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Top 10 Tips to Successfully Adjust to Retirement

Entering retirement can feel like an unprecedented change for all of us, regardless of employment history. Even if you worked part-time jobs in the last years of your employment, you may find that the extra time (and lack of direction) is a cause for concern. Fortunately, there have been many seniors ahead of you on the retirement path who have added "adjusting to retirement" as one of their life accomplishments.

Get perspective on this new phase of your personal journey with our list of what to do in retirement.

1. Give yourself time (and space)

While retirement is full of positives, such as more time with loved ones and a sense of accomplishment, there are some genuine losses to grieve, too. In addition to losing the day-to-day interaction with co-workers and clients, you may find a loss of purpose without a career. This is natural, and wishing it to end faster won’t make it rush along.

Allow yourself a little grieving time, much like you would do when losing a loved one. If you feel upset or depressed, try to connect with someone you can talk to. You may also find a professional can offer the listening ear that a spouse or other loved one can't. Don't expect yourself to feel any particular way, at least for a while, and instead allow yourself the run of emotions as you adjust.

2. Create structure

While you’re giving yourself space to accept your new life, you can also start making plans. You may need small, daily tasks with a loose schedule so that you don't become overwhelmed with so much unstructured time.

From setting an alarm for waking and eating a hearty breakfast to getting to bed at a decent hour, providing yourself with some normalcy early on will help you ease into your retirement lifestyle.

It will also discourage some of the unhealthy habits that can come from just leaving everything to chance. Overeating, sleep disturbances, and lack of exercise are all signs that you need something more to do. Try to find one thing you can do weekly that you can put on the calendar and look forward to.

3. Revisit your relationships

One idea for a weekly scheduled activity is to spend time with a friend, either old or new. If you have friends you neglected to spend time with during your busy career years, now is the time to reconnect and give them more of your time.

However, don’t expect everyone to just drop what they are doing to spend time with you. You may have more free time, but they will still have obligations of their own. If you struggle to find good candidates for a regular meetup, try making new friends through a senior center or community group. Newly-retired adults who are going through the same transitional challenges make especially good companions.

4. Set some goals

While you don’t want to put too much pressure on this stage of your life, it’s appropriate to begin thinking about those things you’ve always wanted to do. Make your goals small, manageable, and realistic at first.

Center your goals on categories of life priorities, such as experiences, learning, finance, or health. Looking for ideas? Some choose to review their portfolios with a financial advisor, while others opt for a cruise around Europe.

Write down the goal you really want to see happen. Studies show that documenting goals is a key to accomplishing them. One study even reported that more vivid documentation (such as including pictures, videos, or drawings) can increase the chance of you actually achieving those goals.

5. Get to work

You may have put your career behind you, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop working forever. Whether you pick up a part-time job to interact with people or you spend your days volunteering, you have a wealth of knowledge and skills to contribute to a business or organization. Just be mindful of how income affects your Social Security or retirement plans.

6. Revise your budget

One of the best pieces of retirement advice you can follow is to look at your new income and expenses. Even if you retire comfortably with a nice pension or nest egg, you need to ensure you can keep up with new costs, such as Medicare premiums. Look at inflation, too, which can cut into a healthy budget. Create a new spending plan as soon as you find the time post-retirement.

7. Get moving

Brochures or commercials promoting the retirement lifestyle make it seem like you'll be lounging on beaches and enjoying peaceful naps in hammocks. While plenty of rest and relaxation is great, you also need to find a few ways to get your heart rate up.

Physical activity isn't just good for your body; it's essential for warding off depression and even dealing with mental decline. Focus on all the areas of physical fitness: balance, flexibility, cardio, and strength. If you need help, visit a personal trainer or exercise therapist that specializes in senior activity.

This is also the perfect time to see if your Medicare plan includes fitness-related activities. With KelseyCare Advantage, for example, all members receive free access to the SilverSneakers fitness program. This is an exciting, fun, and no-cost way to make sure you stay active—and social!

8. Expand your mind

No one is suggesting you go back to college, although people your age are doing just that! However, when you learn a new skill—either by taking a course or learning on your own—you’re filling your time in an excellent way and reducing retirement anxiety.

Whether you pick up a new language, discover the art of tying your own fishing flies, or decide to perfect that cake recipe, anything that challenges your brain is a winning idea. Older age often brings confidence you didn’t have in your youth, which makes now the time to try learning something that seemed too challenging before.

9. Share your knowledge

Would you be surprised to know that the best things to do after retirement may include teaching? You don’t need an education degree to be qualified to pass on knowledge. In fact, mentoring often requires you to simply listen and pass on some life experience to those who need support.

Some ideas include formal mentoring through a nonprofit or spending more time with a grandchild or neighbor. Offering your expertise can be just what others need to get through challenging times. It can lift you up, too!

10. Be still

If all this talk of activity and goals has you thinking you must always be busy, think again. It’s also appropriate (and recommended) to pause and reflect in a healthy way. From yoga and meditation, to prayer and observing nature, there are a number of ways to refocus and allow yourself to truly be present in this new phase of life. This is an especially important tip if you feel overwhelmed by this major life change.

What not to do in retirement

As many good ideas are on this list, there are a few things to avoid when you stop working. These include watching too much television, withdrawing from your friends and family, and neglecting to take care of yourself through regular physician visits and hygiene.

Remember, you worked hard all those years to enjoy your retirement. But you'll still have some maintenance work to do, and staying vigilant is just as important now as ever. If you struggle to keep on top of tasks, ask a spouse or another accountability partner to hold you to the task. You want to be in the best shape possible to enjoy these Golden Years.

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