Published: Apr 9, 2013 7:02 a.m. ET
Congratulations, you’re ready to retire. You’ve done the hard part—spent a lifetime getting out of bed and getting to work, taking care of your family, and saving for this day. But what if retirement turns out to be too easy and there’s not enough to do? John Brady, president of TopRetirements.com, says start planning now so that when your retirement finally comes you are set up for a happy transition from the working life. Read the full story at TopRetirements.com. Brady notes people’s jobs keep them busy, but in retirement they need to find fulfilling activities. Here are 10 ways to stay busy and engaged with life.
1. Get a job
That might seem to be more than a little ironic—to leave the workforce only to come back into it. But one reason is that you might need the money. For another, retiring is often a great opportunity to start a new, totally unrelated career. Many people find encore careers liberating and fulfilling.
This is an obvious route that many retirees find rewarding. From mentoring children, to helping a small business on a project, assisting at the library or hospital, trading work for free space at a national park, helping a local volunteer group, or even going into the Peace Corps—there are countless opportunities. Think in terms of what you would like to do and which organizations you would like to help; then contact those outfits and tell them you would like to help. In these days of cutbacks it is the rare nonprofit or government body that couldn’t use an extra set of hands.
3. Take up a sport
Golfers don’t have to worry about what to do with their time—they’re too busy playing, practicing, and reliving their rounds afterward. A lot of folks didn’t have the time to practice a sport during their working years. They often feel at a disadvantage trying to learn something that others have spent years perfecting (or at least trying to perfect). That shouldn’t stop you though, Brady says. Many folks who have come to sports late in life get great pleasure (and other benefits, like fitness) from their new activities—whether it is fishing, boating, pickleball, tennis, boccie, biking, or water aerobics. If you take up a difficult sport like golf or tennis, take lessons.
4. Get a hobby
Start one while you are still working, Brady advises. That will give you time to explore different alternatives as well as you give you something to start on Day One of your retirement. Whether it is quilting, bridge, mah-jongg, scrapbooking, knitting, raising orchids, gardening, woodworking, painting, crossword puzzles/Sudoku, music, philately…whatever—start looking now for something that you can get excited about. It will give you something to look forward to as well as the chance to interact with others about something interesting.
5. Start a business
In this sphere you are only limited by your imagination, interests and finances. People need someone to take care of their pets, watch their empty houses, drive them to the airport, fix their computers and bicycles. Tourist destinations need tour guides. Perhaps you have always had an idea for a product or service—now is the time to test it out. Do something you like, beware investing too much of your capital, and try to get good advice from someone whose business judgment you trust.
Brady says that by suggesting travel, he doesn’t mean taking a big trip or two and then forgetting about it. He said some people have a passion for travel: They save and plan for several big trips a year. They scheme for ways to exchange homes or work for extended stays in nice places. Or they buy or rent a camper and travel for long periods on a budget. When they are on the trip they savor the experience, and they enjoy planning for the next.
7. Take a bridge (gap) year
It used to be this was the plan for young people who needed an adjustment between high school and college, or college and their first job. But more and more folks are planning for a bridge year right after their retirement starts. They have many advantages, chief among them a chance to decompress after a hectic working career and gain perspective about how to optimize retirement. Perhaps you have always wanted to travel around the world, work for a relief organization, learn Italian in Rome, build a website, or learn how to repair clocks. This is your chance.
8. Camp for adults
Camp isn’t just for kids anymore. There are camps for just about every kind of activity. Want to learn how to drive a car on the ice (There’s a Skip Barber camp for that). There’s golf camp, science camp, food and wine camps, cooking camps, sports camps, music camps, art camps, writing camps, adventure camps, etc. See this Wall Street Journal article, “The Best Summer Camps for Grown-Ups.”
9. Go south for the winter
Unless you enjoy cold weather, just why are you spending your winters shoveling snow and hunkered around the fireplace? Why not explore warmer climes for the winter months? There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay for a month or so, or rent your own RV. You’ll meet people, have some stimulating experiences, explore different parts of the country, and perhaps find a better, less expensive place to live.
10. Make new friends whose ages are different than yours
Older people have different perspectives to offer. Younger folks have a different vocabulary and usually more energy. In the process of exploring the different, you’ll be keeping yourself younger and more interesting too. Make a commitment to connect with people. Make a pledge that you are going to get out and talk with people on a regular basis. It will keep you young.