A hammock on the beach. Your favourite chair in the living room. Waking up when you feel like it. A blank calendar. Doing what you want when you want. Doing nothing if that’s how you feel that day.
After a lifetime of working 40 hours every week, this scenario sounds appealing to many soon-to-be retirees. But the surprising reality is that a life of unstructured leisure can create stress, strain spousal relationships, and lead to feelings of uselessness and depression.
When today’s successful retirees stop working, they learn the “ART” of retirement. It’s about Activity, Relationships, and Time. They experiment. They try new things. They make new connections. And eventually, they create a new daily routine focused on the people and passions that make their lives fulfilling.
Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he wanders around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.
Funny, when we see a scenario like this play out in a movie or TV show but is a very real problem for many couples who have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time!
Often, this is the moment when spouses realise they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a hammock in the garden. The other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.
The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energizing. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity or non-profit organisation that’s close to your heart.
Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent your workdays with recede from your day-to-day routine.
But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Your social calendar also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organise your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.
Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. The very notion of time can take on new meaning. Without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. It’s like an artist staring at a blank canvas—where do you begin?
So how will you fill your day? Will you start taking an hour to do things that used to take 10 minutes when you were working? Will you sleep later? What new routines will you start?
The good news is, many of today’s retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organise their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.
Perfecting your ART
Retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your schedule with activities, only to find that having a bit less structure allows you to explore your options. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part-time job. You might like it. You might not.
There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working to refine your ART, the more successful your retirement picture will be.