Therefore, Zelinski encourages retirees to focus on the roles they assume outside the workplace: "Having brought up a family is a huge accomplishment that oftentimes gets overlooked," he says. "A person should feel good about being a father or a mother or a grandparent."
Stimulate your mind and body. It's a question on almost every pre-retiree's mind: What will I do when I wake up in the morning? Duran says most retirees don't enjoy seeing a blank to-do list. "They don't like the idea of an endless vacation," he says. Lack of structure for a retiree can have a number of negative effects, such as a declining social life, poor productivity, or sheer boredom.
Louis H. Primavera and Rob Pascale, co-authors of The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire, recommend retirees maintain a calendar whether or not they consider themselves planners. "Even just a to-do list of dinner dates helps," Pascale says.
Physical stimulation also plays an important role in a senior's health. With Americans living longer, there is an increasing number of health complications affecting retirees. In fact, among the 50- to 70-year-olds polled in Ameriprise's survey, 53 percent said their greatest fear in retirement is losing their quality of life—far outweighing the 35 percent who said they're most worried about their financial situation. As such, assembling a routine to stay active in retirement is crucial.
To engage the mind outside of work, Abeles says retirees can challenge themselves with crossword puzzles or learning and quizzing themselves on facts about foreign countries—both of which require memory. Abeles adds these small tasks may seem insignificant because they take up little time but says they are a critical component to staying sharp. "As you get older, you get wiser and your accumulation of knowledge improves," he says. "You should nurture that and make sure you can use that any way you can."
Even though intellectual and physical stimulation together are ideal, Abeles acknowledges going on an intellectual bent isn't for everyone. "If you have never done much reading or writing [for pleasure], it may be that physical activities are a good substitute," he says, highlighting competitive sports as one of the best ways to engage the body. Entering retirement with good health is a prerequisite to being able to use this strategy, but lacking physical strength doesn't necessarily rule out moderate exercise (e.g., walking), which has been shown to improve longevity.
Make marital adjustments (carefully). While it presents an opportunity to strengthen the relationship, retirement is lined with obstacles that can deter a couple's ability to move ahead with their lives together. With most partners stopping work at different times, the late retiree may grow to resent his or her spouse. According to Ben Barzideh, a wealth advisor at Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Ill., these feelings are often vocalized: "The wife may say to her husband, 'I'm working hard all day while you're going golfing and lounging by the pool—the least you can do is wash the dishes.'" Barzideh says establishing open communication early on can help prevent such arguments.
Miriam Goodman, author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement as a Couple, says couples who coast into retirement without discussing their expectations are headed for a big bump. "You live with someone for, say, 40, 50 years, you raised children together, and there's an assumption that you know what each other will want to do, but that's just not true," she says. Goodman says signs of trouble can crop up within the first few days: "He retires on a Friday and on Monday morning she gets up, gets dressed, and wants to head off to play tennis, and he goes, 'Wait, what about me? I'm retired now, too.'"