Relaxing and sinking your toes in the sand on the beach. Your favorite spot on the sofa in the family room. No more alarm clocks because you want to wake up when you feel like it. No urgent emails to respond to. Doing what you want when you want. Planning nothing if that’s how you feel that day.
This scenario sure sounds appealing to many soon-to-be retirees after a lifetime of working 40 hours every week. The surprising reality is that a life of unstructured leisure can create stress, strain spousal relationships and lead to feelings of uselessness and depression.
When today’s successful retirees stop working, they learn the “ART” of retirement. It’s about Activity, Relationships, and Time. They experiment. They try new things. They make new connections. And eventually, they create a new daily routine focused on the people and passions that make their lives fulfilling.
Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he putters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV... and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.
We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a movie or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wifey Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time. Whoa.
Often, this is the moment when spouses realize they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a hammock in the backyard. The other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.
The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energizing. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity or nonprofit that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.
Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent your workdays with recede from your day-to-day routine.
But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Your social calendar also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.
Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. The very notion of time can take on new meaning. Without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. It’s like an artist staring at a blank canvas — where do you begin?
So how will you fill your day? Will you start taking an hour to do things that used to take 10 minutes when you were working? Will you sleep later? What new routines will you start?
The good news is, many of today’s retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organize their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.
Perfecting your ART
Retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your schedule with activities, only to find that having a bit less structure allows you to explore your options. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part-time job. You might like it. You might not.
There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working with us to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.
Visit our Retirement Planning page for more on retiring.