Are you the type of person who simply can’t wait to get back to work on Monday morning after a boring weekend? Do you dread going on vacation because relaxing isn’t a skill you have yet developed?
If you are getting close to retirement – perhaps because your employer’s mandated retirement age is approaching, or your health needs require a change, or your spouse just wants to do other things – you may want to practice how you will spend your time.
I’ve heard from some recent retirees that they crave structure to their day. While working, they got out of bed and arrived at work, promptly, to a busy day full of activities. They had a “to do” list that never seemed to get completed, and numerous social interaction with coworkers and clients. After retiring, there was nowhere they had to be each day, and nothing they had to do.
One person’s solution was to work hard at building and maintaining a new schedule. He started planning out his time a few weeks in advance to ensure he had at least one social activity on the calendar for each day. He got out of bed the same time he used to and always “worked” a few hours every day, whether it was as a volunteer, doing yard work or conducting computer research.
Building a social network, outside of your workplace, can smooth your transition. If you are an artist, consider joining an art guild. If you love cooking, form a cooking club with some of your friends. There are many places you can take classes on subjects that interest you, and some even offer organized trips. Recently, a neighbor went on trips to New Orleans and Canada with groups from classes she was taking.
Another colleague mentioned he has been interviewing other retirees he admired for tips on how they managed their retirements. He begins by asking what they think they did right, what they would have changed and what piece of advice they could give someone contemplating a fast-approaching retirement date.
He knows that a good portion of his time will be spent helping charitable organizations. He has been asked to join the board of directors for various companies. The advice he received was to not join groups just for the sake of joining. Rather, join organizations for which you truly have a passion and a desire to help.
As employers realize they will be losing experienced and reliable workers, they may offer a way for you to ease into retirement over time. Instead of suddenly quitting one day, consider a plan for reducing your hours over a year or two, or maybe three. This can allow you to train your replacement and gradually allow them feel comfortable and confident in their abilities to take over your duties.
Keeping your mind active is important, as is continual learning. Try out new hobbies to discover whether you really will like an activity. A recent retiree again started singing in a choir after not having sung in one since childhood. She also is currently playing in several competitive bridge groups, which is keeping her sharp. This has allowed her to meet several neighbors with the same interests. These neighbors now include her in their dinner parties and other social gatherings.
Physical exercise is very important for good health. The last thing you want to do in retirement is spend time in hospitals or constantly visiting doctors. Finding others that like the same physical activities you do can help keep you motivated, as can exercising in groups. If you don’t belong to a health club, consider joining one as informal walking, running, hiking, biking and weight lifting groups naturally form. Group exercise classes provide a social environment to practice yoga or other training.
A successful retirement is more than just having money to spend. Feeling useful and fulfilled after you stop working takes some thought and planning.
This commentary originally appeared December 11 on TheCasperStarTribune.com
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