In my conversations with clients who are beginning to prepare for their transition into retirement, I ask them, “What would you like to do in retirement?”, and often they answer, “I’m not really sure” or “I haven’t really decided yet.” What’s interesting about those answers is that while they have worked for years preparing financially for a successful retirement, they have not considered the other aspects of retirement that, along with sound financial preparation, will truly make them happy in retirement.
Some retirement experts say that the two main things that you need for a successful retirement are enough assets to live on, and enough relationships, interests and activities to live for. However, many people spend more time planning their annual family vacations than they spend planning for a successful and happy retirement which might last 30 years or longer. If you’re not sure what you are going to do in retirement, how can you find your “sweet spot” in retirement?
When contemplating retirement, many people are concerned because they do not have good answers for themselves to one or more of the following questions:
- What will I do with all the free time I have?
- What do I want to do in retirement?
- How will I keep myself interested, interesting and engaged?
- What can I do to still feel productive and valuable?
If you are nearing retirement and not sure about what you are going to do with your time, the good news is that after working for many years, you have a lot of work and life experience that you can draw on to help yourself find what might make you happy in retirement. By coming up with thoughtful answers to some important questions, you can begin forming a clearer vision for your successful retirement. To begin, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:
- What do I love to do that I never get tired of doing?
- What activity do I like to do that challenges me in new and exciting ways?
- Do I have a special talent that I have neglected while focusing on my career?
- Is there something that I have always wanted to do but never got around to doing?
- How would I like to help make the world better?
Write down your answers to these questions and that should give you a good start to forming some ideas as to what activities, important mission, or pursuits that you would like to enjoy in your retirement years. Once you’ve had time to think about your answers (this could be days or weeks), try writing in your own words one or more passions or pursuits that might make your retirement more enjoyable and meaningful.
For example, I have a client who is a retired teacher. She now tutors underprivileged children in reading and math. I have other clients who enjoy traveling to remote areas of different countries to view and photograph wildlife. Another client is a retired business owner who continues his passion for business by being selectively involved from time to time in smaller ventures run by someone else. A retired physician I work with pursues his passion for learning by taking classes for seniors at local universities, and a retired CEO has become much more active in politics.
Regardless of which activities, passions or pursuits you choose in retirement, one of the most important perspectives for you to have is that you are retiring to something, not from something. This is a beginning of a new phase of life. If you follow your passion, and are willing to try new things and embrace new opportunities and environments, you will find your sweet spot in retirement.