Many of us work hard most of our adult lives and look forward to retirement. However, transitioning to retirement can be a little challenging for some of us. In this post, I offer some suggestions and advice for those preparing for or who have recently retired.
I retired a few years ago after a career in education for over 31 years — a school superintendent for over 15 years. I was relatively young (mid-50s) when I retired, but the pace and pressure of working 24/7 were causing me not to have balance in life. Taking care of aging parents was also a need.
As a school superintendent, I worked long days, put out one fire (figuratively of course) after another, and responded to 80-100 emails each day. So, being home all day when I retired was an adjustment. Over the last few years, I have learned a few things and would like to share what I learned in case you have recently retired or are thinking about retiring.
As humans, we need to be productive and contribute to something beyond ourselves. More on this later when we talk about hobbies and volunteering.
So here is my advice for your consideration . . .
Set a Schedule
I believe we crave routine. I am not saying don’t do something impromptu or don’t be flexible – – after all, you are retired! However, create a basic schedule to give each day some structure. Every moment does not have to be scheduled but generally plan your day/week.
Establish what time you will get up and when you will go to bed. For goodness sake, don’t sleep the day away or start getting your days and nights reversed.
When I am not working (more about my part-time work later in this post), I get up between 6:00 and 7:00, exercise, make coffee, finish up my coffee while having my quiet time, straighten the house, catch up on email, respond to comments on my blog (hobby), practice my violin (another hobby), and then eat lunch. The afternoon is spent working on a DIY project or craft, updating/working on my blog, working in the yard, cleaning the house, doing laundry, working on projects related to my part-time job, volunteer work, or doing something for my Mom, etc.
I plan my week in advance. I stay busy all day not just to feel productive but to be productive. In all of these tasks, I find joy because either the task gives me joy (reading my Bible or practicing my violin) or knowing I am contributing (volunteer work, folding laundry, etc.) gives me joy.
This does not mean that every moment is scheduled or that you should not slow down the pace. After all, that is the joy of retirement. My point is to have a general plan of how you will spend each day/week.
Be Careful about Watching Television
You don’t want to be the person who has watched every series on Netflix. Seriously, once you start the habit of watching television all day, it is a hard habit to break. Instead, fill your day with productive tasks such as hobbies, volunteering, spending time with friends, reading, and learning . . . let me share more on this below.
Develop Hobbies or Interests
There are so many exciting hobbies and you don’t have to spend a small fortune to have hobbies.
Start by asking yourself . . . what did you enjoy doing when you were a child? Did you like being outside, making things, spending time with people, reading, learning, etc?
For me, I loved making things. As a child, I made all kinds of houses and furniture for Barbie and my dolls. I even learned how to crochet and sew as a child. This is why I enjoy crocheting, sewing, embroidery, DIY home improvement projects, etc. I am a MAKER!
Suggestions (and search online for more ideas):
- Learn a language (There are so many free apps out there to get you started and then maybe upgrade once you get serious about a language.)
- Painting (my grandmother painted with leftover paints on old metal feed buckets, broken paddles, old boards, etc.) If you want to be inspired by another artist who used leftover paint, watch the movie Maudie.
- Pottery (My mother-in-law took a class at the local park and recreation center in her town; she has since passed but we treasure her beautiful pottery. She oftentimes took our children when they were young; they have fond memories of this time with her.)
- Stain glass
- Gardening (make mulch out of leftover fruits and vegetables, buy a pack of flower seeds for a few dollars, and read up on how to grow a particular type of flower/plant). My Dad who passed away a few years ago took a Master Gardener class in his mid-70s.
- Exercising (Create new routines, new exercises, etc. If you don’t want to spend any money on equipment, you can use your body weight. Start small and safe and go from there. Even though Neal still works, this has become his new hobby.)
- Cooking/Baking (your friends and family may really be thankful for your good food. This, too, is Neal’s other hobby and I benefit!)
- Volunteer work (more on this below)
- Becoming an expert in something by researching it. I LOVE to research interesting things and the more you learn, the more you will want to learn. NEVER STOP LEARNING!
My hobbies are learning to play the violin, working on my DIY home improvement blog (including some spiritual writing), crocheting, embroidery, sewing, and chalk painting. Neal told me I have too many hobbies and I think he might be right.
If you are thinking, I am not good at anything . . . NO PROBLEM! You can learn something new. Over time, my crocheting and sewing have improved through experience. My violin playing has improved through practice. Learn how to relax and enjoy the journey of learning. Push yourself to get better at something, and celebrate progress over perfection!
You might want to start just tinkering with something and see what gives you joy. I would not go out and purchase tons of expensive materials or equipment for your new hobby. Start small and ask yourself if you enjoy this or do you need to try something else. Part of the fun is experimenting with different things. Over time, you will discover your new passion . . . maybe even a few passions!
Stay Physically Active
You don’t necessarily have to do a hardcore workout every day, although if this is your thing, go for it!
You need to stay physically active and keep (or get) your body in shape. The older we get, the stronger our bodies need to be to withstand health issues that may come our way.
Some suggestions are walking every day and maybe counting your steps using an app or pedometer to increase your awareness. Health professionals say walking is one of the best ways to keep our bodies healthy. It keeps everything moving if you know what I mean. And Don’t forget to take your dog if you have one. This is a win-win for both of you!
- Run/jog (totally not for me!)
- Dance to fun music around your house
- Yoga (or chair yoga)
- Use free weights or bans
- Use your body weight (i.e. no equipment) and do pushups, jumping jacks, situps, etc.
Just get and keep your body moving for good health!
Now time to talk about that muscle between your ears . . . your BRAIN!
Read more and often
Reading keeps part of your brain active. You have to recall events in the story, visualize the story, absorb facts, etc. You can read fiction, or non-fiction, or read/research about a potential hobby.
I listen to a lot of books on Audible, especially when I am driving or working around the house; this is good for your brain too. If I am listening to fiction, my mind has to work harder to picture the characters, setting, and events as compared to just watching television. And when reading or listening to non-fiction, I am learning something new for sure!
I focus on a theme for a few months and then move on to another area of interest. Reading leads to learning, which is crucial to maintaining our mental acuity.
I am an advocate of lifelong learning. You must keep mentally active. I am not a neuroscientist, but I know that our brain is a muscle and must be used and stretched to maintain cognitive functioning. The older we get, the more our mental abilities slow down.
Learning something new (about a new plant, a new recipe, a new pattern, the history of national parks, researching a country, reading about current or world events, how to improve your golf swing, how to fix a leaky faucet, what is that red spot on my arm, etc.) makes our brain stay active and engaged.
It is so easy to turn inward and get a little self-absorbed if you are not around other people. The recent pandemic has made this a little more challenging and confirmed that we are social beings.
Honestly, this is a challenging area for me. After so many years as a superintendent and dealing with drama all day, I like being home and alone. My definition of alone, includes Neal, our dogs, and cat. However, when I am not social, I start to get more selfish. I think too much about myself and not others. So, I push myself to socially interact with others through church, volunteer work, family, and my part-time job.
Some ideas are getting active in your church, participating in a bowling league, playing cards with friends, knitting club, book club, etc. You can also be part of a volunteer group that allows you to socialize. As human beings, we need to be with other people.
There are so many needs in your community. I do a lot through our church but every community has so many needs (volunteering at food banks, reading or tutoring children at local schools, coaching youth league teams, crocheting/knitting prayer shawls, picking up litter, etc.) This gives you purpose while also improving the lives of others.
Have a Quiet Time Each Day
Over the years, we have learned more about the value of quiet time. Some people believe in meditating. I believe in spending time with God in prayer and reading His Word. It feeds my soul, gives me direction, and reminds me that this life is about serving God and helping people. Spending time with God also gives me perspective on worldly events and reminds me to focus on eternity with Him.
Spending time reading my Bible each day is also part of my learning. I am pushing myself to go deeper (i.e. learn more) about the Bible, memorize scripture, and develop better habits of prayer. Right now, I am studying with a group that is reading the Bible together this calendar year.
Food is fuel and the older we get, the more we should eat right. This is a challenging area for me. I have struggled all my life to eat healthy but I realize the older I get how important it is to feed my body good food; simply stated, eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer preservatives, sweets, and fried food. Fueling my body with healthy food keeps my brain and body functioning properly.
If you can afford it, Travel
If you don’t have the funds to travel, visit local art galleries or museums within your community (many of which are free to the public). I know I said not to watch too much television, but the travel channel and history channel are also good ways to “see” and learn about other destinations. If you can’t physically go to a destination, go there online and in your mind. I “travel” places all the time on Google Earth and then use the little man to get a street view of downtown Florence, Italy, or whenever I want to “travel”. You can do this too!
If you can afford it, go visit other regions, states, and countries. As you visit, research the history before your trip (growing your brain). The world is a vast and fascinating place! Go see it if you are able!
Work Part-time if you are able and willing
I work 5.5 days a month for the Alabama Association of Schools Boards. It keeps me engaged and productive but without all the stress of being a school superintendent. I enjoy the social aspect and helping people. It also earns money for travel and some of our DIY home improvement projects that I blog about.
If you need just a little something to keep you busy and engaged, think about getting a part-time job. I had even considered at one point working in the garden section at Home Depot just to learn about plants and flowers.
Final Advice . . .
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take it a day at a time. Make this an adventure. It is ok to learn what you don’t like to do. Give yourself some grace.
You have worked hard so enjoy the next chapter and you don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Enjoy the journey of self-discovery!
Do you know someone who has recently retired or getting ready to retire? Feel free to share this post with them.
Have you recently retired? Please share your advice by commenting below.