How to Cherish Your Time in Retirement

Summertime was something I always looked forward to as a child. I couldn’t wait to have the freedom to be outside and not worry about school work anymore. It was the only time of year my brother and I were able to play until it got dark and sleep in as long as we wanted. We were free to do as we pleased. Yet, most of my summer was often boring. When I wasn’t at a soccer camp or exploring the beauty of Michigan, I would spend an excessive amount of time watching television and eating the macaroni and cheese my 14-year-old babysitter made me.

I would have never admitted it back then, but I was always glad to go back to school. School gave me something to work for and a place to excel. Now, as I watch my children have a similar summer experience, I can’t help but think about my retirement. What will it be like when I don’t have to go to work? Will I be bored? (For related reading, see: How Retirees Should Think About Retirement Income.)

Thinking It Through

We all have thought about retirement—and sometimes it’s all we think about. But what does it mean to retire? Does it mean that we quit doing all the things we don’t want to do so we can finally enjoy life? If that’s the truth, don’t we owe it to ourselves to do those things we love now? Do we need to grow old and have a certain amount of money to enjoy life fully? (For more, see: Joy in Retirement: Another Type of Diversification.)

We often idolize retirement as a time to relax after a long journey. We dream of spending our days playing golf, traveling, or being with our grandchildren. Others love their work and can’t imagine ever quitting. Either way, retirement is a big change. Many of us struggle to embrace our true purpose. During our working years, we often find purpose in our job and the relationships we create there. But if that is what gives us purpose, what will be our purpose in retirement?

Often we are blinded by the perceived glamor of retirement. The thought of taking back our time to do what we want shields us from the more important question: what do we cherish in our daily lives? Ask yourself what you will do with the time you usually spent at work. Who will you spend time with when you don’t have co-workers easily accessible? Determining what you really want and deciding how you will invest your time in retirement will help define your success. Think about these things to avoid being shocked with all of your free time once you retire. 

Start By Making a Plan

I always urge clients to retire to something, not from something. If you have a job that you can’t stand, you may be doing more harm than good by trying to wait until you’re age 66 to retire. What good does it do to truck along for ten more years in a job you hate just to get to retirement to find out you’re too burnt out to enjoy it?  On the other hand, you may have a job you love, and you may want to work longer. Then what?

A successful retirement is all about having a plan. Not just a financial plan, but more importantly, a plan for how you will invest your time. We have our clients fill out our "Investing Your Time in retirement" worksheet to help guide them through the process. We also suggest that you spend time thinking about all of the things you enjoy about your current profession. Make a list of those items and start to brainstorm ideas of how you can duplicate those activities.

From 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., is your calendar filled with busy work that doesn’t have any substance? Or have you filled your calendar with meaningful things? Do you have enough activities in your schedule to create a sense of purpose in your life? The goal is to have a plan in place, so you don’t feel like you’re drifting through an abyss.  

Don’t Be Afraid to Jump Right In

One of the things I hear from a lot of new retirees is that they want to take it easy for a while. While I agree it’s a good idea to rest up and take a breather, I would encourage you to start at least one or two activities that motivate you. Whether it’s a new exercise class or volunteering for a local non-profit, it’s good to get out and experience new things at the beginning of your retirement.

We tend to be a very routine-oriented culture and pretty soon we are set in our habits. Make a point to put activities into your retirement schedule that support your purpose. By creating a routine that includes activities that keep you connected and creative, you are more likely not to feel lost or like you’ve given up everything you were working towards. (For related reading, see: Where Should 60-Somethings Hold Cash for Retirement?)

Do Some Research

Sometimes we are hesitant to ask for help from others when dealing with matters of the heart. But sometimes when entering into an unknown phase of life, the best idea is to do a bit of personal research! Don't hesitate to identify two or three individuals who you think are fully enjoying retirement. Take them out to lunch and ask them as many questions as you can about what makes their retirement so fulfilling. Ask them what their goals are and which activities make their retirement meaningful. This is an opportunity to identify new areas of interest and to get some reassurance about this new experience.

We often don’t realize how big of a transition retirement can be. We spend our entire lives saving for this transition – it makes sense to spend a few years planning how to make the most of it! (For related reading, see: 5 Financial Planning Decisions You Won't Regret.)

Registered Representative of and securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Cambridge and Nick Nauta Financial are not affiliated.