People entering retirement for the first time are heading down a relatively unknown path. Work and the responsibilities of raising a family have been the primary focus up until this point, and we have gotten pretty good at taking care of it all. When we leave work behind, we enter a new world filled with promise and high expectations.
We are entering a time in our life when we hope to do everything we have always wanted to. We are free to choose activities to fill our day. This is our second act, and our time to focus more on our personal passions. Even if we do not know exactly what those passions are, we have the luxury of free time to figure it out. We should allow ourselves to savor the moment.
It is not uncommon to feel pressure to know ahead of time what you will do when you retire. You don't want to waste this valuable time, and so you might feel antsy about getting started on something worthwhile. Rather than slowly evolving into your retirement life, you might jump at the suggestions of others, such as volunteering, traveling to your dream vacation spot, or starting an encore career.
The ink on your exit papers is hardly dry, and you are already trying to fill your day. You haven't even given yourself time to figure out what it is that you really want to be doing. Don't make the mistake of jumping prematurely into something just to be busy, or you may discover yourself engaged in an activity that you really would prefer not to be. Feel free to see how things progress and waste some time.
Instead of immediately jumping into something, take a break from the fast and furious world from which you have just recently graduated. Don't feel guilty about doing nothing. You have earned the right to proceed at your own speed. Don't feel that you have to do anything worthwhile right off the bat. Give yourself time to adjust to your new life status. And don't concern yourself with being productive quite yet. Enjoy your freedom. Take time to settle into the new life you will be living. It is a big change, but it is a positive change.
Your departure from the routines of the working world can be hard to deal with. You may find yourself at a loss for what to do. While working, your day was filled with busy activities that kept you going until quitting time. Now events on your calendar are your responsibility to schedule. But what is wrong with an empty calendar, rather than double and triple bookings of your time? Enjoy the downtime.
It is up to each of us individually to assume responsibility for creating the retirement we want. Insight into what is ahead can help ease the transition. But it is also important to savor the retirement you have earned. Go easy on yourself when you begin. There will be time later to pursue a more organized path and investigate the worthwhile contributions you can make to society. But for the present moment, try not to apply undue pressure or set the bar for productivity too high. Take it slow and steady, and be sure you are ready.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.