How to Decide What to Do After Retirement

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You are excited about your upcoming retirement, right? You’ve worked hard the last thirty or forty years, and the idea of no more alarm clocks, no more business meetings, no more deadlines sounds heavenly! Or does it? 

Planning your retirement is not as simple as scheduling a vacation. However, sorting out the remaining decades of your life doesn’t have to be complicated.

Deciding what you want to do after retirement is simple, with a bit of planning. Determining the state of your finances is a great place to start that process. Next, you will want to clarify your retirement priorities. Then, you can consider your options regarding how to spend your time.

The rest of this article will discuss helpful ways to decide what to do once you retire, followed by an analysis of some of the most popular options for sustaining a happy and fulfilling quality of life during your retirement.

How to Decide What to Do After Retirement

Assess Your Retirement Finances

You must take the time to evaluate your retirement finances ahead of time. Your ability to enjoy your retirement to its fullest potential depends on effective financial planning.

Typically, retired individuals live on money held in their Social Security Account, a company-sponsored retirement account, an individual retirement account, or a combination of the three.

You should consider tracking the money held in each account before retirement. That way, you won’t experience any unwanted surprises when the time to walk out of your job for the last time has come.

How to check your retirement account(s):

  • Company-sponsored retirement: A 401(k) is the most popular company-sponsored plan, although there are seven total types of programs. Typically, your employer provides regular statements, either in writing or electronically. You can contact your company’s human resources office to ask how to access your account online.
  • Roth IRA account: Typically, you can check your Roth IRA balance by setting up an online account through your trustee or custodian. Additionally, you can call your trustee and get your balance directly.
  • Individual, or deductible IRA: Bankrate, LLC, a well-known consumer financial services company, has a traditional IRA calculator posted on their websites. That calculator helps estimate the potential long-term value of your IRA account. You will need to input your starting balance, annual contribution, current age, anticipated age of retirement, and adjusted gross income. The calculator does all the rest. You can contact your account’s broker or financial investor with any questions you may have regarding your current balance.
  • Social Security account: The Social Security Administration cannot provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for an account. However, you can use its online Retirement Estimator provided you have enough Social Security credits in your account to qualify for benefits.

Determine Your Priorities for Retirement

Ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up, and the chances are you will get a response like an astronaut, an actor, or a doctor. Children usually don’t give much thought to the practicality of decisions. They opt for something offering thrills, fame, or the chance to help others.

If you ask a middle-aged worker the same question, you typically get an adult version of the “astronaut” response. For example, a typical response might be “buy a condo at the beach,” or “sail around the world.”

However, as people approach retirement age, questions regarding their priorities for retirement take on a more profound sense of urgency.

Dr. Stewart Friedman, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that it is vital for you to begin assessing your priorities for life after retirement before you get to that point.

Research indicates that the happiest people in retirement prioritize discovering a sense of purpose and doing something that “gives back” to others. As Dr. Friedman explained: “The most successful people in retirement look to use their talents and passions to make a contribution.”

Determining how to define your sense of purpose and exactly how you make this contribution requires that you take the time “to reflect on what matters to you,” according to Dr. Friedman.

Seven Life Priorities in Retirement

The Wharton School identified seven life priorities during retirement that you should consider when deciding what to do after retirement.

Those priorities include:

  1. Family Support: When it comes to family support, 3 out of 5 people aged 50+ years say they provided financial assistance to family members. Learning to prioritize your finances in a way that you may be able to compensate those of younger family members is essential.
  2. Finances: Retirees are seven times more likely to relate that their financial goals focus on peace of mind more than the accumulation of wealth. Prioritizing conservative financial strategies helps retirees remain serene. Additionally, talking with family members regarding key financial topics can positively impact retirement and economic well-being.
  3. Giving: Retirement provides you with the opportunity to make meaningful contributions and to define your legacy. Having more time and skills can provide the perfect opportunity for you to give something back.
  4. Health: Prioritizing your health can ensure you enjoy a retirement characterized by opportunity and independence instead of worry and financial concern. Adequately planning and organizing your finances can go far in preventing this from becoming an issue during your retirement.
  5. Home: Retirement creates a “gateway to unprecedented freedom” in choosing where you want to live. Typical priorities to think about include moving closer to family, reducing living expenses, and changes in your health and that of your spouse.
  6. Leisure: Retirement offers you the opportunity to relax, socialize, travel, and focus on other priorities. Being open to new experiences and challenges is a great way to help you enjoy leisure time during retirement.
  7. Work: Nearly 3 out of 4 pre-retirees related that their ideal retirement included some work, often in new, more flexible ways. By prioritizing new or more flexible work, they can gain a sense of fulfillment while increasing their retirement savings.

Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding Your Retirement

How to Decide What to Do After Retirement

Below are ten questions to help you figure out what to do with your time once you retire. Take a couple of minutes to consider each item and consider taking notes for future reference:

  1. What activities and hobbies do you enjoy the most?
  2. If you could design an improved version of your life, how would it be different?
  3. What is your favorite book or movie? What does that tell you about yourself?
  4. If you had enough money to take care of your needs today and in the future, what would you be doing right now?
  5. What did you love the most growing up?
  6. If you were 20 years old again but knew what you do now, what would you do differently?
  7. Looking back on your life, what made you the happiest? Why?
  8. How would you respond if someone asked you, “Why do you want to retire?”
  9. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time? Would you do this every day if you could?
  10. What skills or talents have you acquired over the years? Do you want to continue doing them?

Create a Plan for a Meaningful Retirement by the Numbers

Kiplinger, a leader in business forecasting and personal finance advice, reported that while many people enter retirement with a “full-blown plan,” others take a more haphazard, play-it-by ear approach to deciding how to spend their time in retirement.

Now that we’ve covered the broader areas of assessing your financial situation, setting a few priorities, it’s time to get down to the basics of deciding what to do after retirement.

Below are five points to consider when paving the path forwards into retirement.

Think About What You Liked About Your Old Job

Dr. Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, stated that “A lot of people get their identity from work.” It’s vital that you “respect that it’s going to be a huge loss.”

The first step in overcoming those feelings and creating a “new you” is spending time in self-reflection. Start by considering what you enjoyed about your job. Then, think about what kind of activities you can engage that could convey the same sense of meaning and self-satisfaction to your life outside the workplace.

For example, if you worked as a journalist, you might consider starting a blog. Likewise, you might see if your local newspaper or television station is looking for a part-time contributor.

Consider Charities You Like

Amy Jo Lauber, a certified financial planner based out of West Seneca, New York, suggested that you consider looking into charities, groups, and organizations you feel strongly about supporting. As yourself, “is there a place in the world, or a cause, that inspires me?” As you consider the possibilities, take some time to seek out programs and courses that might help you in this new endeavor.

Additionally, remember that there is no way to know for sure how you might feel about a cause or activity until you retire. Everything is hypothetical until you reach that point. For that reason, you must bear in mind that there can be a gap between expectation and reality.

Develop New Friendships

Finding new friends is a great way to explore new activities while developing a network of people who might be able to give you pointers on how to spend your time after retirement.

For example, you might consider joining a local health club, or bicycling club. Likewise, you can enroll in a continuing education class at your local university or community college. You could also join a local service club like Kiwanis International.

Kiwanis have been strengthening communities and helping children around the world since 1915. Best of all, Kiwanis is not a political organization and is not affiliated with any religious group. For that reason, it is ideal for meeting a variety of people from different walks of life.

Consider a Phased Retirement

If your retirement is approaching and you are still not sure how to spend your time, you might consider taking a phased retirement, which involves continuing to work on a part-time basis while beginning to receive retirement benefits.

Workers typically retain the same status as before. However, typically they no longer perform administrative duties or supervise other workers.

Additionally, this is an excellent opportunity if you want to continue drawing a partial paycheck to supplement your nest egg down the road.

Keep an Open Mind and Explore

Think of new ways you can employ your knowledge and skills. Above all, keep an open mind and set aside time to explore new possibilities for filling your time. See if you can discover a feeling of purpose within yourself using skill sets you already spent years honing.

For example, if you enjoy financial markets, you might consider starting a blog about them. Likewise, you might consider structuring a class you can teach at the local community college or cultural center.

Books to Help You Decide How to Spend Your Time After Retirement

How to Decide What to Do After Retirement

There are a variety of books providing outstanding information regarding what to do after retirement. Below is a list of six books we selected, offering information regarding planning our retirement.

We selected those books by considering the reputation of the publisher or author, the publication date, its price, and consumer ratings and reviews.

Retirement Reinvention by Robin Ryan

Subtitled Making the Most of the Next Stage of Your Life and Career, this book offers readers a path for making the most of their retirement. This retirement guide includes step-by-step instructions for:

  • Defining new and satisfying opportunities;
  • Exploring new places to live;
  • Finding meaningful ways to give something back to your community;
  • Leaving your old life and career behind;
  • Pinpointing your interests and skills;
  • Striking the proper balance between leisure and work.

Robin Ryan is a #1 Best-Selling Wall Street Journal Author, a weekly columnist for Forbes, and a popular trainer and speaker. Additionally, Ryan earned a master’s degree in counseling from Suffolk University and is the former Director of Counseling Services at the University of Washington.

The Best is Yet to Be by Mike Bella

Subtitled Discovering the Secret to a Creative, Happy Retirement, this book relates a retirement story where hope and joy meet in every chapter. Additionally, this book answers three essential retirement questions:

  1. What do you do when you want to retire, but your finances don’t add up?
  2. What happens if you aren’t ready for retirement, but are forced out?
  3. And what do you do if health issues or family concerns push you towards an undesired early retirement?

When author Mike Belah took early retirement due to a buyout, he expected to enjoy a carefree and happy retirement. However, within a short period, the reality of limited funds and a lost sense of identity left him depressed and panicked. Dr. Bella used personal narrative, real-time blog articles, and extensive research to explain how he regained his hope and the secret to a happy retirement in The Best is Yet to Come.

Dr. Bella earned a Ph.D. in technical communication and rhetoric from Texas Tech University and worked as an English professor at Amarillo College until his retirement in 2016.

Keys to a Successful Retirement by Fritz Gilbert

Subtitled Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years, this book helps you discover everything you want to know to get your retirement off to a good start.

Covering topics like dealing with feelings of aimlessness, depression, and grief, this book helps you take a complete look at your newfound freedom. Additionally, it enables you to explore how to enjoy a successful retirement through its in-depth guide, which includes:

  • Managing the essential basics: making sure you make the most of your retirement through advice for dealing with healthcare, staying fit, managing your savings, and more.
  • Handling tough times: How to deal with the effects retirement can have on your mental health and other challenging aspects of leaving your job.
  • Being your own boss: Learning how to make the next chapter of your life a great one, and how you can lean on the things that you already love about your experience.

Fritz Gilbert retired from corporate America after more than 30 years, where he climbed the ladder through the upper levels of a multinational corporation. His award-winning blog, The Retirement Manifesto, focuses on helping people make the most of their retirement.

The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+ by Suze Orman

Subtitled Winning Strategies to Make Your Money Last a Lifetime, this retirement guide was an instant bestseller listed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today.

This book answers four critical questions related to retirement:

  1. Can I ever afford to quit working?
  2. Have I waited too long to start saving for retirement?
  3. Will my Social Security still be there for me when I reach retirement age?
  4. How can I make my money last?

The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+ also gives you straight talk about:

  • How to lower your cost of living now in ways that have a significant impact down the road;
  • The Five Laws of Money to take with you into your retirement years;
  • Creative ideas to find a new role for your next act, retirement;
  • How to invest safely in your upcoming retirement with just the right amount of risk;
  • Moves to make, and avoid, while you are still working;
  • Decisions you need to make before turning 70.

Suze Orman is one of America’s foremost personal finance experts with seven consecutive New York Times bestsellers. Additionally, she was twice named to Time Magazine‘s “Time 100,” its list of “The World’s Most Influential People.” Likewise, Forbes Magazine named Orman one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” and listed her in the top 10 rankings of the Most Influential Celebrities of 2013.

Retirement Your Way by Gail M. McDonald and Marilyn L. Bushey

Subtitled The No Stress Roadmap for Designing Your Next Chapter and Loving Your Future, this book shows you how to “break the retirement mold” and do things your way. Whether you want to keep working beyond the usual retirement years or want to enjoy a traditional retirement, this book offers you a roadmap to help you get there and enjoy the journey.

This book offers:

  • Evidence-based practices to increase vitality, longevity, and other essential aspects of aging healthily;
  • More than 50 inspiring personal stories;
  • Six lifestyle categories to help stimulate your ideas concerning retirement;
  • Seven essential steps to discovering the right path to retirement;
  • Conversation starters to spark meaningful discussions about retirement.

Gail M. McDonald is the president and founder of Transition Resources, Inc., a company offering executive and team coaching, and meeting facilitation. Her clients include Bell Helicopter, FedEx, Honeywell, JP Morgan, Microsoft, and others.

Marilyn L. Bushey is the CEO and Chief Learning Officer at PowerPAC, Inc., where she serves as an executive coach, facilitator, and leadership consultant. Her clients include Bank of America, Citicorp, Merrill Lynch, Pepsico, Texas Instrument, and others.

Retirement: The First 365 Days by George Szlemp

Subtitled Advice, Opinions, and Observations on Retirement, this book provides a detailed look at day-to-day life while retired. Additionally, it offers advice designed to motivate, encourage, and teach you the ins and outs of maintaining happiness in this new chapter of your life.

This enjoyable retirement guide helps you discover the process of moving into retirement, covering subjects like managing expectations, community, family, physical health, and more. It also teaches you how the body, mind, and spirit come into play during your retirement and how to make the most of each.

Noteworthy quotes from the book include:

  • “At our age, it isn’t about what you leave behind, rather the memories you create.”
  • “Examine your expectations and realize you have grown with your experiences.”
  • “Excuses don’t go away in retirement. You just have fewer of them.”
  • “It’s our deserved retirement. We earned it.”
  • “Retirement is as different for each of us as each of us is different.”
  • “Sharing yourself with others is a good retirement option.”

Born and raised in Chicago, George H. Szlemp moved with his wife to Cedar Rapids after earning a master’s degree at Syracuse University. He spent the next 30 years as the owner of a retail business before retiring.

Additional Points to Consider Regarding Your Retirement

You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this information. Never fear, this next section will briefly discuss some activities to consider when trying to decide how to spend your time after retirement.

We compiled this list by researching the information from several websites like the U.S. News and World Report.

Relocate Seasonally

Many retirees enjoy relocating their residence so they can enjoy their idea of perfect weather year-round. For example, if you like summer, you might consider going to Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the winter months.

Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, and summer runs from about the 21st of December until around the 20th of March.

Get a Part-Time Job

If you like structure, you might consider getting a part-time job. Going back to work allows you to have a place to go several days a week. Additionally, you can earn a little bit of cash to increase your retirement options while making new friends.

Spend Time With Friends and Family

Travel ranks high on most of the lists of things to do when you retire. If you like to travel, why not schedule your trips to include quality time with grandkids or old friends from college? You can even take some time to explore your family tree and introduce yourself to relatives you never knew you had before retirement.

Take Up a New Hobby or Sport

Is there a hobby that always interested you, but you never had time to pursue it during your working years? Possibly there’s a sport you were always curious about but never had the time to learn. Retirement provides an excellent opportunity to expand your interests into uncharted territory.

Join a Fitness Club or a Health Group

Going to a gym, riding a bicycle, or taking up other forms of exercise are great ways to ward off diseases and stay fit as you age. Additionally, these activities give you something to look forward to, and you get to make new friends.

Create a Bucket List

Take some time and make a list of things you always wanted to do but never got around to accomplishing. It could be something as basic as going sailing at the local lake or as involved as seeing the Eiffel Tower. Be creative and have fun.

Downsize Your Home

Many people purchased their homes with raising children in mind. Now that you are retired, and the kids have moved away, considering something smaller, perhaps a beach bungalow or a cottage in the mountains.

Living in a smaller home cuts back your cost of living, and typically the sale of our house generates additional funds for your retirement savings. Additionally, a smaller home is easier to organize and keep clean.

In Conclusion

This article covered a lot of information regarding how to decide what to do with your life after you retire. Retirement is a golden opportunity to enjoy a variety of activities you may not have had time for during your working years. Perhaps you will pursue activities like volunteering at a local organization. Maybe, joining a book club or traveling is more up your alley.

Whatever you decide, remember that your retired life doesn’t have to remain static. What you are doing a few years from now may radically change from what you were doing early on in your retirement.

Additionally, you might consider bookmarking this article for future retirement.



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