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How to Reboot Your Retirement

Tom Sightings

Some people have always had an idea of what they want their retirement to look like. For others, retirement is a blank canvas, and every day is an opportunity to paint a new picture. But no matter how you view retirement, it's a good idea to pause on occasion and assess where you are and where you're going.

Stop and reflect. Maybe you retired to Florida or Arizona, or moved near grandchildren. But if your kids took new jobs and moved away, your grandchildren grew up or you found out you couldn't stand the heat and humidity, then maybe it's time to be honest with yourself and reconsider. If the reason you're doing what you're doing no longer exists, maybe you shouldn't be doing it anymore.

A lot of people purposefully do not change their lives immediately after they retire. They take time to explore different options, decide what they want and map out their future. There's no reason you can't go through this same process five or ten years later, when your interests have changed. Maybe your initial idea of retirement is no longer what you want. That doesn't mean you've failed. It just means you've changed.

Reassess your goals. Many retirees, especially baby boomers, decide to work part time after they retire. But then a few years later, they're tired of the new job. They might also volunteer or join a social club, and then find out it's not for them. That's OK. My brother-in-law, an engineer, decided to teach after he retired. He took a job working at his local community college. But before the first year was over, he realized that teaching was not for him. He felt the students were not motivated, he was bored going over the basics again and again, and he hated giving tests and grading papers.

So he quit after one year. He wasn't embarrassed about it. He tried something out, realized it didn't work for him, and so he went onto something else. Now he's set up a woodworking shop in his basement and makes toys for his grandchildren and a few pieces of furniture that he sells at a local craft shop. He's glad he tried out teaching, but he's much happier now that he's found his true retirement calling.

Adjust your outlook. We all expect to undergo a period of transition when we first retire. But sometimes we need to transition from the first stage of retirement into another phase. Maybe you traveled for a few years, but now you're tired of hotel rooms, cruise lines and the next tourist destination, which looks just like the last tourist destination. So stop traveling so much. That doesn't mean you're slowing down. It means you outgrew one activity and are ready for the next.

The key is to change as your interests evolve. I have one friend who volunteered at an art cinema after he retired. He ushered at a theater that booked live music and ran classic movies. He saw a lot of shows for free and met a few of the performers. But after a few years, he got tired of the crowds and the late nights. So he and his wife signed up for dancing lessons instead. They take a lesson one night during the week and go dancing most weekends. Now, instead of watching others up on stage, they're out on the dance floor, having fun and getting a bit of exercise in the bargain.

Remember, it's a work in progress. Sometimes it's hard to give up on a newly discovered retirement activity or a hobby you've dreamed about for years. One friend bought a sailboat the day after he retired. He had fun at first, sailing around in the bay, scrubbing down the boat and hanging out at the marina. But after three seasons the novelty had worn off. He was ready to move onto something else. He sold the boat and started playing golf, a sport he had taken up years earlier, but dropped when he got too busy with work and family.

Don't get discouraged if everything doesn't develop exactly the way you envisioned. Maybe a part-time job ends up being just as stressful as your old job. Maybe volunteer work isn't as fulfilling as you thought it would be. Maybe a vacation home turns out to be more trouble than it's worth. Don't worry. Retirement can last for 20 or 30 years. There's plenty of time to change your mind. So do what makes you happy, and don't be afraid to make adjustments if what makes you happy changes.

Tom Sightings blogs at Sightings at 60.

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