In 2011, when I took early retirement and sold everything I owned to travel the world, I was in many ways flying blind. Because I had health care, savings, and even a pension; I had few money worries, but ultimately, finances aren’t the things that make a happy retirement. I have talked with a lot of happy retirees and while everyone is different, here is a non-scientific sampling of non-financial stuff you can do to enjoy your retirement.
Have a Happy Retirement Plan:
I can’t imagine anything worse than going home after your last day of work and having nothing to look forward to. Plan on starting something new with the start date the same as your retirement date. Be imaginative. If you want to travel, book your tickets well in advance. If you want to go back to school, sign up for classes at the same time as your “work hours.” Discover your passions and run with them. If your plan isn’t as fun as you thought, do something else. There is a whole universe of things to try.
Let Go of Your Old Job:
There is nothing sadder than someone whose entire sense of self is wrapped up in something they no longer do. Sure, be proud of your past accomplishments, but don’t make them the focus of your present life. Everyone likes to tell a “war story” every now and again, but if you find yourself repeating the same things over and over again, it is time to have a few more adventures and create some new material. Be more interested in your future than you are of days gone by.
Look After Your Health:
With retirement, you finally have time to live your dreams; make sure you are healthy enough to enjoy them. Schedule time for exercise and do it. Get regular checkups. Go to the dentist. Get an eye exam. Eat well, get adequate rest, maybe even try yoga and meditation. The important thing is to keep yourself in tune, so you have the energy to try all of those new things you have always wanted to do.
Cultivate a Routine:
Get Up. Make your bed. Have breakfast. Being retired doesn’t mean being lazy. Join a hiking club and walk once or twice a week. Join an aerobics class. Studies show that people who live the longest develop some amount of routine in their lives. Schedule weekly dinners with family or friends. Well designed routines keep us engaged, happy and productive.
Look At Things From a Different Perspective:
Don’t become a grumpy old fart. Empathize with others. Try to appreciate different genres of music and other forms of entertainment. Buy unfamiliar things at the grocery store and try them out. Listen to different viewpoints and try to understand them.
Talk to people outside of your peer group. Try some hobbies that require interaction with other people; language classes, karate lessons, theatre, Toastmasters. Screw up the courage to ask new people to lunch or coffee. Be interested. Be interesting.
Studies show that spending money on others gives us more joy than spending money on our selves. Even if finances don’t allow, the same studies show that volunteering and giving the gift of time can have more benefit than giving money. Find a few organizations that you believe in and find ways to help them out.
Healthy finances are only a small part of what it means to have a happy retirement. Retirement is a perfect opportunity for new beginnings and new adventures. You didn’t retire to sit on the couch and watch life pass you by. A happy retirement requires planning and maybe some experimentation, but if you approach it the right way and with a learners mind, it can be the brightest time of your life.