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

Finding Inspiration in Retirement

Do you remember as a kid when a new day rolled in and you could hardly wait to get up and get to it? As soon as the sun was out you were ready. There was nothing better than opening your eyes and feeling the excitement of not knowing exactly what was in store, but anticipating a multitude of possibilities that could be. Each day held the promise of something new. Perhaps a best friend in the neighborhood awaited your attention. Maybe a new bike enticed you to ride off into the day. Whatever the specifics, it was wonderful in that moment to feel energized, hopeful and expectant.

As time passed, that idyllic childhood evolved into a career, and for the next 30 years the focus was on fulfilling the duties of your job. Not all mornings begin with the same excitement you felt as a youngster. In fact, sometimes it took all the will power you could muster just to get up and get yourself to work.

By the time retirement rolls in, it is not always easy to resurrect the simple passion for living that was second nature not so very long ago. The burdens of years lived can weigh upon us, too often transforming carefree optimistic people into down-to-earth realists. Challenges continue to manifest, and we often struggle to transition into our second act.

It’s up to you to remember how to find enjoyment in the little pleasures life has to offer. Now that you are retired you have more control over how you choose to spend your day. Finding a little inspiration can make the difference between existing and enjoying a satisfying retirement. Here’s where to look for inspiration for your second act.

Family. Spending more time with family is often a top retirement priority. We often have many shared experiences to relive and new happenings to relate. Sometimes we also have a lot in common with our loved ones. My son and I are in many ways mirror images. Often when I see a picture on his Facebook page I take a second look, swearing the image is that of a younger me. His sense of humor is similar to mine, and his love of animals and fanatical loyalty to the San Jose Sharks came right from Dad. When I spend time with him I feel proud of all he has become as well as a certain satisfaction that I had a little something to do with it.

My wife is Swiss and has a wonderful family spread across Switzerland. Over the years we have visited and hosted many happy travelers. The next generation is reaching an age when they are venturing out to explore the world around them. When visiting, they quickly find themselves sharing our love of California and regaling us with fun stories of their day’s adventures. Their youthful exuberance and endless energy helps us to recharge as we bask in its glow.

Creative pursuits. Although the working world jealously hoards time we may otherwise use to explore hidden talents, retirement can be the perfect venue to delve into our creativity. You can pursue whatever sparks your interest now that you have free time. My aunt took up oil painting later in life and has produced some colorful creations that grace the walls of family members. A friend spends his spare moments taking amazing photographs. Another aunt had taken up square dancing. You don’t have to worry about how good the end result may be. This new activity should be about doing what you want and enjoy.

Travel. Back in school I was never very interested in geography. I did not care to learn about people and places beyond my immediate neighborhood. These days I cannot learn enough about other cultures. I find the history, food, fashion, distinctive architecture and wonderful idiosyncrasies of the local population all incredibly interesting. I love to walk the neighborhoods, heading nowhere in particular and uncovering hidden treasures along the way. And I don’t necessarily have to travel far to find interesting destinations. There is plenty to see within driving distance. For me, the planning that goes into a pending trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. Anticipation and a little research behind the scenes prior to embarking can make travel even more inspiring and rewarding.

Retirement can become boring if we don’t take steps to prevent it. Taking up creative pursuits or travel can help break up the monotony. These inspiring activities will enhance your retirement years and help you to make the most of your second act.

Written for my blog on US News & World