Now That We Are Retired, What Next?

When you finally make the move to retirement the possibilities for good times to be had can seem endless. Instead of spending your time working for the man (or woman) you will find yourself in the enviable position of choosing to do what you actually want with your days. You are free to get up when you want, dilly-dally as you choose and spend your newfound freedom pursuing whatever interests you for the moment. Then move on if and when you are so inclined.

Rather than obsess over the company’s quarterly performance you can focus on what really matters – like starting that lovely flower garden or maybe learning to speak Italian or perhaps trying your hand at painting. Just ask yourself what you would most like to be doing and fill in the blank. Of course if you enjoyed being part of the working world you might try your hand at starting your own business or engage in a venture that excites you and keeps you wanting to come back each day. The beauty is you can choose whatever course of action you feel is right for you.

So the day comes around and you make the move – you call it quits, say your goodbyes to co-workers, pack up your box of office mementos and drive away from the place you have spent the majority of your hours for the past years or decades. You have graduated into the latest class of retirees. As of now you own the clock and calendar – whatever you say goes.

Now what?

With high expectations many of us jump into our second act no looking back. Some are happiest doing nothing, enjoying a downtime they are unaccustomed to but can easily get used to. After the rush and hustle of the job, who doesn’t deserve to take it slow and chill a bit? Others cannot wait to start their next adventure. Only this time they are free to try something they have always wanted rather than have to do for the money. Each of us gets to decide how we move forward. But how much thought has gone into what exactly that might be?

Over the years I have heard from many who are navigating their way through retirement with varying degrees of success. Some find themselves happily engaged in various interests and hobbies and pastimes, amazed at how the days fly by. They don’t have enough time to get it all done! Others struggle to find their place in an unfamiliar world, not quite sure what they should be doing. With no one telling them what to do they are at a loss. And if you have done nothing to plan and prepare for the next 20-30 years, life is not necessarily going to get better by itself.

I recently posted my 195th blog for US News & World – On Retirement. During those almost four years I shared articles with readers who like me were doing their best to figure out this retirement game. I learned a lot and hope my readers found some value as well. But now I feel it is time to move on and try something new. I am not sure exactly what that is but it is fun to contemplate the possibilities.

I think it is important to continue to extend our boundaries and try new things as we live our retired lives. Doing the same thing with little variation can become a brain numbing habit that requires no independent thought and does little to stimulate our curiosity. I am personally at my best when challenged or at least experimenting with something new. The focus is on challenging not stressful.

Although I look forward to stepping outside of my comfort zone, I accept the reality that I don’t want to step too far outside. While some of a similar age may choose to ski down precarious Swiss Alps or zipline high above jungle canopies, I am a bit less adventurous. I don’t need my heart beat to race to have a good time! But that does not mean my retirement will be boring.

I want to travel and am blessed with the perfect companion in my Swiss wife who has ventured far and wide. With her language skills and familiarity with world travel my list of potential ports of call broadens exponentially. I want to learn to cook wonderful meals that are healthy and tasty. I want to grow much of my own vegetables so I can pick fresh produce to add to my dishes as needed. I want to become familiar with all of the trails that crisscross the parks and valleys within 50 miles of where I live. I want to walk along the California coast with no destination in mind for as long as I want breathing the fresh salt air and listening to the pounding surf. I want to keep my mind engaged learning new languages and studying subjects that truly interest me from nature to history to geography to TBD.  I want to play beautiful melodies on the piano. And I want to spend time with my wife doing whatever it is we may, happy being near one another.

Retirement is here and I for one plan on taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let the games begin!

How You Can Extend Your Retirement Honeymoon Period

The beginning of retirement can be wonderful. You have survived the rigors of the working world, raised a family and hopefully put aside enough to subsidize exactly the lifestyle you want. Now you can finally start doing what you really want to do and live at a pace that suits you best. Let the honeymoon begin.

It should not be too surprising if your first year of retirement seems to pass quickly. Time flies when your only obligation is to explore your inner passions and find ways to enjoy yourself. Just working through your to-do list will probably take a good portion of year number one. Then you might want to visit some of the travel destinations that have been calling to you. Long ignored hobbies and interests can be revisited. You can finally read the many wonderful books you have been stock piling. And, of course, you will want to try your hand at doing absolutely nothing.

However, after the initial rush of retirement enthusiasm, you may find yourself at a loss for what to do next. You likely spent years focused on getting to retirement, and it’s important to make the best of your time. You want every year to be as engaging and exciting as the first. Here are a few suggestions to help you extend the honeymoon period of retirement.

Be spontaneous. When we were tied to our busy work schedules everything had to be carefully planned ahead of time. Having fun had to be squeezed in between the realities of making a living and raising a family. Once retired, you are in control. It’s the perfect time to try something spur of the moment that is not on your calendar. Consider a one night getaway to a nearby beachside hotel or a drive to a foothill winery for a picnic. Perhaps there are still tickets available for a symphony, play or ballet happening tonight. Maybe a new restaurant has opened in the neighborhood that you haven’t yet tried. When you head out your door for a walk, try heading in a direction you have not ventured before. Cook a new recipe, add a new plant to the garden, buy a hat or help a friend.

Find something new in common. You and your spouse have probably been together for a while. You probably feel you know everything there is to know about your partner, but that is not necessarily the case. It is easy to fall into comfortable roles doing what we have always done together or pursuing our individual interests, and that might work just fine. But even after decades of marriage, there might be some unknown passion your husband or wife has failed to share. He or she might have a retirement wish list that includes a few entries that might surprise you. Honestly sharing hidden interests might kindle a shared passion you can explore together. And it doesn’t have to be something major. I just learned my wife has always wanted to try her hand at fishing, which is also something I enjoyed as a kid but was forced to leave behind due to a busy pre-retirement life. Now we plan to visit the lake and sink our lines together.

Don’t over plan. It’s intimidating to plan a future that extends 20 or more years. Most of us are lucky if we can accurately forecast the next couple of months. I find I am much more comfortable looking ahead one or two years into my retirement rather than trying to plan every detail to the very end. I am new to retirement, and I have no idea what I may want to explore five or ten years down the road. I am just fine with short-term plans for now.

Revisit what matters most. Retirees are in the enviable position of being able to choose what to do with their glorious free time. Life is no longer about doing what you have to do. Instead, you get to choose what you want to do. I have a nice collection of activities and hobbies that keep me busy. But there are other areas I hope to explore that might be more meaningful instead of just entertaining. Volunteering is intriguing if I can choose a worthy cause that suits what I can offer, perhaps including tutoring, coaching or mentoring. Now it is a matter of deciding where I can have the greatest impact and find the most satisfaction. But the choice is mine, and that is a luxury I do not take for granted.

Written for US News & World