Ah, retirement. That magical time you’ve been dreaming about for decades is nearly here, and you are likely daydreaming about how you’ll spend all your newfound leisure time. Maybe you’ll sleep in, relax in your favorite chair and read all the books you’ve been meaning to crack open, sit quietly on the front porch enjoying your favorite coffee… the world is your oyster!
This is an appealing scenario for many soon-to-be retirees, especially after spending a lifetime working 40 hours or more every week. However, many new retirees soon find that a completely unstructured life can have negative consequences. Indeed, a life of leisure can cause stress, strain relationships and even lead to feelings of depression.
If you want to be truly content in this new phase of life, you’ll need to learn the A.R.T. of retirement. This stands for Activities, Relationships and Time, and focusing on all three can help you create a new daily routine that includes the people and passions that fulfill you.
Picture this: James is newly retired and clueless about how to spend his time. He putters around the house and garage, tinkering with things and rearranging possessions, watching television and snacking more than he should. He’s also driving his wife, Tina, absolutely crazy.
While this sounds an awful lot like a scenario you might see play out on your favorite sitcom, so-called Retired Spouse Syndrome is a very real issue. Most couples are used to spending eight or more hours a day apart from each other, and so much together time can require a period of transition.
For many couples, early retirement is a time of surprising realizations. They may not have known they had different ideas about what this phase of life would look like, or different plans about how to spend their time and money. For instance, maybe one spouse wants to see the world while the other wants to remain close to home and work in the garden every day.
In truth, it’s likely somewhere in between both spouses’ expectations where they’ll find joint activities that will make retirement enjoyable and fulfilling for both. Each spouse should also consider spending time on individual activities that will be meaningful or stimulating. Finding shared and individual passions are an excellent starting place for discovering a new routine.
While your relationship with your spouse will certainly change in retirement, you’ll want to consider your relationships with other family members and friends, as well. It can be quite an adjustment when the people you spent each workday with are no longer in your daily life, while at the same time you’re likely spending more time with the people work used to take you away from each day.
As you work through this potentially challenging time, remember that retirement can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with people you haven’t been spending much time with, as well as to deepen relationships with those closest to you. For example, you may think about planning vacations around your children and grandchildren in order to spend time making meaningful memories with them.
Since you’re already working on developing a new structure and routine for your days, use your newfound flexibility to add more social time into your days. You might organize a group of friends for weekly Pickleball games or plan outings with other retired friends. If you feel like there are people you lost touch with due to your work schedule, use your retirement to find ways to reconnect with them. When you use your time wisely, you can grow and deepen your relationships with the people who are most important in your life.
Time can be your best friend or your worst enemy in your retirement years. If you aren’t thoughtful about activities and relationships that require your time, each day can begin to look a bit like a blank canvas that perplexes instead of inspires. Though many of us long for limitless time during our working years, it can actually be overwhelming to start each day with no plan or routine.
So, how will you fill your days? Begin by considering the activities you want to make time for and the people who are important to you, then begin piecing together a structure to your days and weeks that reflects your values. Retirement is a great time to become more connected to your community, try new adventures and organize your time according to what truly matters.
Making Your Retirement Masterpiece
Creating a retirement that leaves you happy and fulfilled takes some forethought and a bit of practice. You’ll probably take a few wrong turns along the way, but you can always course correct. If the initial lack of structure leaves you feeling anxious, it’s easy to load up your schedule only to realize you’ve overcompensated and feel busier than you intended.
Retirement truly is a whole new world. Give yourself some grace during this period of transition and know that there’s no one right way to have a meaningful retirement. Take time to refine your ART, and you’ll soon find yourself creating the retirement of your dreams.