It is not uncommon to enter retirement with little thought or preparation for the years ahead. After all, what is there to prepare for? Your days will be filled with relaxation as you enjoy the freedom to do whatever you want. With no more stress from the job and the kids out of the house, the future can be all about you. Why not just enjoy the ride?
However, with many retirements extending for 20 or more years, going with the flow might not be the best plan of action. That is a lot of years to keep busy and find meaningful activities to occupy your days. If you opt to let retirement happen rather than take part in charting its course, what you end up with may be far from your optimistic vision.
For many retirees, sitting back is not an option. These active boomers still feel and act youthful. Instead of seeing retirement as the end of the road, it is viewed as the beginning of a journey that might provide new experiences equally as significant as what happened earlier in life. You do not have to be an adventurer or risk taker to want to get the most out of your second act, but you do have to take advantage of the situation. By accepting control and taking responsibility for your future, you can increase the chances of playing the game according to your rules.
Some people can be happy in the role of an observer watching from the sidelines as life unfolds. You have certainly earned the right to however much downtime you prefer. But after so many years spent meeting the needs and deadlines set by others, is there more you want to give?
The 65-year-olds of past generations may have found themselves physically and mentally worn out after an exhausting career. Plans to relax and do nothing in retirement may have been right for them. However, today's 65-year-olds are typically nowhere near ready to throw in the towel. They are full of ideas and passions yet to be explored.
Some people will use their second act to pursue a new career. If you are fortunate enough to have sufficient savings to fund your retirement, the path you choose is open to whatever might interest you most. Think about how much fun it would be to explore something entirely different from what you have done. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment and independence of starting a business of your own. Picture how easy it would be to get out of bed and get started knowing your day will be filled doing something you actually enjoy. Creativity does not cease with retirement. Some seniors find a way to express themselves in second careers.
Other retirees will want to stay as far from the working world as possible. Even if their career was enjoyable, many workers are ready for a change. Perhaps the skills developed on the job can translate to other interests such as volunteering or mentoring. If you are an organizational whiz you may find taking on the family bookkeeping and investments a worthy extension. And if you plan to avoid the working world entirely, you will open up loads of time to pursue other interests such as travel, sports, hobbies, lifelong learning and creative outlets including writing, music or art.
Whatever your chosen course, it is important to stay mentally and physically active as the years add up. Taking time away from the old grind can be a wonderful and well deserved period of leisure. But then you might want to stretch yourself and get back into the middle of something new and exciting.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.
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