Once you are fortunate enough to retire, you don't want to squander your hard-earned free time. With 20 or 30 years to look forward to, you are free to fill your days with activities and experiences you genuinely want to pursue. But not everyone enjoys this newfound freedom. You could find yourself somewhat lost, unsure of how to spend your time and bored with the limited options you are able to come up with.
Now that you manage your own time, it is up to you to keep your retirement life interesting. Here are a few ideas to help keep retirement fresh:
Do something special for you. After decades of work and caring for a family, it is not surprising that we may have fallen into a less-than-exciting routine. Doing the same things every day is a rather lackluster way to go. As a retiree with time on your hands, why not shake things up a bit? Do something special or out of the ordinary. It could be as simple as celebrating your birthday in a new way by introducing a bit of adventure. Take the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try something you have always wanted to do.
While I am not a thrill-seeker, I'm still planning some first-time adventures for retirement. I look forward to perhaps steelhead fishing the Rogue River in Oregon, hot air ballooning over Sonoma Valley or camping at Big Sur under the pine trees. I'm hoping to have at least one annual adventure in the coming years.
Go ahead and spoil yourself. If you have never been pampered by a full-day spa treatment or sat by an outdoor fire on the beach while watching the sun set, this can be your chance. Splurge on a five-course meal with wine pairings or open up the pricy bottle you've been saving. Create a special event to look forward to.
Keep learning new things. I recently signed up for a series of online classes on understanding investments. I want to better understand the terminology and concepts of the investment world. With the flexibility of online sessions, I am able to watch as much as I want at one time, pause when needed and replay if I do not quite grasp the concept the first time around. There are also many other topics available, including everything from growing a killer garden in containers to medieval European history to understanding the brain. Best of all, there is no exam at the end of the process.
If you prefer the face-to-face interaction of a standard classroom setting, local colleges offer a diverse collection of topics for those with the time and interest. You can even learn with the great outdoors as your classroom. Consider taking a senior group hike through a national park, where trained guides describe the culture and history as you walk through some of the most beautiful spots on earth. Since you choose what and how you study, learning can be fun.
Expand your social circle. The more people you engage with, the more variety you expose yourself to. I am not talking about more Facebook friends, but more people you actually see and interact with in a non-virtual way. When my parents first moved to their current home, they did not know anyone. But they made the extra effort to meet the neighbors and spend time with co-workers. Before long they found themselves busily engaged in regular bridge clubs, tennis outings and dinner parties. They have come to know many wonderful people with diverse backgrounds while maintaining a perpetually busy calendar. Whether you prefer a club setting or more intimate gatherings, getting out and meeting others can open up new avenues to explore, keeping your retirement interesting.
Have some fun. With no stress from a job and more free time to pursue your interests, you might think retirees would be happier than most working people. But whether due to the effects of aging, money concerns or other factors that come into play, retirement living can be challenging. To make the most of your time, you need to add some fun to your day.
Pause to think about what brings a smile to your face. You and your partner could create separate lists of things you most enjoy doing. Put each on a slip of paper and throw them into a hat. When you need a little inspiration for something to do, draw one and go for it.
A few years ago my wife tried her hand at Sudoku. She has always been puzzle-inclined, and before long she found herself starting each morning with the daily Sudoku from the newspaper. I was reluctant to give it a try since I did not understand the attraction. However, I recently gave in, and now my wife makes a copy of the daily puzzle so both of us can enjoy the challenge. You never know where you might find yourself having fun until you try.
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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