Often retirement is depicted as some sort of financial race — you plan, you save, you start to collect benefits and you reach the finish line. You’re done! You’re retired!
What we don’t spend enough time talking about is what happens next — what to do in retirement. It isn’t just a milestone, it’s also a life-stage filled with new opportunities and obstacles. Many retirees will tell you that one of the biggest of these challenges is time. Specifically, what do you do with all your newfound free time?
Our first piece of advice is to cut yourself some slack. After decades of routines it’s normal to feel adrift when things change. We are all programmed to our habits and it can take months or even years to get used to new ones.
Beyond that, start to think about time as a gift. This is your chance to do the things that you want to do, rather than the ones you need to do. Of course, figuring out exactly what you want to do isn’t simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Retirement means that you don’t have a job, right? Wrong. According to one report, only 21% of people plan to do no work at all during retirement. This is partially out of necessity — often savings aren’t enough to cover expenses — but it’s also frequently by choice. Many people love what they do and see no reason to stop. Others simply enjoy the routine and social interaction.
That said, working in retirement doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing changes. Often, retirees scale back hours to part-time, switch careers, or even start entirely new businesses.
Remember the thrill of school vacations as a child? Did you worry about what to do with your time? Did you feel guilty of playing instead of being productive? Most likely not.
Try to channel your 10 year-old self and indulge in the things that bring you joy. Sure, it may not mean swinging from trees or building forts, but it could mean going to concerts, fishing, reading, cooking, traveling, or simply spending time with friends and family. And don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. As adults we often condition ourselves to think of pleasures as “guilty” or time wasters. What would your inner child say about that?
According to another study, over half of all Baby Boomers exercise regularly, and many feel that they are in better shape as they get older.
These current and future retirees aren’t just golfing — they’re taking up everything from spinning to yoga. Besides the obvious physical benefits, exercise has huge mental benefits — it creates regular routines, eases anxiety and increases confidence.
Retirees usually have flexible schedules and a lifetime of experience, the perfect combination for volunteering. Service can take all sorts of forms, from helping local community centers to signing up with national groups.
Besides being deeply rewarding, the experience of volunteering is also often a great way to meet people and establish a regular routine. If you’re looking to find an organization but aren’t sure how, Senior Corps can be a great starting point.
One of the biggest trends in education right now is “lifelong learning” — in essence courses targeted towards adults and seniors. Sometimes these teach practical skills, such how to use various computer programs, but they also cover everything from opera to philosophy. A number of retirees are even choosing to move to college communities, which tend to have vibrant cultural offerings in addition to educational opportunities.
Beyond courses offered by accredited institutions, most towns have plenty of free classes offered by religious groups and senior centers. There’s also a growing number of online courses offered for free. You can find these at websites like Coursera.
Photo by Mike Baird via Flickr.