Susan Woodward, now 75 and living in Tucson, spent four years of her retirement traveling the country in her RV. She visited national parks and the maritime provinces in Canada, and even spent of that time volunteering. What she remembers most is her first trip, when she headed to Deming, N.M. from Raleigh, N.C. “I had such a sense of freedom, empowerment, expansion. I can’t even explain it,” she said. “It was like the whole world opened up.”
A traditional retirement is not for everyone — some can’t wait to put in their papers, while others dread the day they give up work for fear of having nothing to do, and no meaning to their name.
It’s true that retirement can be a dangerous time for some. Without a sense of purpose, the risk of depression increases, and what should be a relaxing time becomes an anxious one. Studies show that without anything meaningful to do, and “mental exercises” throughout the day, cognitive abilities diminish in early retirees. They should also engage in social activities and find a leisurely activity they can enjoy if they aren’t trying to spend their retirement years still working.
Retirement doesn’t have to be a time just to sit on the couch and catch up on a lot of television, but could be just as engaging as the decades spent working. Woodward is no longer RVing, having to stop because of developing breast cancer, but she still writes about it on her blog. “It’s a special way of life and I’m so glad I took on the challenge of doing it,” she said. “It was one of the best adventures of my life.”
Some financial advisers say they’ve seen clients accomplish a wide variety of goals in their golden years. Many have taken monthlong trips, some have taken yearlong trips. Others have uprooted themselves, while a few have gone back to college or used their experience to provide pro bono help to others. Once near-retirees have thought up some ideas to do in retirement, they should think about ways to support themselves financially in these endeavors, said Kyle Attarian, a wealth adviser at Plancorp Financial Services in St. Louis. “As soon as you dream about it, you should start planning for it,” he said.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas:.
Take an extended trip around the world by plane, boat or RV
A few of Attarian’s clients have taken trips in retirement. One lived on a boat with a captain so he could learn how to steer the boat and then spent almost two years in North and South America visiting different cities and landmarks. Another client couple loved the idea of traveling full time so much, they bought a custom RV and drove around the country. Bucket-list trips are most popular among baby boomers than any other generation, according to a survey of Americans’ travel plans, The Wall Street Journal reports. Still, it’s crucial in this time to remember other important goals, such as building bonds with family members, wrote Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist at Miami Jewish Health Systems in Miami. Seniors should understand that they don’t necessarily have to make themselves happier with these sorts of trips, and that they’ll naturally become happier as they age. “It is the natural result of lower expectations and ambition, less emotional volatility, increased gratitude and acceptance and enhanced problem-solving skills,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
Go back to school
Some retirees may want to go back to school, to learn how to play an instrument, supplement lessons they missed when they were younger, pursue a subject of interest, or take programs that can build their skill set. There are programs specifically designed for seniors, such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is available at 120 university and college campuses around the U.S., including Vanderbilt University and Emory University. Not only can going back to school be exciting and enriching, but it could help retirees who eventually want to go back to work full or part time. Some skills are highly sought after, such as those in accounting, marketing and technology.
Do volunteer or pro bono work
One client dreamed of retiring in a remote log cabin off of a lake after calling it quits from her attorney job, but when she got there, she wasn’t completely satisfied, said Andrew Crowell, vice chairman of the individual investor group and a financial adviser at D.A. Davidson in Los Angeles. She had dreamed of fishing and relaxing, but realized she wanted more. When a large developer had come to the neighborhood looking to develop a lakefront destination resort, she joined a group to fight it, using her legal expertise to draft documents and petitions. “What she did as a profession had meaning and mattered to her,” he said. Having this pro bono work not only gave her social interaction, but kept her in touch with the work she knew and loved. About 60% of Americans regularly volunteer or participate in charity work, according to a 2015 survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to the survey, 70% of retirees said being generous with time and money was a source of happiness, and 85% of retiree volunteers said they developed new friendships through that work. Some retirees can even combine volunteer work with vacations by traveling to give a helping hand.
Push a hobby to the next level
Another client of Crowell’s was an ear, nose, throat surgeon who loved history. After he sold his practice, he became the resident historian in his community as well as becoming more passionate about photography. There are numerous ways to engage in a hobby: for those who like to explore, they can take nature walks and hikes. Readers can participate in a book club. The musically-inclined can join a singing or musical group, and artists can dabble more in painting and drawing. Writers can tackle a new type of fiction or nonfiction, or try to write their life stories. Hobbies, such as reading and socializing, improve brainpower as people age, according to research from Concordia University in Montreal..
Orion Pictures Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection
n Pictures Corp/Courtesy Everett Collecti