I retired from my full-time position in April 2011, switching to 3-day-a-week consulting; and I retired from my part-time position to full retirement in April 2017. With the first transition to part-time, it was smooth with no surprises; however, with the transition to full retirement, there were three important and unexpected lessons / surprises.
First and foremost, after 6 months of full retirement, I have learned the importance of vacations. I always thought vacations were important while working. They are equally important – if not more important – during retirement. We need to look forward to something, even if that is periodic breaks and even if those breaks are just a respite from our own retirement routine.
For vacations, I favor the advice from my barber of over three decades. He might not have been the most educated man, but he was one of the wisest. He and his wife always had a short, inexpensive vacation planned every three months – something that would keep them focused on their future (and each other). He and his wife always had an annual trip planned – again giving them an adventure to anticipate as a couple. They kept that pattern going through retirement with sustained happiness.
Second, we all need to find a passion and a purpose during retirement. It is not sufficient to just sit back and relax – not if we want to maintain a high mood and good physical health. Your emotional and physical health depends as much on your attitude as on any aptitude (or any wealth or possession). Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed each morning. Something positive on the calendar helps move the body and spirt forward.
For some people, the passion might be golf or tennis or hiking. For others, it might be working in the garden or the woodwork shop. For some people with reduced physical mobility, it might be reading books. The specific activity does not matter. But the joy associated with that activity is crucial. With that activity, there needs to be a purpose. Helping your golf course (in some role). Maintaining your health. Improving your garden. Building a cabinet. Reading the classics. Goals help everyone at every stage in life.
Third, we need friends more than ever. Too many individuals, in retirement, live by themselves. Solo living used to be under 10% of the population. It is currently around 27% of the population, even higher in the elderly. Companionship is one of the hallmarks of good emotional health. Isolation is a risk factor for disease and death, equivalent to smoking cigarettes.
We need to retrieve our all friends – those people who have entered our lives, who have made our lives better, and who have disappeared from our lives. Find those individuals. Reconnect with those people. Be surprised at how easily the friendship begins anew. At the same time, we need to create new friends. Perhaps through our new passions in our retirement. Join clubs. Participate in groups. You will be amazed how good the connection makes you feel – emotionally and physically.
So, here are my suggestions for retirement …
These suggestions arise from my unexpected lessons / surprises …
- Take regular short vacations
- Take an annual long vacation (bucket list?)
- Develop a new passion or a group of passions
- Combine those passions with a new purpose (with goals)
- Retrieve your old friends from your past
- Create new friends for the future
- Join clubs and groups
- Participate with others
- And watch how your mood and health improve
Good luck with retirement …
Just make certain retirement does not lead to inactivity …
Or lead to isolation …
Live well and live long …