5 Tips for Adjusting to Retirement

How to make a smooth transition from work to leisure.

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There’s more to retirement planning than saving up a bunch of money. Being financially prepared is only part of the work. You’ve got a whole new life in front of you. Here are some tips for making the transition from work to a life of leisure a smooth one.

[Bookmark the U.S. News Retirement site for more planning ideas and advice.]

Be prepared to be a little sad. I drove home after my last day of work elated. I couldn’t wait to wake up to the first day of the rest of my life. I laughed when I saw the racing flag my husband had hung over the driveway. But as I crossed that finish line, my laughter turned to tears. I wasn’t just leaving behind a job. I was leaving friends behind, too. While you may not miss the demanding boss or the difficult co-worker, there are probably many folks back at the office you will be sad not to see every day.

Tend your friendships. Some of my closest friends are women I met through work. It’s easy to stay connected when you see them every day. When you retire, you’ll need to work a little harder to nurture those friendships. I have a standing weekly walking date with one of my old work buddies and a weekly lunch date with another. I share season tickets to the symphony with a friend I worked with nearly 25 years ago. Scheduling regular time together helps to keep important relationships from slipping away.

[See 10 Reasons Retirement Makes You Feel Younger.]

Be prepared to be overwhelmed. As I was nearing retirement, I started a list. Every time I thought of something I wanted to do in retirement I added it to that growing list. In the first six months of my retirement, guess how many of those things I accomplished from the list? None. The truth is, I was overwhelmed by my newfound freedom. Instead of focusing on which thing to do first, I became immobilized by the vast quantity of choices in front of me.

Take time off. When I retired, an experienced retiree told me not to make any big time commitments until at least a year into retirement. I think two years is even better. It takes time to detox from your career. By relaxing into retirement at first, you may find yourself veering off in a completely different direction than you initially expected. If you race to fill up your schedule with activities, you’ll never give yourself a chance to see how slowing down feels. Just see where retirement leads. You may be delighted by the surprise.

[See Filling Up 8 Extra Hours in Retirement.]

Don’t let guilt ruin your retirement. One of the hardest transitions to make is from the accomplishment-equals-self-worth mentality. There are days in retirement, quite a few actually, where you get absolutely nothing productive done. For the most part, most of the things on your to-do list don’t actually have to be done today or even tomorrow. You’ve spent decades vigilantly crossing things off your to-do list. Now is the time to enjoy those not-so-productive days. You’ve earned them.

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.