Retiring from the workforce can be a chance to reconnect with your greatest passions and most important goals—it all depends on what you choose to do in your retirement. You can try new experiences, develop new skills, and devote more time to the people and hobbies you love. It's all up to you.
As a retiree, you no longer have to deal with work-related deadlines; you are free to have fun and do what you want, on your own terms. Plus, even though your income might be lower than it was when you were working full-time, you can take advantage of a huge array of senior discounts, and you may be free of certain financial burdens like a mortgage, student loans, and credit card debt. In fact, a Merrill Lynch survey revealed that people feel happier, more relaxed, and less anxious in retirement than at any other time in their adult lives.
During a person's working years, leisure often means relaxing and getting away from structure. But in retirement, it's more about engaging in activity and connecting with people. So we've identified a wide range of activities that can help keep you physically active, mentally stimulated, and engaged in opportunities for socialization and fulfillment.
But remember: Retirement is all about freedom and choice. These ideas are just a starting point—use them as inspiration for charting your own path!
Without the restrictions of full-time work, how do you envision spending your hours? In the Merrill Lynch survey of adults over age 50, 95 percent of respondents said they would rather focus on having more enjoyable experiences than on buying more stuff. And financial constraints had little impact on most retirees' ability to enjoy life. In fact, more than 88 percent of retirees across all income levels said they had increased flexibility and freedom to do the things they wanted to do.When you retire, you suddenly find yourself with all the time in the world. So, what are you going to do with it?
Satisfy your wanderlust! With no limits on your vacation time, you can get out and explore the world. Retirees have the flexibility to go on extended holidays and take advantage of last-minute deals. Many enjoy regular trips dedicated to biking, golf, shopping, or the arts. Some stick to domestic destinations, while others go further afield to explore places like the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America.
In a survey of more than 1,300 American retirees, author Wes Moss found that the happiest ones took an average of 2.4 vacations each year. Here's more good news: A study in Applied Research in Quality of Life has shown that simply planning a trip can boost happiness levels because you are anticipating the good times to come.
Here are a few senior travel ideas to consider:
Rent or buy a trailer or motorhome and hit the open road. Make a goal of dipping a toe in each ocean, driving the entire length of Route 66, or visiting every national park in the country. If you're over 62, you can get a lifetime federal parks pass for only $80; in some cases, the pass also gives you significant discounts on camping and boat launch fees.
Become a campground host. Many campgrounds and RV parks provide free campsites and amenities in exchange for help with tasks like collecting fees, enforcing rules, and tidying the grounds. Campground hosting jobs might last for a few weeks or for an entire season; they are often volunteer positions, but some provide a small stipend. This can be a great way to travel for less cost.
Trade houses. Exchange houses with like-minded travelers and take advantage of completely free holiday accommodations. House swapping provides an immersive experience and allows you to live like a local. Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway in a nearby region or an extended vacation abroad, you can find options to suit you. Websites like Home Exchange 50plus and HomeExchange.com cater to older adults; membership fees vary.
Take a cruise. Do you dream of a vacation at sea? Cruises are popular among retirees because they offer an almost-all-inclusive experience that allows you to see different places every day. In fact, an AARP study found that 37 percent of baby boomers who traveled internationally did so on a cruise ship. And cruising may be more affordable than you think: Major lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean offer discounts on some sailings for travelers over the age of 55.
Retirement could be the perfect time to get that degree you've always wanted or just learn more about a subject that fascinates you. Every state offers options for free or discounted college tuition for older adults, although age requirements vary.
If you're more interested in gaining knowledge than acquiring formal credentials, you may want to check out one of the lifelong learning programs sponsored by the Bernard Osher Foundation. Programs are aimed at adults over 50 and are offered through colleges and universities across the country. Courses are fairly inexpensive (some cost as little as $35), but they do not come with college credit.
Plus, there are plenty of ways to expand your mind without spending any money. Listen to a podcast or TED talk. Visit museums and science centers—many have free admission on certain days or for seniors in general. Or consider massive open online courses (MOOCs) that offer free college-level training in a huge range of areas, including web design, game development, communication, chemistry, music, art, economics, psychology, and more.
Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose and allows you to contribute to a greater good. Almost one-quarter of retirees volunteer on a regular basis, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Identify the types of organizations you're interested in and see if they can use your abilities. You could work with Meals on Wheels, teach English to immigrants, become a Scout leader, or build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Check out VolunteerMatch to research opportunities in your area. (Or consider opportunities overseas: There is no age limit for joining the Peace Corps!)
Being physically active comes with a whole host of health benefits: You can improve your flexibility, boost your immune system, and keep your heart and lungs healthy. Playing sports is also an easy way to meet new people and have fun. Bocce, pickleball, bowling, golf, tennis, and water aerobics are just some of the sports that are popular among retirees. You could join a team for older adults or use your athletic expertise to coach younger people.
And just because you're retired doesn't mean you have to give up serious competition. The National Senior Games Association sponsors an Olympic-style competition for the 50-plus crowd that features 20 sports, including cycling, archery, horseshoes, power walking, volleyball, shuffleboard, badminton, and table tennis. Participants must qualify at the state level before going on to the national games.
You can keep fit and stay active even if you're not the sporty type. Participating in an exercise class for seniors is a good way to stay accountable for your fitness goals. Low-impact activities like swimming, biking, and tai chi are excellent ways to boost your endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Join a gym, train for a marathon, take up yoga for seniors, or become part of a walking group. As an added bonus, being more active over the course of the day will help you get a better sleep at night.
Meeting with other people who share your interests is a fantastic way to make new friends and expand your knowledge. Check with your local seniors' center to see what types of groups are active in your area. Clubs centered around books, films, walking, gardening, and quilting are common. If you can't find a group that's focused on your particular interest, think about starting your own.