of their relationships.

Solution To Loneliness #5: Make A Bigger Effort

Now that we know the data about how much more lonely we are, we can be more intentional to counteract loneliness. Reverse engineering the data is easy. Perhaps we have more power to be less lonely than we think!

For example, since the start of the pandemic we are spending at least three more hours a week by ourselves. If we have a problem with this, then we can intentionally plan for three more hours with friends and companions a week.

Three hours can be knocked out with two lunches, one long hike, one sporting event, or a nice date night. Reach out to friends and loved ones to make plans. Put the plans in your calendar and do them!

I plan to play at least one more Pickleball or tennis match a week, which would make me spend at least one more hour with others. I also plan to pop over to friends' homes more often if I'm in their neighborhood. Just the other day I had some saké outside with a buddy. It was nice to shoot the breeze for 45 minutes.

Recently, I was super-impressed with a fellow parent who met me and my son at a SF playground at 2:45 pm. He and his son were in the East Bay, an hour away since 9 am. But they got on the BART subway system, rode his bike to the playground and met up. We had a great conversation about being a dad and work-life balance. His wife was on a business trip so he rationally made a big effort not to feel lonely!

General happiness of Americans ages 13 to 18 from 1991 - 2017
Too much social media and screen time

Loneliness Can Also Be So Dangerous

For over 13 years online, I've had the privilege of experiencing both the good and the bad of human nature. Thankfully, ~98.8% of the responses and interactions have been good.

I've observed there appears to be a correlation between loneliness, anger, and potential danger. The more lonely one is, potentially the more angry and dangerous they are. As a result, for your safety, it may be best to ignore your haters or try to better empathize with them.

Before kids, I was more combative with people who hurled insulting comments my way. Although I would never start things, it is in my nature to always fight back.

After having kids, I did a lot of reflecting on the type of father I want to be and the world I want them to grow up in. I also wanted to live long enough for them to become independent adults.

As a result, I've more easily let hate go. Not only does ignoring the hate protect my mood, it also saves me time and energy to be more productive.

United States mass shootings
Not a coincidence mass shootings surged in 2021

A Revelation Of Experiences

The pandemic also revealed many of the negative experiences I've quietly experienced with the emergence of the “Karens” and those who display hate against Asian folks.

I spent more time learning about the backstories of those who hate me or people like me. And what I discovered was their anger was almost always partially due to loneliness.

One woman went through a traumatic divorce. Whenever I'd write about family finances she'd leave a nasty comment on FS or my FB page. Another man revealed he never had a girlfriend. He also lost money on a home he had purchased right before the global financial crisis.

Take a look at this fascinating chart about demographics of long-term antidepressants. White women over the age of 45 account for 58 percent of adults who have used antidepressants for at least five years. If you are angry, lonely, and depressed, there's a greater likelihood of turning into an internet troll or joining the Internet Retirement Police.

Internet retirement police consist mainly of white women. Demographics of long-term antidepressants dominated by older white women

Meanwhile, my softball “friend” who also chided me for not trying harder had lost a boatload of money on Tesla stock. He bought a huge position on margin in 2021 before its 70% decline. Not only did he lose money, he lost time and the respect of his peers.

When people are lonely, they don't have enough supportive people around who love and respect them. As a result, the hurt they feel sometimes gets projected onto others. Again, online support is not enough.

The loneliness epidemic should worry us all, especially those of us who have kids. In my neighborhood alone, there are at least six adult men still living at home.

We should spend more time being patient and loving to one another. I know it can be hard when people are attacking you, but we must try!

Do you feel lonely?

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Reader Questions And Resources

Readers, I'd love to hear what solutions you have for feeling less lonely and more loved. Are we all just too focused on ourselves to spare time helping others? Have you felt more lonely since the pandemic began?

If you want to become less lonely, pick up a copy of, Buy This, Not That. Not only does my WSJ bestseller help you build more wealth, it also helps you make more optimal decisions for some of life’s biggest dilemmas.

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009.

About The Author

41 thoughts on “Surprising Solutions To The Loneliness Epidemic”

  1. Will from Buffalo

    Devil’s advocate here to point #1, have kids later. This is just a suggestion and a valid one. Makes sense that when you have kids later you’ll get to enjoy them later in life and get the most out of your friend circle in your 20’s and early 30’s. This could minimize YOUR loneliness.

    The other side of this coin however is your parents loneliness. My wife and I had our first child at 33 and second at 35. It was always our mindset that having kids in your mid thirties was the most responsible time we could do it. We would have our fun in 20’s and 30’s, travel, get financially set and have a home. We did all that. HOWEVER, knowing what we know now….if we could go back…. we would have started our family 3-5 years earlier.

    Why…and how does that tie to loneliness?

    1.) Our parents. My wife and I each lost a parent long before we were married. So we always had to put in extra effort to help support the remaining parent. My own mother LOVED my first born, but was fighting diabetes and other health complications the entire time my daughter was around. Sadly, she passed a few weeks before our second child was born.

    My wife’s father is now 78 and is fighting cancer. He was 73 when my first was born. Because of his age, he always had limited energy to enjoy our kids with. He was a big help and could sometimes baby sit for a couple hours, but never more than that.

    Had we had kids earlier….both parents would have been healthy (healthier at least) and younger when the kids were babies and toddlers. They could have enjoyed more time and family get togethers and maybe even taken over nights or longer visits without us.

    So while your loneliness is reduced having kids later….you have to consider 2 things….

    First, are your parents / older aunts/uncles/nieces and nephews going to be lonelier?

    And second, will YOU be lonelier in your old age because by having kids later, you will have grand kids and great grand kids later? Also, you increase the risk of being a solo grand parent as the risk of your spouse passing is higher. It is much easier and enjoyable to have grandkids WITH a spouse, its more manageable to babysit and have over nights. Just food for thought.

    2) Energy. Yes, you have more money when you have kids later….but you have SO much less energy. And while you may have a little more time or career flexibility if you have kids later….that time is SOMETIMES dampened by not having enough energy to keep up with small kids.

    3) Relatability. Ever see friends with younger parents….and those parent’s seem to “get it” a little more. They are a 5-10 years closer to the struggles the younger kids are going through, maybe recall it a little better, are just a hair less set in their ways. Its not a night and day difference but it is noticeable. It is not enough to just be around people for the sake of it….but more so people your connect closely with. I sometime think if I would be a hair or two closer to my kids if I were 5 years younger. With my kids ages of 5 and 3….I doubt it would feel different now….

    But when my kids are 15 and 17, I will be 50. Would 45 year old me remember what its like to be a teen a little more….or 45 year old me be a little more fun at a concert with my kids. Who knows for sure.

    1. Alll good points. I wish I had kids 3 years earlier too for my parents to be around to develop a relationship with them more.

      Not sure about the relatability argument. Feels like we will relate about their need for love, attention, and dealing with problems no matter how old we are.

      Energy, a little. But I Donno as I feel I have the same amount of energy as 10 years ago.

      Here’s a post you’ll enjoy:

  2. Charlene Lohmueller

    I agree. Once you are entrenched within a social network, it’s hard to justify leaving for better economics or even increased perceived safety (to a point!)

  3. As Esther Perel would say, “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships.” It’s so true.

    One thing I don’t think people take into consideration enough when determining where to retire is where their social networks are. What’s the point of moving to a low tax state in retirement if you don’t get to spend the extra money with your friends?

    1. Exactly. It’s one of the reasons why it’s been hard to move out of San Francisco to save money. I’ve got enough friends here that starting over would be difficult at my age. I’m sure I could meet new friends in Honolulu. But I like my interesting friends in SF.

  4. Retired at 43 and could have stayed retired except I missed the part of working which consists of contributing to something bigger than yourself and being a part of a team striving for a goal.
    I went back to work part time doing what I love and it’s awesome. I meet lots of great people, learn about others viewpoints and ideas, and have built some new long term friendships.
    That was almost 20 years ago and I feel younger now than I did then.
    Do what you love! Oh yeah…find a great spouse and raise awesome kids too They are the best fix for loneliness ever invented.

  5. Retired at 43 and could have stayed retired except I missed the part of working which consists of contributing to something bigger than yourself and being a part of a team striving for a goal.
    I went back to work part time doing what I love and it’s awesome. I meet lots of great people, learn about others viewpoints and ideas, and have built some new long term friendships.
    That was almost 20 years ago and I feel younger now than I did then.
    Do what you love! Oh yeah…find a great spouse and raise awesome kids too They are the best fix for loneliness ever invented.

  6. I found this post super interesting to read. I really think that loneliness is a great contributor to a lot of issues in our country these days. In the past, people were more likely to feel a part of something such as part of a church community or would hang out with all the neighbors on their street. Now, everything feels so different. Fewer people go to church and people are too busy/cautious/uninterested in hanging out with their neighbors in certain areas. This is in contrast to other parts of the world such as in Europe (e.g. Italy) and India where people are constantly hanging out with family members and friends even when they’re very old. That doesn’t seem to happen as much in our country. It’s a huge issue that I think is going to get worse over time with fewer people having kids due to fewer people not wanting to get married, people not putting up with crap and sticking it out in marriages, and fewer people able to find a partner and have kids before they’re not able to. I’m not sure what the solution is but I think it’s going to be a problem that gets worse as the years go on.

  7. “The vocation-inspired pursuit of multiple streams of income through carefully selected employment channels.” Portfolio Careerism

    I’m grateful for this post and others you have traditionally provided which all seek to promote diversity in living and work and support an inclusive approach to relationships. Marginalization is at an all time high – elitism, white supremacy, bigotry, ageism, et al.

    I chose an early retirement at 55 mostly because I was being marginalized for my anti-elite views and as a result of a serious accident I was blessed to survive (I received last rites at the scene).

    In the years since I have self-published a book and hosted a website celebrating diversity and tolerance in work and living: An Uncommom Way

    I am an avid reader of your posts and have benefitted happily from them, if not only for perspective you share with so many others on restraining resentment and hate in favor of finding a way healthy forward that regret can often compel us towards.

    ‘Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. Such people are either crazy or they become legends,.” Chief One Stab. Legends of the Fall.

  8. A great solution to loneliness: volunteering!

    I have a hard time seeing how retirees get bored, as there are people to meet if you put in the effort, things to learn, and causes that need help.

    Volunteering at a museum, park, school, or non profit is a great way to stay active and feel fulfilled. Becoming an activist on causes you care about, you have more time for canvassing, gathering feedback from your community, and going to city council meetings.

    In addition, there is so much to learn at the library. You can volunteer there too!

    An remember, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. Stop staring at your phone and look up once in a while!

  9. One of the most important aspects of early retirement: how to make new friends. It’s not easy.

    10 years later and a move, I’m still working on it.

    Beyond health and diet, social relationships are important.

  10. it takes over 300 hrs to make a new friend, it takes work, show up ,regularly. find things you enjoy. also stretch.

  11. Here are a few more ideas to reduce lonliness:

    Join clubs that shares your interests. There are often in-person or Zoom meetings every month for these clubs. Hiking, electronics, dine-at-a-different-place each week, ham radio, etc.

    Join a church, but it depends on which denomination. Some are more relationship-driven, like the Latter Day Saints. Others are not as much, and you’ll have to make an effort to join groups.

    Volunteer in movements and causes that matter to you.

    Go to pay-to-play events, like Meetups, art classes, and cooking classes.

  12. Only 17% in your survey feel lonely, the rest are doing just fine. When my kids were growing up we were putting major effort and time into maintaining friendships. Now they are grown, and most of my friends went off the deep end with the germ hysteria and took the experimental gene therapy that is now resulting in major loss of life and health….so I now enjoy spending time with family (husband, sons, cousins, siblings, uncles and aunts….over 100 people) and a couple of friends, and occasionally I host educational workshops at my home. I am not rushing all over town trying to maintain friendships with people who now live in a fully false reality. It is a sorry state of affairs that most friends I had for decades are now brainwashed by propaganda and most are scientists and should have noticed every red flag imaginable.

    1. The density of red flags in your comment is most disturbing.

      There’s drinking the conspiracy kool-aid and then there’s drowning in it.

      It’s pretty clear you are sinking fast.

  13. Ms. Conviviality

    The only time I had felt lonely was after my first husband died. I remember going to the gym for hours every day and volunteering every weekend — being surrounded by other people was all I needed to not feel alone. After two years though, I realized that life isn’t as fun going it alone. Luckily, that was when I met my now husband.

    He has lots of good and longtime friends that are constantly inviting us to hang out or go on trips with them so we don’t have a chance to feel alone. I believe his ability to keep good friends is because he’s kind, so funny, and has many interests so conversations never get boring. I second the other commenter that mentioned friendships as a barometer of EQ. My husband loves sales and it’s probably because he has high EQ and is good at it.

  14. My wife, a few close college friends and a couple of old neighborhood/high school buddies are the core of my friends. I have also met several people I would call friendly acquantances at my golf club, and look forward to putting in the cycles for them to become close friends. I spent time at 2 different colleges before graduating and was in a fraternity in one of them, which was one of the best decisions and commitments I stuck to in college, as if I were ever truly lonely for whatever reason I could always move back to where that school is and instantly be surrounded by 10+ brothers that would be very close friends as part of a very large extended community centered on the chapter house.

    Friends are crucial to happiness, and are a good barometer of your own EQ

  15. During the start of the pandemic I remember having anxiety about what was going to happen but fortunately I had family to be with and talk to. As the pandemic dragged on I had my hands full with childcare so that also didn’t give me much time to feel lonely. I kind of had the opposite result – I had so much time caring for others and not enough time to myself.

    If I had been single and living alone the pandemic would have been much, much harder. And I feel for the thousands of people who were all alone for so long.

    Now that things are mostly back to normal I’ve found better balance most of the time. I’ve been able to make new friends now that my kids are attending school again. And am able to get more time to myself to decompress at least several times a week.

    I don’t need a ton of socialization to avoid loneliness. But being able to see friends in person again and get back to more social activities several times a month has definitely increased my levels of happiness and balance.

    1. Single and living alone in 2020 and 2021 probably was much harder. On the flip side, I think those who sought adventure found it by making more effort to travel and meet folks.

  16. One major change my wife and I made 8 years ago is to move into a planned community with amenities and a HOA with a social committee. The last two houses we’ve owned are in communities with a pool, tennis and pickleball courts, and a club house. I meet my neighbors all the time at HOA events or the park, and my only child daughter has tons of kids to play with. This has made a major improvement in my life as a 30 something male. I’m able to socialize with the other dads rather frequently which helps build friendships much easier. If I just lived in a random house in a subdivision all the dads are too busy working to hang out often enough to build real friendships in my experience. Many times friendships are made through frequent and meaningful interactions which this type of community provides. Another great place to make friends is church. When volunteering and doing bible studies you are able to connect with people on a deeper level which is great for building lasting friendships.

  17. Pauline Chisala

    What an excellent helpful article. Thank you!

    I have been debating. I am ready to retire but have been afraid of the loneliness. After reading your article, I have made a decision today to retire from work late. I am 48. I have enough passive income to enjoy my retirement. I live in a big house alone. My husband passed away. My children are graduating from University 2023. I will continue to work but transition to part-time. I will maximize time for travel around the globe.

    1. Sounds like a plan! Maybe you can relocate to where your children work. Could be fun to be on their journey.

      I plan to pop in every so often where my kids go, whether they like it or not! :)

  18. Susan from LA

    My husband and I did the Camino Santiago this summer. We walked the 500 miles of the French Way in Northern Spain. During our working life, we had short vacation time. We would zoom past several cities in 10 days and never connect with anyone else. Now that we have more time, we are making concerted effort to talk to other travelers and Camino is a great place to connect with others in a deeper way.

    We get what we put in. We all have to make an effort if we wish to have meaningful conversations and relationships. The truth is, most people are willing and looking forward to have a conversation with you. They are just too scared to make the first contact. Be brave and say hello.

    Great post as always. Happy Holidays!

    1. Wow! What an adventure!

      So true about “We get what we put in.”

      I’m feeling that more and more with friendships and fighting back loneliness.

      In fact, I’m hanging out on the tennis court right now with a couple of friends at 3:10 PM before I pick my son up from school. Making an effort!

  19. I have few good friends. One is from high school and history unites us. Another, I promised her mother that I’d be there. We are very different but we get together for lunch regularly. Another couple live in Australia. We met in Europe in ‘94 and have met over the years in different vacation spots. They are quality people. Some people are obsessed with being popular. Unless your relationships are equal in terms of give and take, you can feel unseen and unheard in many relationships including familial relationships. Read, develop interests, limit social media, get exercise, count your blessings, go to church if it suits you.

  20. It is interesting how so many of the mass shooters are lonely white men who probably don’t have attentive parents and loving partners.

    Not sure why there are so many Karens who are privileged white women too. What explains this phenomena?

    Is it just because there are simply more white people in America, hence, more examples of lonely white people who terrorize others?

    1. Are you aware of the widespread violence in our inner cities? Who are largely not white people?

  21. Laura Lehtola

    Excellent and important article.
    Travel in meaningful ways can also yield great friendships worldwide. International voluneerism, going beyond the resorts, taking classes abroad – all bring human contact in a context that can lead to more meaninful, lasting friendships. Educating yourself is another and also comes with many rewards beyond social ones.
    Have a wonderful holiday season!

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