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!

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