What Do I Do When I Retire?

The part about how much money will I need and will it sustain my lifestyle indefinitely is really the easy part.

Most financial advisors and insurance agents will be happy to give you the answer to “your number”.

But the more important question is, what will I do with the time I now have when I am retired?  Babysitting the grandkids will only take you so far.  They will, in time, grow up and go to school and have after-school activities to attend, and of course, play-dates.  They won’t need you around anymore.

Now what?

For most retirees, this is really the hard part.  You have an open book to fill.  The daily routine of 35 years is now behind you and you must create a reason to get out of bed every morning.  Not very easy to do.

I have often counseled clients to look at a time in your life when you had the power to do what you wanted to do and found some very exciting things to fill it with.  This usually occurs between the ages of 6 and 10.  During that time, you were capable of most activities of daily living: you could wash yourself, feed yourself if you had to (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, baloney sandwiches, etc.), dress yourself (maybe not to match but who cared?), and be responsible for getting home on time.  You were liberated physically from your parents, but not yet at the stage where peer pressure intervened and determined you were either cool or not cool.  You didn’t really care yet about fitting in.

During this time, you developed the “when I grow up I wanna be” scenarios and for some of us, we made those dreams come true.  I pictured myself as a woman in a suit carrying a briefcase but I think I was planning on being a lawyer.  That didn’t happen but I came awfully close.

I also discovered I could build tree houses in the low trees behind our house.  I was so delighted when one of my neighbors decided to remodel his first floor and left tons (it seemed to me at the time) of old wood and nails in the garbage behind his house.  I thought I hit the mother lode.  I took those pieces of wood and built the tree house and thought I had built a mansion.  When the mean kids in the neighborhood tore it down one night, I wanted to find them and do something really nasty to them.  They later told me it was the “stupidest” tree house they’d ever seen.  Probably…

But what I learned is that I enjoyed the vision of what could be from the chaos (or garbage) someone else left behind.  That is a skill I can use in volunteer work; I can go into a social service agency and see where they might be able to use the resources they have to build a better tree house.

Go back to the time you were between the ages of 6 and 9 and see if there are any activities you loved to do and could be translated into skills you can use to help in the community, or start a business, or find some others who could do that “thing” with you.

You can make this the most rewarding and fun time of your life.


Photo Credit:  Debora Capucci


Comments are closed.

  1. Carolyn McLaughlin-Smith 7 years ago

    Very thought provoking – thanks for sending.

  2. Jan 7 years ago

    So thought provoking that I wonder if I’ll get anything that I planned to do done today. 😎
    At that age I was either exploring the woods or riding my imaginary horses on some adventure. As an adult, I enjoyed riding my real horses but with age I find that a bit risky. I do plan to continue hiking in the woods and mountains. Our first retirement cruise is designed to include lots of walking in many new and interesting places around the British Isles. I hadn’t really thought about why I had picked that cruise. Interesting.

  3. Elaine 7 years ago

    Great article Lynn and very timely. Retired 2 years and still not sure “what I want to be when I grow up”. I now have made a promise to myself that each day I will accomplish something, even if it’s taking a walk. Hardest adjustment of my life.
    Thanks, Lynn


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