“Don’t retire FROM your job. Retire TO something you love.”
If you’re a regular listener or reader you’ve heard me and guests on my Keen on Retirement podcast share that bit of retirement wisdom many times. And with good reason! In my experience, the most successful retirees view life after work as a beginning, not an end. Even though they may have some reservations about cashing their final paycheck and leaving behind their work routines, by and large they’re excited to start working through their bucket lists and spending time doing things they love.
So why do many pro-retirement retirees look up from those bucket lists in a year or two and find that they haven’t crossed off anything? Why do some retirees who are excited to play sports, develop hobbies, travel, and spend time with their loved ones end up spending most of their time on the couch?
Because retiring isn’t going to turn you into a more active and fulfilled person all by itself. Having a bucket list and a weekly to-do list is a good start. But if you aren’t integrating some of these activities into your daily routine BEFORE you retire, you’re going to have trouble integrating them into your retirement routine after you retire.
Besides, why wait until retirement to start spending more time enjoying yourself? Here are four ways to start enjoying your retirement before you actually retire.
1. Create an exercise routine.
Trust me: it is NEVER too late to take your fitness up a level. But if you don’t already exercise regularly, retirement isn’t going to motivate you to start.
Carve out 15-20 minutes before or after work to get moving. A simple walk or jog is as good for your heart as it is for your mind. If that doesn’t stick, pump up your bike tires or dust off the free weights or exercise bands in the basement. Explore the many free online classes that popped up during the pandemic. Eventually, you’ll find a few exercises or activities that you’ll want to make a part of your weekly routine.
If you’re already a regular runner, cycler, or gym rat, start thinking about what your exercise goals could look like once you don’t have to worry about getting to the office every day. Try adding an extra half mile to one of your scheduled runs. Get to the gym 15 minutes early one morning and put in some reps on a piece of equipment you don’t usually use. Or start working with a personal trainer who can help you align your fitness, nutrition, and mental health goals.
2. Get serious about your hobbies.
Retirement doesn’t just create free time. Hopefully, your adult children leaving the nest has created some free space as well.
Turn one of those spare rooms into an office or studio. Many folks find that moving their unfinished novel or half-painted paintings off the kitchen table and into a dedicated creative space improves both focus and commitment. If you start spending an hour or two every week in that space, you’re only going to want to spend more time in there once retirement rolls around.
Who knows? You might be able to turn that pile of yarn or box of watercolors into a small craft business that pads your retirement cash flow.
3. Take weekend trips.
When some seniors think about travelling, they envision endless beaches, long hikes through the woods, and classy resorts in the world’s great cities.
Other seniors — especially those who never travelled much while they were working — picture more hassle than relaxation. They might write down “Take a Caribbean cruise” on their bucket lists. But when the time comes to book those reservations, the familiar comforts of home just feel too comfortable.
Folks who aren’t regular travelers should start small. Take a few “practice trips” within an hour or two of driving distance from your home. A weekend at a bed and breakfast or an overnight hotel stay near a hot new restaurant will give you a feel for how liberating travel can be. When we step outside of our normal routines, we experience new things – sometimes as simple as a new perspective that helps us solve a problem back at home, sometimes as life changing as a new interest that we want to explore or a new destination that we want to make home.
4. Get more for your money.
If you start doing more enjoyable things outside of your work hours, you might start to notice something funny happening to your monthly entertainment budget: you’re actually spending that money!
Believe it or not, that’s a good thing. A financial plan isn’t just about earning, saving, and investing as much as you can. It’s about using your assets to improve your life. Learning to enjoy your money once you’ve stopped working for it can be surprisingly challenging for new retirees. Giving yourself permission to spend responsibly and have some fun now will help you shift gears to a reward mentality once you do retire.
If you feel like the money piece of this discussion is the biggest obstacle between you and really enjoying your retirement, let’s schedule a call to review your short-term and long-term budget goals. Somewhere between maximizing your catch-up IRA contributions and paying off your mortgage there’s room to enjoy your money and enrich your life.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with nearly three decades of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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