Hooray! You made it! They’re finally over, all those years of getting up each weekday morning, going to work, coming home and making tea before going to bed and starting all over again the next day. Welcome to the beginning of a new stage in your life. Happy retirement!
This initial period of excitement over your new status and the thrill of having plenty of time to do whatever you decide marks the start of a huge adjustment in your life. Already, your feelings may be rather mixed: on the one hand, you may feel as though you are on holiday and feel relaxed and happy; on the other, you probably still have a sense of urgency about all the tasks you normally do around the home, not quite accepting yet that you have time to put off mowing the lawn until another day, or that these relatively empty days are here to stay.
Give yourself time to get used to the fact that you are your own boss now and you can decide what you do, when you do it and how long you do it for. You have the rest of your life ahead of you, your work is done, your children are settled – now it’s time to decide what to do in retirement. The lovely thing about making these plans is that they will be totally flexible and completely of your choosing – so enjoy! If you are at the stage of thinking, "How do I make the most of my retirement? How do I enjoy my retirement?", then here are Ten of the Best Things to Do in Retirement, during the main stages that will come following your last day at work.
Stage 1: immediately after retirement is a period of massive enjoyment – and adjustment.
Take a holiday!
This is probably first on your list of things you always planned to do when you retired anyway. When you were at work, taking two weeks off may have seemed both a blessing and a curse – your holidays were fantastic, but going back to work afterwards was always like coming back to earth with a bump. When your children were young, planning holidays around school term times was always expensive and had to involve trips that were designed to keep your little ones happy: they were lovely family holidays, but now you get to choose where you travel to and how long you want to stay for. Head for somewhere warm, perhaps even for the whole of the winter. No more scraping ice off your windscreen in the morning! Consider renting a campervan or motorhome and explore a country you’ve always wanted to visit, meeting locals and seeing places you’ve only ever dreamed of. Who knows, you may even find somewhere you’d like to live where it is cheaper and warmer than the UK!
See the world
Taking a one-off big holiday should be something you treat yourself to, to act as a natural break between your old, working life and your new life in retirement. But after you return home, consider planning to see a different part of the world each year. There are travel companies that specialise in these tours, but you can plan your own itinerary and even book your own flights and accommodation easily enough (especially – we never get tired of saying this – now that you have time!). Perhaps choose a large country like the United States and plan a road trip from one coast to the other. This will be less like a holiday and more like an experience, a chance to see what’s out there for yourself. Calculate a budget and stick to it, staying at motels or in a motorhome to limit costs.
Take a gap year
This isn’t just for students! Your life has just changed enormously and you need to process this properly and adjust to a new pace. Remember when you first had children and suddenly everything took three times as long as it used to? Just going to the shops was a major expedition! This is another period of change and this time, you may feel like you still have to rush around and organise every minute of your day. Giving yourself the gift of a year out of the workplace and out of your ordinary routine will help you to grow accustomed to the fact that your life has changed. There are companies that specialise in gap year trips abroad, to help in parts of the world where experience and knowledge like yours are highly valued and can make a huge difference to people’s lives. What better way to start the rest of your life than by helping to improve someone else’s?
Stage 2: Once you have adjusted to your new way of life, you can start to build in a regular routine, albeit on a more relaxed basis than the one you had during your working life.
Start a hobby
You may always have had a hobby in theory, but as a busy working parent you just didn’t have the time to actually do it. Now is your time! If you don’t already have one, try out a few ideas before settling on two favourites. Ideally, both of your hobbies should make you feel relaxed, happy and energised. You could choose one hobby that you can do alone in the comfort of your own home and that is cheap and easy to pick up – perhaps writing, gardening, reading or some sort of craft. Large craft shops often run free workshops for people wanting to learn a new skill, so take advantage of this and see what you enjoy doing. Your second hobby should be one that takes you out of the house, involves mixing with others, preferably something active that will keep your energy and fitness levels high. Check with your local sports centre to see whether there are any over-50s groups, as this is an ideal way to meet new people, make friends and have fun.
Taking up a new sport such as golf, badminton or swimming is an excellent idea. Even if your fitness levels are not great at the moment after years of spending your days tied to a desk, it will only take a few sessions to feel fitter and be able to catch your breath quicker. The benefits of exercise are enormous and well-known – better sleep, improved mood, lower risk of heart problems and so on. You can get a great deal of pleasure from learning a new sport or improving one that you are already familiar with – you now have time to take lessons, too, if you like!
Learn new skills
There are so many things that you are capable of learning and getting a great deal of enjoyment from. Search online or at your local library to find classes in your area (or a little further afield) to learn anything from food and wine tasting to pottery, art, writing, a new style of cookery, sports or rally driving! If you really want to immerse yourself, you could even consider travelling to America and going on a specialist camp, where you spend all day every day learning new things and experiencing any number of activities.
Thinking back to the time when you had children, you probably remember making a lot of new friends with others in the same boat, as you all adjusted to life as new parents and supported each other in that role. Keeping in touch with those friends of old is so important now, but it is also great to make new friends, especially with people who are younger than you. If your only friends are people of the same age as you, it can be very difficult to keep up with new ideas, technologies and ways of living and you can soon start to feel out of touch. Perhaps a starting point might be to get to know your children’s friends, or the parents of your grandchildren’s friends at the school gates and build some bridges to keep you feeling young forever!
Stage 3: Medium-term plans, for after you have settled into a new pace. This is the time when you may be looking at your finances, or feeling as though you want to give something of yourself to others again.
Get back to work!
This may seem like the last thing you’d want to do. However, after a while, you may find that an unstructured life with no real goals is not as easy as you’d thought. More likely, you’ll realise that funding all the other lovely things that you want to do may require more cash than your pension will provide. While you’re young enough and healthy enough, why not take the opportunity to earn a little more money to make life more enjoyable? You certainly don’t have to go back to your previous role – finding a totally new role can be very fulfilling and challenging.
Set up your own business
Still along the theme of keeping busy in a constructive (and profitable) manner, is there anything you could do that would let you work for yourself? You will have an extensive skill set from your years as a parent and within the workforce, though it can be difficult to identify exactly what you have to offer – so talk to a trusted friend and ask what they think are your greatest strengths. Combine your skills with some imagination and see where the gaps in the market are. Could you be a tour guide for your local area? Perhaps you could be a house-sitter, dog-walker or driver? Maybe you’ve always had an idea for a business or a product you’d like to design – now is the time to get started! Choose something that you feel confident will succeed, but if you need to invest much capital to get things off the ground then seek advice from a small business manager at your local bank before you commit yourself to any major plans.
Help someone else
If you don’t need the money but still want to do something constructive (it’s very hard to get out of that work ethic, isn’t it?), consider volunteering. All you need to be able to do is offer a regular slot each week (or fortnight, or month) when you can be counted on to be there and you would be so welcome as a volunteer! Any number of charity shops would welcome an extra helper, but there are plenty of volunteering positions to choose from if you have a particular interest or skill set. For example, if you are an animal lover, your local dog shelter would welcome you with open arms if you were to offer to come and walk their dogs or help to feed or groom them.
Local schools are always keen to have members of the public come in to listen to children read: not only do the children benefit from having someone actively listening to them and helping them to learn, but many do not have the luxury of having grandparents of their own and miss out on the inter-generational interaction that is so essential to their overall wellbeing and development. If your grandchildren live nearby, consider volunteering at their school, or simply write to or phone your local primary school to ask if you can help.
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