Hello, Retirement: Making the Most of Your Golden Years

backpacker senior woman with positive and adventurous attitude

Key Points

  • Embrace the beauty of life in any form — from finally getting to that "must-read" to taking a guided of Europe.

  • Stay positive by setting new routines and staying active.

  • Treat yourself!

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when you no longer have to set an alarm to get up for work. Imagine that. You can sleep in, and it won't matter. Welcome to your retirement. Are you ready to make the most out of your golden years?

For the record, let's stipulate that you made wise decisions for your retirement finances. You put in the work saving and have a decent "retirement nest egg." You've got a roof over your head and family close by. Now, what?

It's time for you to mentally prepare for retirement.

You've been on vacation. On some level, you could look at your retirement as one big extended vacation (more like a staycation!). Will that turn out to be too much of a good thing?

Confession time: Have you ever been bored on a vacation? After the first few days of hitting the cruise buffet or lounging at a resort, you've seen it all and now just want to go home.

We've all been there. That's why you need to mentally prepare for your retirement every bit as much as you got your finances ready.

Without the right retirement attitude, you could get miserable very fast.

Here's your retirement homework.

Break Out the Bucket List

Merriam-Webster made the concept of a bucket list official with this definition: "a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying."

I like to replace "before dying" with "in retirement." It works a lot better that way!

A retirement bucket list can be just about anything. I've got one. Here are a few items on my retirement bucket list:

  • Bake a pie from scratch

  • Be a jury foreperson

  • Visit Italy

  • Go on a game show

  • Visit more museums

  • Make sausage

  • Grow tomatoes

  • Read Moby Dick

And that's just the start. When you have a bunch of interests, you get to stay active. Best of all, you don't have to fly solo. You can bring your partner along. You also get to share their bucket list items. Win/Win.

Set Up a New Daily Routine

How much do you hate Mondays? It's only because after two days of weekend relaxing, you have to drag yourself back to work. Not in retirement! We finally get to enjoy Mondays. Goodbye, traffic jam commute, and hello, spinach frittata!

It begins with setting up a new daily routine.

"Few things are more important to a happy retirement than creating daily routines — and ultimately sticking with them," says Nancy Schlossberg, Professor Emerita from the Department of Counseling and Personnel Services at the College of Education at the University of Maryland.

Nancy's right. When you set up a new daily routine, you will bring order to your life in a good way. What routines provide you with the most enjoyment?

One routine you should include is some form of physical activity. This doesn't mean becoming a gym rat. But you want to stay active. It's what your doctor and everyone in your family want for you.

Your new daily activity could be a walk before breakfast. Step out of the house, walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back. Congratulations! You've just walked for 30 minutes. Do that five times a week, and you're golden.

Make Time For Friends

How many of your friends are on the same retirement schedule as you? This is your chance to connect with those friends over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or afternoon coffee. You've all got common interests now, and no work complaints!

These friends can also share in some of your bucket list pursuits (see above). And it just doesn't have to be one-on-one. Set up a weekly confab at your favorite diner. Unlike work, you get to hang out with the people you want to. That's pure bliss.

Watch Your Health

Retirement is all about slowing down but not coming to a full stop. You want to keep up with your health. That means all your regular doctor's appointments.

Most importantly, don't ignore those recurring aches, pains, and coughs. If anything lasts more than a few days, get it checked out. The greatest two words you'll ever hear from your doctor are, "It's nothing."

Keep Learning

Retirement is the perfect time to learn something new. That can be anything from a second language to a new skill.

Maybe you can take a course at your local community college. There will be no pressure to earn a degree (unless you want to!). You might turn out to be the most popular student on campus, thanks to your vast life experience. Just don't start any food fights in the cafeteria!

Learning new things helps keep the mind sharp. We all need to pay attention to that in retirement.

Don't Scrooge Out

This is the part where I get to remind you, "You can't take it with you." This doesn't mean spending your way into an empty bank account. Set a budget and make sure you're getting the bills paid for. But there is nothing wrong with occasionally splurging.

Pick up that expensive bottle of wine and imported cheese for a treat. See a touring show and spring for a fancy dinner. Occasionally, treat yourself, and you'll be happy.

Good Times Ahead

Senior couple outdoors smiling with binoculars

Here comes the shameless plug: You'll find many helpful resources on GoldYears about nutrition, technology, health, and more that will help you get the most out of your retirement. Visiting the site every day will qualify as "learning something new!"

By the time you hit retirement, you will have worked for over forty years for this moment. You have earned all the relaxation, new activities, friendships, and family time. Go ahead and enjoy it all!

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