Finding Joy in Retirement

by Tracy Enright

Whether you’re excited or anxious about quitting work, a little planning can go a long way Exuberant Retirement

Retirement is a major life event, one you may be looking forward to with anticipation, or one you might dread. Hopefully you have a long-term plan in place for your financial future, but life planning—an aspect we don’t always consider—is equally important. It’s a new stage in life and a few simple (but not always easy!) steps can help ensure your years ahead are fulfilling.

Stage 1 — The Honeymoon Period

That glorious feeling of freedom when you don’t have to get up early for work. The day stretches ahead of you and you can do anything you want. If you’re retiring in a warm climate or season, the honeymoon period is particularly beguiling. As the name suggests, this initial period won’t last forever, but now is the time to harvest the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it. You don’t have a huge chunk of your day occupied by work any more, so how will you spend your time? Are there hobbies you’d like to explore more deeply? Have you always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance, speak Italian or play a musical instrument? This is the perfect time to dive into those pursuits. If there are other elements your work provided for you, try to come up with ideas of how you can replace those. For example, an office environment provides built-in social contacts. Before you lose those precious work contacts, take a few minutes to connect with anyone you’d like to continue seeing. If you enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, sign up to receive announcements for talks at universities and museums.

Stage 2 — The Rest & Relaxation Period

This is where you take stock, start to put some of the ideas from the honeymoon period into action, and begin to appreciate being away from the stresses of work life. It’s both comforting and exhilarating to get into a rhythm with your new pursuits, take time to do some traveling, or spend a day visiting with old friends. You can take it easy now; after all, you’ve earned it.

Stage 3 — The Disenchantment Period

A little time has passed and you might be wondering if retirement is all it was cracked up to be. The days may feel endlessly stretched ahead of you, with only the odd occasion where you see other people or have a purpose for getting up in the morning. This is where your honeymoon period planning will stand you in good stead. You need to look now at what you can do to make your life more enjoyable. You risk falling into a state of depression if you’re not creating a vibrant life for yourself, and just like driving a car, it’s easier to steer a moving vehicle than a parked one, so rev that motor to power you through the rough patches.

Stage 4 — The Reorientation Period

You’ve pulled yourself out of the doldrums and adjusted your expectations; you’re looking at what you really want to do with your time. You’ve taken limiting factors such as finance and health into consideration and found a way to negotiate them. You now have a realistic plan that you can put it into action. Maybe you’re also ready to streamline your life. Instead of maintaining a home, it might make sense to spend less energy on chores and move to an independent living community, where you can also get assistance with daily activities, if and when you want them. If you’re casting about for companions for the fun activities you’re rediscovering, maybe old friends have moved away to be closer to their children, an independent living situation is also a great source of new social connections. Maybe you’d like to start that volunteering work you’ve been considering, or sign up for a class. Many universities allow over-55s to take regular daytime classes for a nominal administrative fee, and at some, you can even earn a degree without paying a dime for tuition. It’s never too late for learning!

Stage 5 — The Routine Period

You’ve circumvented the pitfalls of stagnation, boredom and loneliness that lurk, waiting for the unwary retiree, and now you’re really enjoying your retirement. Life has settled down, you have a new balance and your time is filled with the things you want to do.

So there it is. A positive approach, a little planning, some creative thinking, and whatever your circumstances, you’ve increased your chances of a happy retirement.