Steps to Retirement: How You Will Spend Your Time?

Older man reading book on dock at lake
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Thinking about how you will spend your time in retirement is the fourth article in theĀ Top Steps to Take Before You Retire series. If you are new to the series, be sure to check out all of the steps in the series table of contents.

Many people give little thought to how they will spend their time in retirement, but they should. After all, the biggest use of their time in the years leading up to retirement - working - will be no more.

While many retirees report a near honeymoon-like period for the first six to nine months of retirement, many report an eventual urge to become more productive in retirement than they had anticipated. In order to have a successful and happy retirement, you'll want to plan for everything, including what you hope to do!

Determine What You Want Out of Retirement

What do you want from your retirement? Short of the more unrealistic dreams like becoming a famous rock star, there are no wrong answers to this question. After all, it is your retirement. So think about your personality. If you're the type of person who loves alone time, perhaps good books, newspapers, and TV will bring you long-term happiness. But with the same financial resources, a retired social butterfly might be miserable to spend consecutive days alone and instead crave activity and interaction. Perhaps you have a hobby that always fell to the wayside during your working years.

Whatever it is starting thinking about it before you retire.

Why It's Important

No matter your personality, studies have shown that retirees who keep a busy schedule with three to four regular activities and who maintain their relationships and social interaction tend to lead happier retirements.

Keeping engaged can boost your physical and mental health, and recent studies have even shown how certain activities in retirement can reduce your risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer's.

In addition to having a plan for your time (even if it's just a general idea), thinking about how you want to spend your time in retirement now can help you prepare.

Good financial planners will ask their clients this question as a way to help gauge what kind of discretionary retirement income their client should be saving for in addition to their fixed expenses like housing, food, and healthcare. If a client expects to spend their time gardening and volunteering, their monetary needs to do so will be different from the client who wants to travel the world and play golf every day. By thinking about the activities you might be interested in during retirement, you give yourself the opportunity to plan for them and ensure that when you are retired you can make the most of that phase of your life.

That all may sound well and good, but are you having some difficulty thinking about what those plans might looks like. Here's a few retirement activity ideas to get your brainstorming started.

Retirement Activity 1: Part-Time Work

While those who have achieved true financial independence have no need to work, others may find that a few hours here and there does increase their financial security.

Even those not needing the additional income might find their happiness and life satisfaction increases simply by being around others, particularly if the job requires significantly less stress and responsibilities than their pre-retirement careers did during their prime working years.

Retirement Activity 2: Volunteer

Doing good by helping others can not only fill the day, but more importantly it can create the meaning that people of all ages crave. Whether by becoming more active in an organization you lightly participated in during your working years or by seeking out new associations to donate your time to, you can take advantage of the skills and talents honed throughout your career for the benefit of others.

Retirement Activity 3: Exercise

Exerting yourself physically and mentally helps keep you healthy during your working years.

The same is true during retirement. If you weren't a gym nut during your 40's, you certainly don't have to start going to the gym everyday in your sixties (though you may find that you'd like to, now with greater free time). Still, make sure to keep the body flexible and strong. Similarly, engaging in intellectual conversations and solving puzzles helps keep your mind fresh.