After decades of working, saving up, and raising a family, you’re now an official retiree! Take the time to pat yourself on the back. While retirement is often seen as a normal part of life, it takes hard work to be able to retire, especially at the full retirement age (FRA) of 66 years old. Now that you can finally kick your feet up and enjoy your full 24 hours to yourself, the world is your oyster.
However, retirement is more than just sitting around and playing checkers at the park. Although being a retiree should be about rest and relaxation, it doesn’t always come easy. For one, suddenly having nothing to do when you’ve spent literal decades going to work comes with a big adjustment. Moreover, many things don’t cease after retiring, such as maintaining the house, keeping up with social circles, and budgeting your income.
So, yes, apart from traveling, engaging in long-lost hobbies, and spending time with grandkids, there are still a lot of things to do in retirement–and not all of them fit into the picture of the permanent vacation that most retirees have in mind. That said, we’ve come up with some of the best day-to-day changes that you can make to make the next chapter of your life as easy as possible.
1. Plan for the future
While you might already be in the ‘future’ that younger you had in mind, retirement is not the end of your life. You still have to think about the things that the future holds and plan for them accordingly, most especially when you get older than you are now.
No one wants to think about it, but it’s important to acknowledge the possibility of physical decline and loss of independence. You might be fully independent today, but you might still need someone’s help later on, especially when your health starts to decline. With that in mind, make sure that you have a plan in case you need to check into a healthcare facility or if you develop a disability.
For instance, you might want to update your will for when you lose independence altogether. Or maybe plan for home modifications in case you start having difficulty moving around the house. Age-related decline is not a guarantee, but it sure pays to be prepared for it.
2. Find a diet that works for you
Having a healthy diet is one of the most important keys to longevity. This is especially true once you become an older adult and start having a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Therefore, finding a diet that works for your lifestyle, preferences, and current state of health should be a priority in retirement. Work with your GP and/or dietitian to figure out what kind of foods to eat, which nutrients to prioritize, and what foods to avoid altogether. For instance, if you are at risk for heart disease and are used to eating red meats, your healthcare team should be able to help you form an eating pattern that is healthier–but not necessarily less pleasurable.
It is also important that you know how to cook for yourself with this diet. Depending on your cooking skills, ask your dietitian for meals that you can easily prepare every day. This way, you can avoid eating out and depending on others for your meals. And considering that you now have free time to cook, you will likely have an easier time preparing healthy meals for yourself.
3. Build a routine
We, humans, thrive off routine. Before retirement, most of us have a routine set in stone. Get up, go to work, go home, do chores, go to sleep, then wake up to do it all over again. Having a predictable pattern helps us avoid stress, form good sleeping habits, and make efficient use of our time. That said, suddenly having to build a new routine after retirement is one of the reasons why some retirees have difficult adjustment periods.
Building a new routine is the key to having an easier retirement. There may no longer be work and the kids to keep us busy all day, but there are many things that you can fill up your new routine with between the time you wake up and the time you go to sleep.
Here are a few activities that can help keep your routine busy and fulfilling:
- Exercise–be it in the morning, noon, or evening
- Visit the community center, the park, or any other social setting
- Do chores around the house
- Spend time in nature
- Engage in a hobby or learn a new one
- Learn something new, such as a language, a skill, or even something non-productive ● Walk your pet
- Create something, e.g., a book, a poem, a quilt, a painting, etc.
- Cook; explore new cuisines; widen your palate
- Visit loved ones
4. Live below your means
Yes, you deserve to enjoy the money you’ve worked so hard for. But remember that your funds are finite, and it’s important to make sure that that money will last until you pass away.
Living below your means does not mean depriving yourself of the good things in life. Instead, it means spending based on how much you earn while prioritizing the most important things. For
example, if you can afford to go on a six-month-long vacation to a tropical country, why not? But if it’s going to put you into debt, you might want to rethink your priorities.
Getting into debt while in retirement will only create new problems in the future. So, instead of living a lifestyle that you cannot afford, make the necessary changes to keep you in the green. For example, if you want to travel in retirement, save up for it instead of putting the expenses on your credit card. Or, if you want to get into an expensive hobby, allot a budget for it each month so that you don’t go over your income.
5. Stock up
Stocking up on the essentials helps you avoid having to make multiple trips to the grocery store, and thus effectively wasting gas and energy. If you enjoy running errands as part of your routine, you can ignore this tip. But if dropping by the supermarket is just another chore that you dread, stock up on what you need so that you can limit your grocery runs.
As a retiree, stocking up also means you have everything you need in case of emergencies. A storm coming your way? You won’t have to join the panic buyers at the supermarket. Do you have the flu, and no one can drop by to help? No worries, you have the essentials to get you by. Worrying shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary in retirement–and making sure you have what you need easily accessible is a great way to achieve that.
6. Modify your home
At a certain point in time, it will start getting harder to do certain things (true for some, but not for all). For example, you might notice that your knees start to ache whenever you get up from the toilet. Or maybe the front steps are getting more challenging as time goes by. So while making home modifications is certainly not a sign of defeat, it will be necessary at some point.
So if certain activities are a little harder to do, make modifications to make them easier. If getting up from the toilet is a challenge for your knees, get a higher toilet or install a handrail near it. If you can’t be bothered to water the lawn manually anymore, installing an automatic sprinkler system should be on your way. And so on.
There are so many benefits to simply having less stuff in your home. For one, less clutter means less stuff that you have to clean and organize, which is a great help if you have limited space in your home to start with. Furthermore, less physical clutter can also lead to less mental clutter, helping you maintain optimal stress levels and an active mental state.
However, letting go of things can be quite difficult, especially for retirees whose belongings have a lot of sentimental value. Nevertheless, here are some tips that can help you declutter:
- Start slow. Decluttering can be an emotional process; there’s no need to rush into it. Start with a room, or maybe even a closet at first. Take the time to choose which items you want to let go of and which ones you want to keep, then work your way up. Over time, letting go of stuff can become more manageable.
- Have the family take their belongings. If your children and other family members still have belongings in your home, ask them to come by and take them.
- Prioritize donation. Donating your old stuff can make it easier to declutter since you know someone else is going to enjoy them. Prop up a donation box in whatever room you’re decluttering and fill it with items that are still usable and presentable.
- Sell your valuables. For items that you no longer want but still have value, try selling them online or at a yard sale. You can get rid of a lot of stuff and, at the same time, make some extra cash.
- Dig into the hidden spaces. There might be some stuff that you forgot about because they were hidden away somewhere in the house. Try checking in the attic or basement for things that you no longer want or need.
8. Get regular exercise
Proper diet and regular exercise go hand in hand when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. During retirement, most folks experience a decline in physical activity as they are no longer going to work. And even if you have worked at an office all your life, the physical activity that it takes to work and do errands can be a significant difference from not working at all.
That said, make it a point to get regular exercise in retirement. It doesn’t have to be anything intense; even just walking around the neighborhood can be a great help. If you can engage in heavier activities such as cycling or swimming, even better. Aside from keeping your muscles strong and your mind active, engaging in regular exercise is one of the best ways to prevent disease.
9. Embrace technology
Technology might be a scary thing for many older adults, but you’ll find that life can become easier if you embrace it. Smartphones, for one, provide easy access to information, socialization, and even healthcare. Smart home systems, on the other hand, can make day-to-day living easier (Need to find the nearest clinic? Just ask Alexa!) and, for many older adults, safer.
Today’s technology also makes it incredibly easy to keep yourself entertained. With a smartphone or a computer, you can play games, listen to music, watch movies, read a book, and so much more–you’ll find it hard to run out of entertainment options soon enough.
Simple changes can make retirement life so much easier. From getting rid of excess stuff to learning how to use your smartphone, minor adjustments to your life can help you make the most out of your retirement journey–especially now that you have a new routine to build, new goals to achieve, and a future to look forward to.