Cheerful senior man holding a trowel and sapling in garden.

How to Make Retirement Work for You

Retirees gain control over their schedule, but must balance relaxation with new activities.

Cheerful senior man holding a trowel and sapling in garden.

Retirees finally get to set their own pace and pursue activities they enjoy.

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A successful retirement will not necessarily look the same for everyone. What excites one retiree may bore another. Retirement is simply having the freedom to pursue what is most closely aligned with your interests. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your second act:

Make your own rules. It can be helpful to read books and articles describing how to create the perfect retirement. You certainly need to know how much to save and how best to draw down your savings as well as how to occupy your retired days. But only you are qualified to make the final decisions. Only you know exactly what you like, dislike, fear or hope for. It is up to you to navigate a course to reach your personal retirement happiness.

Rather than automatically accept the recommendations of others, it might be better to incorporate what works for you and forget about the rest. Feel free to pick and choose the most relevant advice to construct your optimal retired life. Build your retirement based upon your needs, wishes and intuition.

Set your own pace. Employees are occasionally forced to push themselves beyond what they are comfortable with. With deadlines creeping closer and pressure from the boss, workers often push ahead despite the cost of less time spent with family or in individual pursuits. In retirement, you finally get to control the pace of your days. How fast and furious you choose to live is entirely up to you. Don’t let the momentum that swept you along in your career continue to define how you spend your days as a retiree. Try to make time for meaningful activities but also allow for downtime. Now that you are retired you have the freedom to indulge yourself.

Spend time with who you want. The world is full of interesting people from all walks of life with stories to tell and moments to share. In retirement, you get to choose who you want to spend your time with. There are no more mandatory meetings or boring social events that you feel obligated to attend. This can be the perfect time to re-establish family ties or renew faded friendships. Make your decisions wisely because there is only so much time in the day.

Don’t spend it all in one place. Living on a fixed income can feel like a precarious balancing act, especially if you have not effectively budgeted for the retirement lifestyle you hope to enjoy. You want to take advantage of the freedom you have earned, but need to be careful not to overdo it too early in the game. Some people fear that living a frugal retirement might force them to miss out on experiences they waited and saved for their entire life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little attention to how much you spend mixed with a bit of prioritizing can pave the way for a happier retired life. Weigh how important it really is to buy a new appliance or car and acknowledge the cost in terms of where you might otherwise spend the money. Rather than a five-star hotel, try thinking three-star. If you tone down your expectation for an elaborate fine dining experience you can still enjoy a tasty outing. If you are willing to trim back a little on extravagances, you can increase your discretionary funds to take advantage of more opportunities and adventures.

Don’t wait too long to have fun. If you have something on your to-do list that you are excited about doing, don’t wait. You will never again be as young as you are today. Waiting for the perfect moment when everything is exactly in alignment might never come. Now is a good time to learn to dance the rumba, take up sand sculpturing or try your hand at stand-up comedy. You have waited your whole lifetime to retire, so why wait any longer to start having some fun?