New challenges. Many people like to set up goals and challenges for themselves throughout their careers, and that desire to succeed doesn't necessarily go away in retirement. You might consider continuing to work in some capacity. "If you can, find a way to hang on to some aspect of your old career that you enjoy," says Nelson. You can also challenge yourself by pursuing a different type of work, learning a new activity or skill, or auditing a class at your local college.
Test it out. One of the best ways to find out if you will enjoy retirement is to test it out. "I recommend that people take a mini-retirement or a sabbatical for at least three months to practice retirement," says Nancy Schlossberg, an emeritus professor of the University of Maryland and author of Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose. "Don't burn your bridges yet, but find out if you are really ready for retirement." Some people may find out that what they really needed was an extended vacation, while others will realize they're truly ready to move on to a new phase of life.
Leave a legacy. Many retirees begin to focus on giving back to the community and leaving a legacy to future generations. Some people accomplish this by volunteering, consulting on projects, teaching, or mentoring young people in their area of expertise. "It can make life sweeter realizing that you don't have all the time in the world," says Carstensen. "It helps focus you on what matters most."