Now That You’re Retired, Take Your Gap Year!

gap year

The phrase “gap year” probably makes you think of someone taking a sabbatical from work, or of your kids or grandkids wanting to take a year off between high school and college to see the world, pursue their interests, and grow as people outside of their familiar routines.

But doesn’t that also sound like a really rewarding way to spend a year of your retirement?

I’ve mentioned before how vital it is that retirees replace their old 9 to 5 routines with a schedule that keeps them active and engaged. More and more retirees – including some of my own clients – have started taking retirement gap years to help them do just that.

Here are four reasons why you might want to think about taking your own gap year:

1. Cross some items off your bucket list.

One of the most common gap year activities is travel. Many of my clients plot out a full year of globe-hopping: cruises, European tours, cross-country treks in motor homes. Most people are going to be a lot more adventurous, willing, and able earlier in retirement. So if there are places you and your family have always wanted to see, why wait?

And if there are things you’ve always wanted to try, what’s stopping you? My buddy Dick Blaisdell picked up a new passion in retirement with a ride around a NASCAR track. Maybe you’ve always wanted to cook your way through Julia Child’s books or learn a foreign language. A gap year can be a great opportunity to do some things you’ve always wanted to do, see places you’ve always wanted to see, and use those experiences to figure out how you want to spend your daily life in retirement.

2. Explore potential retirement destinations.

As you age, the family homestead is going to become harder and harder for you to maintain without hiring outside help. Many of my clients who beamed about their huge front lawns and beautiful staircases start to have very different ideas about mowing that lawn and walking up and down those stairs as they hit 70 and 80. Then there’s all that extra space that (hopefully!) your children have vacated. If your retirement plans don’t require a writing room, crafting workshop, or overnight accommodations for frequent guests, do you need all those extra rooms? Do you want them?

On the other hand, how does a low-maintenance beachfront condo in Florida sound? Or a golf and tennis retirement community in Arizona? Have you always wondered what it would be like to retire to Europe?

Why not take a year and try out a new potential home? Or even a couple spots? This might also help scratch that travel itch, but if you’re really thinking about a permanent move try settling in some place that interests you short-term and see if it’s a good fit.

3. Seriously pursue your passions.

One of my longtime friends had a real passion for cycling. He retired and got into the best shape of his life – in his mid-60s! Then he joined a competitive cycling team and even started serving on the board of his state cycling association. I was so inspired by the way he had pursued his passions in retirement that Keen Wealth began sponsoring his cycling team and other cycling-related causes in our area.

I’ve had clients who were lifelong hunters or fishermen who planned a whole year around hitting dream destinations all over the country. Another client earned his private pilot’s license in his 20s, and in retirement trained to be instrument-rated. He and his wife now fly regularly in their own plane.

What are you passionate about? How could a gap year help you develop that passion into a real skill, or maybe even lead you to …

4. Get a new business off the ground.

Another couple sold their successful business and opened a bed and breakfast on the Colorado River in Buena Vista, Colorado. They host guests for six months out of the year and take it easy for the other half. I actually stayed at their place and was so impressed with the life, and the new business, they’d made for themselves.

More and more seniors are continuing to work in retirement. Some take part-time jobs to stay busy or contribute to an organization that matters to them. Others, like my friends in Colorado, turn something they love or something they’ve always wanted to try into a whole new business. Now they’re working toward their own goals and passions. Sound appealing? A gap year could really help you get that dream business plan together.

Don’t forget to “fill in” your gap.

It can be hard for retirees to start doing things that they really want to do. After all, putting things off is a habit most of us first pick up during our working and child-rearing years.

But if you’re seriously considering a gap year – especially one that will take you away from home – don’t forget to make arrangements for the things that will go on without you: bills, subscriptions, home maintenance, mail, taking your required minimum distributions, and paying your taxes. You also might want to talk to your fiduciary advisor about adjusting your spending plan to allocate a higher withdrawal rate, and then decrease that rate once you’ve settled back in from your gap year or other early retirement adventures.

Bill Keen: A gap year can be a really rewarding way to spend a year of your retirement.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years 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

Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  

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