Before retirement, it is not unusual to think how great it will be to not have to get up every day for work, to have a lot more free time, and to have opportunities to really relax and enjoy life. You may dream about living in a warmer climate or in a smaller house that doesn’t need as much cleaning and maintenance. You may be looking forward to a lot of travel that you’ve never had the time to do or to spending more time with your grandchildren. It is time to have fun! Unfortunately, the reality of retirement doesn’t always work out this way.
You may have sufficient financial resources to live comfortably after you stop working, but it is important to also think about all of your other needs to create a satisfying life. It doesn’t happen automatically or all by itself.
There are some pitfalls to avoid.
Thinking that pre-retirement activities will be the same as post-retirement activities, only better
Let’s take golf, for example. During your working years, you may have gotten involved in enjoyable activities like golf, playing perhaps once or twice a week. After retirement? Golf every day! This sounds really great, but are you really that interested in golfing every day? As much as you like the game, is a daily run around the course really that appealing to you? Are you going to get bored? Will you have enough like-minded people to play with? What if the cost of playing golf daily is too expensive for you in retirement? What if you get injured and you have to curtail golf altogether; what will you do to fill up your days?
Moving to a new location for what may be the wrong reasons
A good friend retired a few years ago and chose to move to a location unfamiliar to her but where she had some family. Peggy believed that living near family would provide companionship for her as she aged. But almost all of these family members were older than Peggy and as she watched her relatives pass on over the years, she became increasingly isolated. Peggy had not taken the opportunity to cultivate new relationships in her new town because she had her family and now that they are mostly gone, her days are much emptier than she ever thought they would be.
Always staying in your comfort zone
Peggy has another dilemma on her hands. She was used to doing certain things in her old town that are no longer available, such as seeing all the first-run movies and swimming every day at an indoor pool. Unless she’s willing to try some new things, Peggy’s life will end up being pretty monotonous, making her social isolation even worse. Although the town she moved to is small, it does offer a few things that could turn out to be interesting, such as an amateur theatre group and a dance studio that gives tango lessons. While she was working, Peggy would have been somewhat horrified at the prospect of either one of these activities, but now that she is retired and living in a new place, giving one of them a try could lead to some very positive experiences.
The lesson here is to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Try glass-making or archery. Look into being a museum or historical docent. Take an opera-appreciation class. Learn how to scuba dive or play table tennis. Go kayaking. Pick up the catalogue for adult-education classes and step into your local Senior Center and look around. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels or tutoring elementary-school kids. Join a knitting circle or a book group. Any one of these could turn out to be the engaging, fun, enriching, and social experience that will make you look forward to each retirement day.
If you manage to avoid these pitfalls, the rewards of retirement can be enormous.
I'm Linda Fleit. My husband and I were lucky enough to retire when we were 61, about nine years ago. We love being retired and want to share all that we've learned over the years about this wonderful stage of life.