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