Many soon-to-be retirees struggle to imagine their week without work in it. All those blank calendar days are exciting, but they can also be overwhelming.
But once you actually retire, you might find that your daily routine isn’t quite as different as you expected, and that there isn’t quite as much blank space as you’d anticipated. With some reflection and a little intentional thinking, you can fill in the rest of your agenda with activities and experiences that will bring meaning and happiness to your retirement.
Breaking down the day.
Let’s start by looking at Pew Research analysis of some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to American Time Use surveys completed by folks at retirement age, the biggest chunk of a retiree’s day is spent …
You guessed it, sleeping! Retirees sleep, on average, 8 ½ hours every day. Depending on your old work routine, that might be something of a luxury to look forward to!
Here’s how the rest of a typical retiree’s day breaks down:
- Leisure: 7 Hours
- Chores and errands: 3 hours
- Work: 2 hours
- Grooming and health care: 1 hour
- Eating: 1 hour
- Unpaid volunteering and caregiving: 1 hour
Hopefully in retirement you’re going to reward yourself with some big-ticket experiences, like traveling. But as you can see, a good portion of your daily schedule is going to be spent doing things you already do: sleeping, showering, eating, grocery shopping, checking in on your friends and relatives, and maybe working a few hours part time.
7 Hours of What?
It’s that 7 hours of leisure time that some retirees really struggle with.
According to Pew’s research, most people over 60 spend 4 ½ hours of their leisure time in front of their TV, computer, or cell phone. And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good movie or the latest pictures of your grandkids on Facebook, that much time on the couch just isn’t healthy. “Couch potato syndrome” is a symptom of a retirement that isn’t keeping you physically, emotionally, or mentally active.
Even more troubling is that when you’re stuck to a screen, you’re usually alone. And according to that same Pew study, married retirees spend over 7 waking hours alone (excluding personal activities such as grooming). Single retirees spend 10 waking hours solo.
Alone time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But people are social animals. We need other people to support us and keep us stimulated. If you’re too content to stay in bed or on the couch, you might be socially isolated, which can have negative effects on your health and sense of well-being.
Your Ideal Week in Retirement.
What you do during those 50 or so weekly leisure hours when you’re not on a vacation or completing everyday tasks will largely determine how you feel about your retirement.
So ask yourself, “What does my ideal week in retirement look like?”
To answer this question, start by thinking about the things you love doing and the people you love doing them with.
If your adult children and grandchildren live nearby, you might want to pencil in a weekly dinner.
Have you always wanted to perfect your backhand or get your handicap down? Find a coach and schedule some regular lessons.
Do you have some unfulfilled artistic dreams, like writing a book or painting? Don’t just wait for the mood to strike you. Turn that unused bedroom into your personal studio and set a schedule.
What’s something you love to do that your spouse isn’t interested in? Schedule some alone time … just not 7 hours of it.
You might also think about the other retirees you know, and ask yourself, “What differences have I noticed between folks who seem to be enjoying their retirement, and those who don’t seem to be having any fun?” What are some activities they do that you might enjoy? Some potential pitfalls you might want to avoid?
If you’re still having trouble, come in and sit down with us. We can work together through your "ideal week in retirement" to help you create a new weekly schedule. It’s a fun exercise that will definitely get you excited about living the best retirement possible with the money you have.