A friend recently shared a story with me that really resonated about some of the challenges of retirement…
Her grandmother told her that about six months after her grandfather retired, she came downstairs one morning to find him sitting at the dining room table with his head in his hands crying.
He was a very strong stoical man, so this was completely out of character for him. He felt worthless, and had no idea how to fill his days. He had hobbies – he played golf and bowls, so it wasn’t that he didn’t know how to enjoy himself.
So, the moral of this story?
Retirement may not be all that you are expecting.
We all dream of retirement – imagining ourselves spending more time on our hobbies, travelling etc. But when the time comes, we realise we can’t spend all day every day doing those things.
One of the activities I recommend clients do, before retirement is create a “retirement diary”.
Break it down into chunks – morning, afternoon and evening – for every day of the week, including the weekend. Add in what you think you might do – see friends, enjoy hobbies, spend time with your family etc.
Remember, it isn’t written in stone. This exercise is designed to demonstrate how you might be spending your time during retirement. If you see lots of doing the same thing the alarm bells might start to ring. Suddenly that hobby isn’t quite so appealing if you are only going to be doing that.
Before retirement, and indeed throughout our working lives, the focus is usually on ensuring you are financially secure. That you will have sufficient money to enjoy hobbies and leisure time. We don’t focus on how we will spend our days to feel fulfilled.
What else can you do?
That rather depends on your skillset and what would interest you.
For many, continuing to do some kind of work to keep your mind stimulated can be very effective. Perhaps offering consultancy a few days per month, becoming a non-executive director on the board of a small business, or even a larger one.
Becoming involved in a trade association linked with your work experience would be very well received. They are always keen to utilise the skills of experts.
Charities are always crying out for volunteers. The work can take many guises – it isn’t just shaking collection tins or wiping noses! Why not contact a charity that is close to your heart to see if they need help. Smaller and local charities in particular would be very grateful.
If you have an interest in children and education you could think about becoming a school governor, or offering to hear children read in your local school. Again, most schools are grateful for offers of help.
Keeping your mind active and stimulated is essential for your mental health, but you don’t have to work to achieve that.
Why not learn a new skill?
There are plenty of courses, whether you choose to go to a venue or do it online.
Maybe now is the perfect time to find out more about those subjects you have always found fascinating, but not had time to explore in more depth?
And it isn’t just your mind you need to keep healthy.
You need to look after your body too. Keep active and enjoy some fresh air. Look after any ailments by following medical advice and taking the appropriate medication. Make sure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink moderately.
Believe it or not, this will also help with your relationships too. The rate of divorce amongst retirees has increased to 25% in recent years. Being with somebody 24 hours per day, every day, is not healthy. Having fresh subjects to discuss, and personal time to indulge in your own interests is essential to relationship health.
You don’t need my help to decide how you are going to spend your retirement, but you might find taking our Return on Life Index Assessment a very helpful starting point. Why not give it a go?