What Do You Do For Fun In Retirement?

One of the great rewards of retirement is when you get there you can do what you want. Whatever you love, whatever you are most passionate about, whatever you have always wanted to try but never had the time, all await your undivided attention when you cross the retirement threshold.

I don’t think one really appreciates the nature of free time until you retire. While on the job any free time you may squeeze out of the day offers a brief taste, a momentary respite in an otherwise turbo world. In a flash you find yourself back on the treadmill quickly bidding adieu to that relaxed pressure free escape that too soon becomes but a memory.

As a retiree you are in the driver seat. As a retiree you set the pace that suits you best. As a retiree you have time for fun – finally. And now that you have all the time in the world, what do you do?

It is not always easy to effortlessly transition to a life where no one tells you what to do. Freedom might even feel a bit scary if you find you are at a loss over how to fill the hours.

Fear not – many have gone down the same road you now navigate. A little practice, a pinch of creativity, a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and you should soon find your second act all you hoped it to be – maybe even more.

What do people do for fun once they retire?

One regular LBR reader typically ends her correspondence with “keep on dancing.” Two years into retired life she explores opportunities to volunteer and engage with her community. Each day is a chance to try something new and her perpetual optimism fuels her journey.

A friend has become very involved with the quilting community in our area. She attends regular get-togethers, man’s booths at local events, and enjoys conversing with others similarly inclined. Plus she creates some truly beautiful quilts whether to decorate her own home or donate to worthy causes.

Senior Playing at Water's Edge

My wife has a dedicated table (on wheels) set aside to build challenging jigsaw puzzles. She works on nothing less than 2000 pieces and has completed some majestic works. And once again proof it’s about the journey rather than the destination – once completed she calmly takes them apart and puts back in their box (after taking a picture of course).

One neighbor teaches a yoga class weekly out of her house. A handful of dedicated locals show up regularly to bend, stretch and meditate their way toward better lives.

Gardening is a wonderful way to feed your creativity while at the same time enjoying the outdoors. There is always something to do if you hope to keep things ship shape. And in the end efforts spent weeding, pruning, fertilizing and defending the crop from varmint’s results in beautiful flowers, tasty veggies and juicy fruit.

Along the lines of enjoying the outdoors taking a walk or hike through the neighborhood and surrounding parks is good exercise, puts you in contact with people around you and gives you a chance to ruminate as you take in nature. No planning is required – just head out the front door and start walking. You never know where you might end up.

My wife discovered the wonders of Pinterest on her iPhone. Each day she scans the site for new creative and tasty recipes to try out. Talk about a win-win situation! My favorite to date is the Pear Tart with powdered almond crust.

Another friend has become quite the bicycle rider. He is often seen wandering the back roads or slipping and sliding down mountain paths in local parks. Great exercise and he sure covers some ground.

My brother has set a goal to visit all the California Missions. His family joins him as they track down new locations near wherever they happen to be traveling. History, beautiful scenery and quality family time are rolled into one memorable outing.

The same brother feeds his passion for music by joining with a handful of similarly minded young-at-heart to play songs for friends and family. He still composes original works and I find there is nothing better than sitting in on a jam session to share his joy of music.

My dad has always loved going for an afternoon drive. The nearby Sierra Foothills offer unlimited views of gnarly old oak trees sprinkled across expansive rolling hills. And when the wild flowers are blooming there is no prettier spot on earth.

My Aunt Lydia took up oil painting later in life. With no formal training just because she enjoyed doing it she began putting on canvas colorful still life portraits as well as a multitude of scenic views. All family members have a picture or two from her gallery.

Have you ever felt the urge to write a story? Or perhaps document your family history for future generations? Retirement can offer the perfect opportunity to release the writer within you.

Our neighbors are avid bird watchers. They love spotting a new winged visitor in the trees and figuring out what the heck it is. They turned me onto a great app that helps identify unknown fliers by their size, colors, and even the song they sing. Check out Merlin from Cornell Lab.

My wife and I have incorporated a few games into our end-of-the-day agenda. Come 5:00 you can expect to see us sitting down on the patio engaged in a spirited battle of Gin Rummy, Backgammon or Dominoes. We find a little friendly competition helps get the juices flowing before dinner.

A few other options you might consider: learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, volunteer, become your own handyman, figure out your family tree, add a pet, travel, join a choir, try your hand at the art medium of your choice, learn to cook, start a business, buy/rent an RV and hit the road, babysit, be a mentor, and the list goes on.

Having fun in retirement is not so difficult. Of course you have to give yourself permission to do so. Occasionally you may feel slightly guilty having free time to do what you want while so many others struggle in the same old day to day grind. But remember you paid your dues. You survived the grind and this is your chance to make up for lost time. Now is your time to have fun.


Living Retired

Once you hit age 50 or thereabouts it’s normal to find yourself thinking of retirement. Hopefully you have been preparing along the way and find yourself financially able to make the move when you are ultimately ready. You don’t want to begin planning to retire in your 50’s – by that time there is not much runway remaining to launch your transition. But assuming along the way you have been diligent, consistent in your savings efforts, realistic about the future and more than a little lucky, when your second act rolls in you should find yourself able to relax and look forward to good times.

You might find living the retired life a bit challenging at first. After decades spent with others telling you what to do – also known as the job – as a retiree you suddenly find you are in control of how you spend your time. You decide what to do and when to do it. The freedom can be intoxicating – what an awesome opportunity to spend your hours in pursuit of what you love! But what if you don’t have any particular passions or have not yet identified any? Suddenly that independence can feel a burden as you try to fill your day with “things” to keep you busy, keep you engaged, and bring meaning to your existence.

And how do you define meaning in your new role as full time retiree? Back in the working world deadlines and goals helped determine success. A completed project provided a clear measure of accomplishment. Perhaps a promotion justified long hours spent proving yourself as it moved you ever higher in the food chain. In the working world things are more quantifiable. In retirement meaning is often a bit fuzzier, more elusive.

Not every moment need be spent in meaningful pursuit of noble causes. As a bone fide retiree you have earned the right to do nothing, to chill, and just relax. I think you better serve your cause by seeking a balance between relaxation and meaningful activities. On a little, off a little.

In retirement you don’t worry about fancy titles. In fact it is often those who held lofty titles in the working world who find it hardest to adjust to a life where fellow retirees are peers instead of subordinates. Power trippers beware – when you retire you leave your fame and glory behind. It is important to be happy with who you are outside of work. The good news is you can now spend time figuring out exactly who that person will be. Just because you are no longer contributing to the bottom line does not mean you cannot contribute to living a fulfilling second act.

Having focused long and hard on building your nest egg as you saved all you possibly could, don’t be surprised if in retirement you find yourself reluctant to part with those hard earned dollars. A reader of LoveBeingRetired explains his dilemma: “Spending money is a huge deal for me. Guided by a certified planner for the past 31+ years, we’ve saved and invested just for this very retirement period I recently started. With saving and living beneath means for so many years, I can’t seem to just flip the switch to start spending. NOTHING seems to be of enough value to me to spend the money. Everything seems SO expensive these days that I persuade myself that I can live without it.”

Who among us is free from the fear of running out of money? With realistic hopes of living 10 or 20 years as retirees an extended future is in store for many.  We all want our finances to last to the end. But it is important to remember what all the years of frugal living was intended for – to subsidize the retirement lifestyle we want. If we refuse to spend anything we risk missing out. A little prioritization of what really matters along with a bit of loosening of the purse strings can be just the ticket. Frugality is essential but so is balancing a heavy wallet with a happy heart.

Responsibility in retirement is different. To this point the focus has been on taking care of others whether a demanding boss or a dependent child. In the retirement world you are elevated to first billing. Your happiness is no longer automatically superseded by those around you. Now is the time to spoil you. The trick is learning to become comfortable with this new state of affairs. It is not always easy to let go or to trust in the abilities of others to get things done. But if you can, if you are able to direct your efforts toward you and your retirement happiness, you will have discovered one of the secrets of what it means to be retired.

When you retire you are afforded a glimpse into a new future, a future that is more in your control than any other time in your life. You obligations are fewer. Experience has taught you how to cope with not-so-easy situations. Your happiness matters. And if you hope to stay on track there is no place for regret. Worrying about the past is a waste. What you might have done differently is irrelevant since you cannot change or fix it. The important thing is what you do from this moment onward.

Retirement is only the beginning of a new chapter. Daily life will be interesting, sometimes exciting, at times challenging. Remember you are at the wheel. You chart your own course. Drive safely and enjoy the journey!