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

Avoid These Common Mistakes New Retirees Make

Since no one has firsthand experience being retired until they actually do, we may stumble while learning to navigate our way. This is new territory, and we typically have to figure things out as we go. Some people do not fully appreciate the magnitude of unlimited free time until they experience it, while others fail to plan ahead enough to sufficiently prepare for multiple decades of retirement. Whatever the particular oversight, being blindsided by the unexpected threatens to put a damper on an otherwise smooth transition into retirement.

Retirement doesn’t have to be full of surprises. We can learn from the experiences of those who have gone before us. Here are a few potential stumbling blocks to be aware of as you begin your retirement journey.

Thinking you know it all from day one. Navigating our careers made us into efficient workers who were good at the job we did. But those skills that enabled us to advance through the ranks are not always the same qualities that lead to a successful retirement. If you want to make the most of your second act you might have to make some changes. Your retirement activities are likely to evolve over time. You will encounter good and bad surprises and need to deal with them as best you can. It is impossible to know ahead of time exactly how your retirement journey will play out. Don’t be surprised to feel a bit out of sync at the beginning of retirement. You will likely have to change and adjust along the way.

Waiting for life to happen. When you first retire you will likely be ready to enjoy a little downtime. Feelings of relief will blend with growing excitement about what could lie ahead. But it can be a mistake to expect a fulfilling retirement to materialize without your active involvement. Just because you made it this far doesn’t mean your job is done. You can be as active as you want to, but try to make it a conscious choice. It is important to take control of the new life you have waited and worked for.

Assuming you have enough interests to last you. Many of us cannot wait to revisit the hobbies and passions we were forced to neglect due to the responsibilities of everyday life. It is a wonderful thing to finally have time you can choose how to fill. But don’t be surprised if a few years into retirement you find your enthusiasm has diminished. If you don’t want to become bored, it helps to always be on the lookout for something new that captures your interest. Just because you have not tried something in the past does not mean you cannot take a stab at it now. More is better when it comes to interests in retirement.

Believing you and your partner are on the same page about retirement. It is not uncommon for spouses to have differing views on the ideal way to enjoy retirement. My vision of how to spend the perfect day may be nothing like what my wife has in mind, and that is OK. There is no reason to fear such differences. What helps to keep things running smoothly is honest discussions and open sharing about retirement expectations. Share your vision of retirement and encourage your partner to do likewise. Don’t wait for a problem to arise. Become familiar with what each of you looks forward to and fears. It will be easier to navigate your way if you combine forces.

Limiting your options. When my parents retired, their vision of the future was one of peaceful moments, a bit of bridge, a dash of golf and enjoying their freedom. That was the way they wanted retirement to be, and it worked just fine for them. I envision my second act differently. I do not see retirement as the end of the road, but a new beginning. I am still healthy, active and have a variety of interests. And now I have the time to really pursue what excites me. Short of health or financial issues, living in retirement can be the beginning of new experiences you have the power to personally select.

From my blog for US News & World