You’re retiring? What are you going to do with all that free time?
It seems like such a silly question. Isn’t free time — minus the need to do anything in particular — the whole point of retirement? After a working life filled with to-do lists and deadlines and, well, work, retirement can look like a blissful expanse of lemonade and hammocks and sunny afternoons.
But maybe you’ve already sensed that long, lazy afternoons are better in the imagination than in reality, and too much free time can quickly grow tiresome, even burdensome.
In fact, all that free time can seriously test your relationships.
The trick is to think of your newfound free time not as empty time but as indeterminate time. Instead of having a schedule set by opening hours or school holidays or the busy season, you get to decide exactly how you’d like to fill your time, and you can fill it in the ways that feed your soul and your psyche.
So if you’re about to retire — or just trying to give yourself a reason to start saving more aggressively for your golden years — here are some things to consider.
Declare your own weekends
Never again will you have to visit the supermarket on a Sunday afternoon or be stuck leaving town slowly in Friday afternoon traffic.
Indeterminate time means that you can set your weekend whenever you’d like it to be — and that can mean serene art museums and relatively empty botanical gardens to enjoy at your leisure.
Expect to slow down
No matter how go-go-go you’ve been until now, retirement is a time for slowing down. Write to-do lists, by all means, because they’re a great way to organize your day, but don’t feel obliged to cross off every item.
If there are elements of who you are that you’ve neglected during your working years or while raising children, retirement is a wonderful time to redress that imbalance. Find things that feed your mind, body, and soul.
Mind: Many universities allow older people to audit classes at a discount or even for free. You could even decide to get another degree — perhaps this time majoring in that impractical subject you talked yourself out of all those years ago. You can also look for classes at your local library or through your community center. You could even take piano, dance or tennis lessons.
Body: A class that gets you moving is a wonderful way to improve both your mental and physical fitness. But a daily walk is equally healthy, and most yoga studios offer gentle yoga classes if you need something a bit less intense.
Soul: If you’re already part of a faith community, continuing to attend can sustain you during retirement, and you might find that you naturally become a leader for younger members. Volunteering at a local charity can also feed your soul, connecting you to something larger than yourself.
Find new work
Sometimes, retirement is exactly the right time to do your life’s work. You might have dreamed of becoming a sculptor or owning a little shop or running a bed-and-breakfast. If you’ve saved up enough, you won’t have to rely on your new enterprise making you a profit, and that means it can be a true labor of love.
Spend time with your family and friends
Remember when you dreamed of drinking Pinot Grigio in Florence with good friends? Now you can. Or move closer to your grandchildren so you can spoil them (and give your kids a bit of a break from parenting).
The bottom line
However you decide to spend your free time in retirement, keep in mind the importance of flexibility. You can always change your mind, try something new, or go back to something that worked. It’s all in your hands now.