Enjoying Retirement After the Honeymoon Period

Retirement often starts out great, but avoiding boredom becomes more difficult later on.

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After working 30 or more years, retirement will offer a new challenge to stay active and engaged in a world that you now must manage. While ensconced in your career, you typically did not have to think twice about how to fill your hours. You walked in the door in the morning where your deadlines, meetings and duties were waiting. It was not a matter of having enough things to fill the day, but rather having enough time in the day to get everything done. 

Then you retire and assume responsibility for filling your calendar with meaningful or at least entertaining activities. At first, it can be an exciting, liberating and truly joyful time. You finally have time to attack the to-do list you have been compiling for many years. And you now have an open calendar to take the trips you dreamed of for so long. Rather than being forced to rush out the door to get to work, you now have freedom to take things easy, enjoy the downtime and go with the flow.

But this happy time, what is often called the honeymoon period of retirement, can only go on for so long. Once your to-do list is done, you have experienced a few trips and the slow days of doing nothing begin to drag on, what do you do? Here’s how to enjoy retirement after the honeymoon is over:

Be realistic. Some people make the mistake of naively waltzing into a retired life with unrealistic expectations. Rather than planning ahead for their years of free time, they dream of retirement as an escape from a stifling career. They assume that once they leave the working world everything will be glorious. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality. Once retired, days will not magically fill themselves with fulfilling moments. It takes effort to realize a retirement that is all you hope for. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that by passively going with the flow of retired life you will miraculously realize a satisfying retirement each day. It is up to you to make it happen.

Be prepared. Imagine you have one week of free time with nothing on the calendar. What is the first thing you would do? And once that is done, what would be next on your list? Now imagine a year with nothing on the calendar. Do you think you have enough interests and passions to not just get you through that time, but to actually allow you to enjoy each step of the journey? As a retiree, you should plan on multiplying that one year by 20 or more. If you take the time beforehand to imagine and consider what you will do to occupy yourself, you might be a bit more prepared to make the most of your retirement. Instead of hoping for the best, do what you can to prepare the way to help insure a happy outcome.

Be considerate. Have you talked with your spouse about how they envision living in retirement? The two of you are in this for the duration, and working together from the start can make for smoother sailing over the long term. Although you may have lived together for decades, how often during that time was it 24/7 togetherness? It is very different being together full time during a weekend or a vacation than it will be sharing every day from this point forward. Where do your retirement plans coincide, and where do they diverge? What will you do together, and what individual interests might you pursue on your own? It is important to have both time for sharing activities as well as freedom to follow individual pursuits.

Be inspired. Now that you have reached retirement, don’t be shy about patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Not everyone is lucky enough to be where you are, so make the best of it. This can be an excellent time to try new things and experiment with passions you may have felt years ago. You have time on your hands, and no one telling you what to do. Let your imagination take you where it will. Think outside of the box you have lived in for so many years, and do what you want to do. Try new things, experiment and enjoy living your second act. When you look back over your life, wouldn’t you prefer to remember the crazy, exciting and inspired times you lived to the very end? May the honeymoon never end.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.