8 Keys to a Comfortable Retirement

These lifestyle choices could make your retirement more satisfying.

By + More

Some folks long to spend their days golfing in retirement, while others want to travel the globe. Some individuals also want to volunteer or start a new business. Whether your retirement dreams include climbing mountains or lounging in a hammock, there’s one goal we all share—to have a comfortable retirement.

Does comfortable mean golf club memberships, front-row theater seats, or luxury vacations? Only you can answer that. But chances are you will be most comfortable in retirement if your lifestyle isn’t dramatically different from the one you enjoyed while you were still working. Here are some tips for creating a comfortable retirement.

Be realistic. If you’re currently living a champagne lifestyle, you probably won’t be happy with a beer budget in retirement. If your retirement plan hinges on drastic budgetary cuts you may find yourself coming unhinged. On the flip side, if you are dreaming of a far more lavish lifestyle in retirement you’re probably not being realistic either.

[See 7 Secrets to a Happy Retirement.]

Be flexible. There's nothing wrong with making a few changes to your budget in retirement. Just make sure they are changes you can live with. I have much more time now that I’m retired so I’m comfortable doing my own housework, gardening, and home improvement projects. I love to read, but instead of blowing my budget at the bookstore I borrow books from the library. We’re now free to go on trips at a moment’s notice so we take advantage of last-minute travel bargains to stretch our travel budget.

Be creative. Want to travel more than your retirement budget allows? Consider a home exchange or couch surfing. Last year we traded places a dozen times. This saved us the cost of lodging on nearly four months of travel and we met some great new friends in the process. Like camping? Consider volunteering at a national park in exchange for camping privileges. Love music or theater? Why not volunteer to be an usher for your community’s symphony or ballet?

[See 10 Reasons Retirement Makes You Feel Younger.]

Be selective in downsizing. Maybe you’re not quite ready to give up your four-bedroom house in the suburbs for a studio in the city. But what about playing tennis on the local community courts instead of the country club? Wouldn’t you rather pedal around your neighborhood’s back roads than pay a health club to ride a stationary bike in front of a cable news show? Would you really mind trading in a luxury car for some fuel-efficient wheels? Consider downsizing in areas that will help your bottom line without impacting your enjoyment of life.

Be adventurous. Perhaps you’ve been living for years in a city you’ve tolerated only because it’s close to work. Now you have a chance to relocate to a new locale, maybe even an exotic one. A new place could make your budget more comfortable and bring a little excitement to your retirement.

[See 6 Reasons to Retire Overseas.]

Be more financially savvy. If you’re anxious about money, you won’t be comfortable. Take the time in retirement to learn more about your finances. Take classes, read books, and meet with a financial planner. The more control you have over your financial future, the more comfortable you’ll feel.

Be industrious. Have you always wanted to start a little business or to try a job completely different than the one you’ve done for decades? Retirement is the perfect time to try something completely new. Maybe you’d like to continue doing exactly what you were doing but only for a few hours each week. Dabbling in some sort of retirement job will provide the comfort of a little extra budgetary breathing room.

[See The 100 Best Mutual Funds for the Long Term.]

Be open to simple pleasures. Retirement’s biggest benefit is the gift of time. You finally have the chance to slow down a bit. Go for a walk in your neighborhood, pack a picnic dinner and head to your town’s outdoor film festival, or grab a book and head over to the beach for the day. Or just bring a book and a glass of wine out to your own back yard and enjoy the view of the garden you finally have time to tend.

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.