This article was reviewed by Chris Singer, CFP®.
You’ve retired—so now what do you do? If you’re like most people, you’ve been working for the past 40 years. You had your routine. Your weeks were planned. Your days were structured. And now, you have all the time in the world, but what do you do with it?
The first thing to do: don’t panic! It’s normal to feel lost or aimless when making the transition to retirement. Remember that retiring is a process. The good news is that this will pass as you start to explore new (or old) hobbies, plan your future, and create a new routine.
If you’ve been planning your retirement for any amount of time, your main focus has likely been around finances. Will I have enough? How much do I need? What do my investments look like? But what many people don’t plan for is all the time you’ll have and how you’ll fill it. Where will you find that social fulfillment that makes life so enjoyable?
Today, retirement is more like opening a door to new possibilities rather than shutting a door on your career. There is no right or wrong way to spend your retirement, so let’s explore some ideas that you can work into your own retirement plan—get ready, because we’re diving in!
Things to watch for in early retirement
The biggest change that many people face when transitioning from work to retirement is a sudden decrease in physical activity. Even if you were working in an office setting, you were likely getting more physical activity than you probably thought.
Many people find themselves spending more time sitting in front of the TV or computer in the early days of their retirement. Idle activities like snacking increase and many people find that they gain some weight. Luckily, what has been found is that this weight is quickly shed as you adjust.
The bigger change that most people will experience is regarding your mental exercise. Day in and day out you were solving problems, answering questions, and engaging in discussions. Even if you worked alone, you were engaged in tasks. In retirement, you now need to supplement those activities with new ones that challenge your brain and keep you thinking.
Just a reminder: don’t panic! We know it sounds like doom and gloom but it doesn’t have to be. We are going to explore many ways that you can keep both physically and mentally active, as well as how you can manage and budget for all the new activities you will be taking part in!
Further Reading: 5 Retirement Mistakes You Want To Avoid
Staying physically active in retirement
You’ve heard it a million times, “You need to stay active as you age.” And there are so many proven benefits including better mental health, fewer physical ailments, longer lifespans, the list goes on and on. But that means you have to prioritize getting up and out of the house a priority in your retirement. But what does that look like?
A study byresearchersat the University of Queensland monitored 1,000 people over six years and found that retirees who were involved in social clubs were less likely to die at younger ages. Lucky for you, there are many social clubs that cater to retirees in the Lower Mainland. You can easily look up local sports leagues for adults that offer drop-in games or join a league (Pickle Ball is a quickly growing sport), or join the local car club that meets every other week. Your local community centres offer many services for retirees as well. Another great resource for finding activities and clubs is the Seniors Services Society of BC.
You can also look at starting your own retirement club. The idea for a retirement club is to act as a support group of sorts and allow you to discuss issues and difficulties, as well as celebrate your successes with other people who have retired. This is a great way to stay connected, active, and engaged.
Dance groups are the more physical cousin of social groups. The Lower Mainland has a surprising number of dance groups that cater to retired people. Whether you are into swing dance, Latin dance, line dance, or want to learn some classic hip-hop dance moves, you have your choice of dance styles to join and aren’t limited to just one. Most are set up to be inviting to beginners, so if you’ve got two left feet, don’t worry, you can learn on the dance floor.
Now that you don’t have the commitments of work you don’t have to worry about vacation time and can travel when and how you want. The beautiful thing is that there are so many opportunities for travel in retirement and the freedom to do it your own way.
Many people start with shorter local trips. A weekend to Vancouver Island. A week or two in the Okanagan tasting local wines. A popular local trip is the Rocky Mountaineer between Vancouver and Banff to experience travel by rail in Western Canada!
Larger trips are easier to plan when you have less restrictions to when you can leave and how long you can be away. Popular trips include (but aren’t limited to):
- Alaskan, Panamanian, or European River Cruises
- African Safaris
- Trips to Las Vegas (see the shows and lights)
- Palm Springs (for when you just want pure relaxation)
- Road trips across Canada
The possibilities are endless, as long as you’re planning for them. Speak to your advisors today about budgeting for your dream vacation.
New or Old Hobbies
Not everything has to take you away from your home. Retirement is the perfect time to start a new hobby or revisit an old one. Many people turn to their own back yard for inspiration. Starting a garden will keep you both physically and mentally active, with the added benefit of providing you with fruits and vegetables (which could easily turn into a new passion for cooking).
Other popular hobbies include:
- Collecting your favourite things (coins, stamps and figures)
- Models and miniatures (trains, planes and automobiles)
- Exploring your passion for cooking
- Joining the theatre
- Yoga (for low impact exercise and mental wellbeing)
- Learning a musical instrument
We encourage you to explore your passions and not to worry if you find something isn’t up your alley. If you don’t like your new hobby, you can always explore a new one tomorrow.
Staying mentally active in retirement
Your mental wellbeing will play a big role in your retirement, especially in the first few years as you rediscover who you are and adjust to your new lifestyle. It is easy to feel isolated and lost, and many people feel anxiety creep up. This is all normal and there are many ways to keep your mind engaged (and find that social connection that you once found in the workplace).
You should never stop learning. Whether it’s something small or a big new venture—there’s a course to help you learn. MasterClass is a great online service that provides online video training from recognizable experts that you can complete in your own time. Want to learn how to cook from Gordon Ramsey? Want to learn acting from Samuel L. Jackson? How about song writing and production from Mariah Carey? The options are endless. Just pick your passion and your favourite icon!
An easy way to stay mentally active is with online puzzles. Wordle is currently the most popular but is by no means the only one. Word games not your thing? Sudoku puzzles are plentiful online. Simply Google “Online Brain Games” and find your new favourite today.
Start a Retirement Blog
Starting a blog is a great way to flex your gray matter. Taking time to sit down and write about your passion doesn’t just let you explore and connect with it, but also with other people who share your passion. The key is to write about what you know (or write about what you’re learning).
The main thing is to just start writing. On day one you won’t be a world-class blogger, it will take some time, and you’ll eventually find your voice. Whether it’s a travel blog, a memoir-style blog, or part of exploring a new course or hobby, writing about your experiences is a fulfilling activity and a great way to connect with the greater world.
If you are a more social person, Toastmasters could be right up your alley. Toastmasters lets you practice public speaking, improve your communication skills and connect with new people. You are able to explore new topics and present on them with other people who share your passion.
The top way to flex your brain is to go back to school. This can seem like a daunting task and outside of the normal. Why go back to school if you’re not trying to improve your career prospects? The short answer is just explore your passions.
Local universities don’t care about your age or life stage, and offer an almost unlimited number of topics to learn about. Have you always wanted to explore human psychology? There’s a course for that! Criminal law? A course for that. Exploring philosophy through graphic novels? Yep, there’s a class for that.
Explore your local university offers today to find your next new passion.
Should I continue working in my retirement?
The short answer is: it depends.
There are so many factors that go into this decision. The first question is why are you thinking of continuing work? Is it because you need an additional income source or is it to help fill your time and transition into full retirement?
Your first step should be setting up a discussion with your financial advisor to review your current and future finances and make sure that your income can support all the amazing things you want to do in your retirement. This assessment against your finances and goals will show you any additional needs to reach your goals, and help you understand any implications your continued work will have on your pension.
If it turns our that you are financially set, a part time job could be a great way to stay active, engaged, and let you explore a passion potentially. If you could use a little boost to your income sources, a few hours a week could be all you need. And there are so many ways you can continue working without sacrificing your retirement.
Act as a Consultant
You’ve spent decades refining your skills and growing your experience. Just because you’ve retired doesn’t mean it can’t still be put to use. Many companies are looking for your experience to help them with short-term and long-term organizational and operational challenges. Exploring your industry may provide opportunities to work on contract or a few days a week to help a business in need.
Explore Retail Opportunities
The easiest way to find part time work is to look at retail. With flexible hours and a variety of opportunities, part-time retail work can help you in many ways. And don’t think this means you’ll have to be a greeter at Walmart (but don’t rule out this highly social option). Find stores that you like shopping at and start there, you’ll be surprised at the opportunities available.
Volunteer in your Retirement
Now that you have the time it’s the perfect opportunity to volunteer for that cause near-and-dear to your heart. Charity work doesn’t always have to be in the form of financial donations. Many organizations need physical bodies to help them do their good work just as much as financial donations.
Start by looking at the causes you care about, whether that’s saving abandoned animals or volunteering at your local food shelter, there are many organizations in the Lower Mainland that could use your help. Perhaps there is an organization that needs the expertise you’ve developed over your career, giving you a sense of familiar work while helping a worthy cause.
How to budget for your retirement activities
We’ve talked about many different activities that you can explore in your retirement to stay active and mentally sharp. Now the big question you have to explore is: what can I afford to do in my retirement?
Not to sound like a broken record, but this is where the expertise of your financial planner comes in. For many of you, you’ve already discussed your income and standard expenses with your planning team and have a budget in place that will cover your day-to-day expenses. But what about that trip to the Yukon you’ve always wanted to do, or ensuring that you can afford new gardening equipment?
Before meeting with your team, you’ll want to explore your interests to get an idea of potential costs that you can bring to the discussion along with details on your current finances, income sources, investments, and goals (both short and long-term). This will give your planner a complete picture of what you want for your retirement and plan accordingly.
Further Reading: Retirement Planning in Canada: A Complete Guide
An easier retirement transition
Planning for your retirement is the sure-fire way to help with your transition from your work life. Your financialplanner is here to help you plan for your life, not just plan for your finances.
Talking with your advisor about the things you want to do in your retirement is just as important as talking about your bank account. They can help you plan and budget to make sure that when you want to take that Alaskan cruise or take a new university course you are able to.
Looking for some help to get started on your retirement plan? We’ve put together a handy worksheet for you!Get it here and start your journey to a stress-free retirement today.
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