You already know you’re supposed to plan for retirement. You save according to a plan and will be able to retire when your plan says you have enough. But knowing how you will spend your money is only part of the equation. You also need to plan how you will spend your time.
But your retirement life probably won't follow that plan. In fact, it’s also important to spend as much time as possible during retirement deviating from the plan. If you want a happy, fulfilling retirement, be flexible. Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence explain why it’s so important to deviate from your plan, in their book, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement. Here’s why they say to go with the flow in retirement.
Circumstances change. You’re excited to get back to skiing in the winter, golfing in the summer, and maybe even learning to play tennis. You can’t wait to return to some of those wonderful cities you’ve visited briefly on vacations past, and are eager to explore new destinations as well. And you are really looking forward to spending much more time with your grandkids. But retirement doesn’t always go according to your original plan.
Maybe the year you retire the stock market drops nearly 50 percent and you’ll need to adjust your spending a bit. Or perhaps caring for an aging parent requires you to change your long-distance travel plans to some excursions a bit closer to home. You may even decide to move across the country to be close to your grandchildren after your daughter accepts a job transfer 3,000 miles away.
It’s possible that an injury or other health issue will derail your plan for an active retirement. Are you flexible enough to find some enjoyable activities while you recover from knee replacement surgery? Will you have some hobbies to enjoy that don’t require as much physical energy as you start to slow down in general? In the decades of retirement, your circumstances will change from time to time. Your plans will need to evolve as you do.
Opportunities arise. Not all of the circumstances you need to respond to over the years will be bad. You may be presented with some exciting opportunities that you never anticipated when you received that gold watch. Maybe one of the hobbies you are passionate about will lead you to a freelancing opportunity. Or maybe a colleague from your past proposes a part-time consulting opportunity that sounds fun. Perhaps the landscaping classes you have been taking at the community college lead you to a new retirement career. Don’t rule anything out when you retire. Who knows what you’ll be missing if you aren’t open to the opportunities around you.
Disenchantment happens. If your retirement looks exactly the same year in and year out, you’re probably going to find retirement isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Just as when you were working, you have to keep growing and learning to keep engaged. It’s no different in retirement. It’s up to you to figure out what will keep your retirement engaging, and it’s probably not the same old activities.
Just because you can. Even when things are cruising along smoothly, you should still contemplate change. If you regularly take the time to ask yourself what might be new and exciting, you have a good chance of preventing disenchantment in the first place. “The recipe is to assess your situation, establish your plan, implement it, renew it—then reassess your situation and repeat,” according to Spector and Lawrence. “A fulfilling retirement is one in which we are open to and take advantage of new and exciting opportunities while also being resilient when faced with adversity—both will inevitably come.”
Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.