Many baby boomers are approaching the age when thoughts of retirement dance in their heads. The idea of leaving behind the stress and pressure of work can sound intriguing and even magical. From the moment of retirement onward you will be master of your future and keeper of your personal time card. How difficult can it be to live a life where you do what you want when you want to do it?
But the transition into retirement can be difficult. Some retirees stumble as they try to figure out how to make the most of a second act. The onslaught of free time can be overwhelming and sometimes downright scary. It’s a big responsibility to be solely responsible for your own time and quality of life. Here’s how to ease the transition into the retired life you want:
Move toward something positive versus merely escaping. One highly anticipated retirement perk is the freedom that comes from never having to work again. Even the best of jobs can grow tiresome after 30 years. And for those stuck in a bad work situation, every day can seem endlessly brutal. Retirement can be a welcome escape from a stressful career. But if your sole motivation is to escape the harsh realities of a job, you may not be setting yourself up for an ideal second act.
Imagine yourself retired one year from today, free from the worries of work and in control of your days. The job is behind you, but what is ahead? If you have no idea what will make up the next 20 to 30 years, you may find you have left behind one problem only to find yourself trapped in another.
A healthy retirement should be made up of experiences and activities you enjoy that also give you a sense of purpose. Your days should be populated with meaningful moments rather than merely stress free. The excitement and adventure that can be part of retirement should be your focus, not merely an escape from a bad situation.
Accept that there will be a transition period. Before you retire the majority of your time each week is dedicated to your job. The day after you retire, those 40 or 50 hours previously reserved for your employer become yours. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself not sure exactly what to do. Optimizing your time to make the most of your days will take some trial and error before you arrive at the right mixture of relaxing and meaningful activities. Try not to be in a rush. Remember, you are no longer on the clock. Take whatever time you need as you progress into full-time retirement. Whatever pace works for you is the right pace since you now control your time. Gradually, you should be able to find your place in your new role, but it can take time, so be patient.
Set some rules. Don’t let yourself get caught up in doing more than you want to, especially early in retirement. Take some time to feel your way along before making long-term commitments. Leave enough time in the day for yourself, whether for exercise, downtime or reflection. Don’t feel the need to populate every day on the calendar. Remember when your days at work passed in a blur? Now that you control your time, don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a similar exhausting regimen.
You may also need to set boundaries with your children and grandchildren. Just because you are retired does not instantly make you the de facto babysitting service. You want to enjoy the experience, not feel taken advantage of. Some ground rules early on can prevent hurt feelings down the road and make for a more enjoyable interaction for all involved. If you enjoy volunteering your time to care for others, good for you. But don’t make the mistake of overcommitting yourself before you have a chance to become familiar with your new lifestyle. You want to enjoy the experience of helping others, not feel stressed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time. It is up to you to manage your time while keeping your best interests in mind.
Remember retirement is only the beginning. Your retirement should not be viewed as the end of a career and life as you have known it. You are about to enter a new stage where you have control over how you spend your time. Finally you can pursue the things you find most interesting. Retirement is a beginning, not an end.
As I enter my retirement days, I am able to explore my love of writing. I have the ability to focus more on living a healthy lifestyle because I have time to exercise and create nutritious meals. I am able to continue learning, especially with the many online courses available. And since I study to expand my knowledge rather than pass a test or earn a degree, I choose what I like, proceed at a pace I am comfortable with and the whole experience is much more enjoyable. I have more time to spend with those most important to me. My wife and I have a chance to become reacquainted and revisit the people we were when we first met. With the right attitude and a little effort, retirement can be the beginning of wonderful things to be.
Reward yourself. It is not easy to make it all the way to retirement. The path along the way is filled with sacrifices and effort. When you finally cross over into your retired life, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. You have earned the right to spend your time as you see fit, so do it. Try not to feel guilty if others are not yet able to join the ranks of the retired. You have paid your dues, and now it is time to reward yourself.