120 Big Ideas for What to Do in Retirement

what to do in retirement

You’ve spent at least a little time thinking about what to do in retirement. Where will you go? What will you see? It doesn’t matter, not really. You’ve got lots of options, and you certainly don’t have to settle on only one of them.

Maybe you’ll pursue painting. Or perhaps skydiving is more up your alley. Think that’s crazy? Geraldine Watson did her first skydive at the age of 85, and she told Senior Planet that she loved it! She said she’d do it again, but now she’s more interested in traveling to Paris.

Retirees don’t live a static life. Things change, and that’s ok. These are your rules, and you get to adapt them as you see fit. What you dream about today might be radically different from what you want a few years into retirement. And with Americans living longer now than ever before, it’s time to start dreaming bigger.

Here are 25 relaxing, exciting, rewarding, simple and challenging ways you could find a perfect retirement life balance.  And — if you are overwhelmed by your choices, skip to the bottom of this article for tips to help you figure out what to do after retirement.

#1 What to Do in Retirement? Do What Makes You Happy

A lot of items on this list talk about doing something amazing.  But that is not the real point.  You don’t have to be the best, the first, the oldest or the most.

Retirement is the time when it should not matter if you are keeping up with the Jones’.  Now is the time to do what makes you happy.  You can enjoy the little things or you can swing for the fences.  You can make a difference to your own loved ones or volunteer and change lives in your community. You might make a fortune doing what you love or you can make ends meet while pursuing your passion.

The scale of  your endeavors should not matter.

Think hard and make sure that what you do after retirement matters to YOU.

#2 See the World or Your Corner of It

Travel ranks near the top of a lot of what to do in retirement wish lists. Some retirees have a certain city they’ve always wanted to visit. And for others, a more consistent schedule of travel is a lot more exciting. You don’t have to cross an ocean to have a great travel experience. You could travel through North America and never see it all. Even travel within your own state could yield experiences that you didn’t know were there.

The life of a traveler is varied. Some people buy an RV, and some love to take a train. Of course flying will take you practically everywhere. As for lodging, retirees can get creative. Book hotels, if that’s your thing. Or check out Airbnb, a new service that connects travelers with private B & B experiences in the U.S. and around the world.

#3 Become an Entrepreneur

Didn’t you just leave a steady job? Why would you think about working again? Many retirees do. The idea of being your own boss can be awfully appealing. Your business can be anything you’re good at or want to try. Open a shop or provide a service. It’s your ballgame.

The Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation gave testimony in 2014 before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. In part, this testimony explained that about 1/4 of all new businesses started in that year were owned by people aged 55 to 64.

#4 Head to Summer Camp

Summer camp isn’t just for kids. It is as fun to do in retirement as it was as a kid. The grown up version is less likely to give you a case of poison ivy, and more likely to offer a range of experiences that far outpace any wilderness camp that your kids might have gone to. There’s a grown-up camp for fishing, fitness, race car driving, acting and more.

Chances are if you have an interest, there’s a camp for it. How about a spa camp? grownupcamps.com is a directory of camps for adults. They don’t own the camps but rather help people find them. The list of possibilities is enormous. Have you ever wanted to learn about crime scene investigation? There’s a camp for that.

what to do after retirement

#5 Don’t Retire, Take a Sabbatical Instead

What to do after retirement? Go back to work! More and more people in their 50s and 60s are taking anywhere from a few months to a year off from work.  The sabbatical or  temporary break from work could give you the chance to enjoy the benefits of retirement without taking the official plunge.

A sabbatical could be a week, a month, three months, a year, or it could be longer.

How much time you take off for your mini retirement might be dependent on your goals for the sabbatical.  The length of time might also be determined by your finances and the needs of your employer.

Learn more about this sneaky way to get an “early retirement.”

#6 Relocate Seasonally

Heading south for the winter isn’t a new idea, but what about going north when the heat is too much? Maybe you want to live closer to the kids, but not all the time. Or if you’ve never experienced the holidays in the mountains (or at the beach), that’s a possibility, too.

Buying vacation home someplace else lets you have the best of everything without giving up your roots. But that’s not the only way to relocate seasonally. If you’re in the north and want to head south (or any other configuration), house swap services match you with another homeowner who wants the opposite, and you trade houses temporarily. There are also international house swappers like in the movie, The Holiday.

Worried about money?  If you migrate seasonally, it is likely you can find employment to service the vacationers!  You might look into being a camp ground host, ski slope attendant, lifeguard, etc…

#7 Things to Do in Retirement — Grow a Garden

Working outdoors when the weather is nice makes life worth living, at least for some people. And studies suggest that gardening is an activity that can add years to your life.

Gardening comes in many forms. Some people love growing vegetables, and some prefer the beauty of a flower garden. Or you could do both, and there is a lot of variety in either direction. There’s so much to learn about growing plants. If it’s your passion, you might create new plants through grafting, become an expert at composting, or pamper roses and vegetables that you sell at a market.

#8 Write a Book

There’s no education requirement for writing a book, and you can write anything that you like. Life experiences might be great inspiration for a how-to book. If you’ve led a most interesting life, you might have plenty of fodder for a compelling memoir. And what about the next Great American Novel?

You’ve got two basic approaches for writing. If you want to self-publish, Amazon lets you write, upload, create a book cover, and more. If traditional publishing is more your style, the road is a little tougher but you’ll have a team on your side.

#9 Remember that You Are Actually Only as Old as You Feel

Your age is only a number.  It should not define what you do in retirement.  Don’t believe me?  Look at these amazing accomplishments by 70, 80 and 90 year olds!

Furthermore, consider that Pablo Picasso was still producing art in his 90s.   Thomas Edison invented the telephone at age 84.  Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book when she was 64.  And, just look at the presidential nominees in 2016 — many of the front runners are in their 70s.

#10 What to Do After Retirement? Become a Teacher

Some brand new teachers enter the arena as a second career. Is this something you’d like to consider? The National Education Association says you could expect, on average, a salary of about $36,000 for teaching full time. If you want to teach in a traditional setting, whether public or private schools or colleges, you’ll probably need additional education. But that’s not the only way to earn a living as a teacher.

There’s a new company called Udemy that allows you to teach what you know using their platform. It’s sort of a clearinghouse for unconventional learning. You decide what to teach, create the curriculum using their software, and they help students find you. Maybe your family’s cooking is the best on Earth, or maybe you’re an expert-level knitter. In whatever you’re an expert, you can be a teacher.

Online tutoring is another booming opportunity.

things to do in retirement

#11 Volunteer for a Worthy Cause

Volunteering lets you give back to the community in ways that often benefit the volunteer just as much. And because you’re not in it for a paycheck, you can be much choosier about the organizations that you help.

A study by the Center for Social Development, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, in St. Louis reports, “Older adults who volunteer and who engage in more hours of volunteering report higher levels of well-being.” This study ways that the benefits of volunteering are the same no matter your gender, race or social status.

#12 Remodel Your House

If you intend to retire in your own home or even if you want to sell, retirement is a good time for remodeling. You can alter your home to fit a new lifestyle, or improve it to boost value and get a better market price.

Improvements might include a new master suite on the first floor, a safer bathroom, kitchen upgrades, a new workshop for hobbies or anything else your heart desires. This is also a good time to be sure that your home is in top condition. If you need a new roof or HVAC system, replacing it now means less to worry about later.

#13 Downsize Your Home — Find the Best Place for You to Retire

Maybe remodeling isn’t for you.  Maybe your home isn’t for you either!

Most of us live in homes that we bought with dreams of raising our children.  Now, most of our children are grown and gone (hopefully…) and we can think about where we want to live for retirement.  Here are some lists of the best places to retire.

Moving when you retire can be great for your lifestyle, it can also be great for your finances.  If you can buy a less expensive home, then you can lower your monthly expenses and maybe even use home equity for retirement expenses.

#14 Become a Consultant

Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your skills no longer have any value. Many employers are faced with a conundrum. New, recent grad employees are on the cutting edge in many ways. But seasoned pros with loads of experience will eventually retire. A happy medium for you might be consulting, which lets you work less and call more of your own shots.

A Merrill Lynch study on working in retirement explains that the concept of retiring has fundamentally changed. Before, there was a sharp delineation between work life before retiring and leisure afterward. Now, there’s pre-retirement, a 2-year period of “career intermission” (which more than half of retirees take), and then a brand new stage that could take you a number of different directions, including consulting work.

#15 Maintain Your Retirement Plan

No matter what else you are doing on this list, maintaining your retirement plan is something that all of us must do.

It is important to assess your financial situation every 3-6 months.  You need to know if you are going to have enough money to do what you want to do in retirement — for as long as you live (no matter how long that turns out to be).

A good retirement calculator can help you with these assessments.  The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator is a detailed and highly personalized tool that saves your information so it is easy to update.  Best of all, the planner gives you immediate feedback on the impact of any updates on your overall financial health.

#16 An Important Thing to Do in Retirement: Stay Vital

Having a place to go. Having people (or animals) that rely on you.  Maintaining a schedule.  Being social. Having a purpose.  Learning new things.  These are all activities that are scientifically proven to keep you healthy and happy.

#17 Learn to Play an Instrument — Learn Anything!

Even if you don’t think that you have a musical bone in your body, you might find an instrument that you really love to play. Piano is a common starting point, and so is guitar. Don’t forget that your voice is also an instrument. You could take banjo lessons and voice lessons, too.

Not only does learning to play an instrument help enrich your life, it’s also a pursuit without end. Even the greatest musicians in the world still practice frequently and learn new things.

And learning new things is a great way to keep your brain healthy and functioning.

what to do in retirement

#18 What to Do in Retirement? Get in the Best Shape of Your life

As the saying goes, if you’ve got your health you’re already rich. Fitness is another lifelong pursuit, and this one can make retirement life better in almost every way. You’ll have more energy, a healthier body and a happier mindset, too.

Fitness offers so much variety that you never need to grow bored with it. There are classes for yoga, Pilates, spinning and more. The Centers for Disease Control also says that weight training relieves arthritis, improves balance, increases bone density, manages weight and diabetes, strengthens the heart, and makes sleep better and more restful.

#19 Grow Your Friend Base

Too often, retirees stick progressively closer and closer to home as time moves on. What might have been a rich circle of friends could dwindle more and more until only a few remain in your life. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying being alone, friends help you stay connected to the world and give you a greater sense of purpose.

It’s also a good idea to find some younger friends. Spending time with someone in a different age bracket exposes you to new experiences, and it works the same for them.

#20 Make a Permanent Move

Have you always wanted to live in the country or city, but couldn’t because of family or work limitations? In retirement, there’s nothing holding you back.

Selling your home also lets you downsize with a little profit. Depending on where you move, you could buy a small home or condo for cash and have some left over for your retirement fund.

Retirement

#21 Become an Expert at Anything

You’ve probably had a lot of life experiences and dreamed about others that never happened. Did you ever think about becoming a brilliant chef but didn’t have the time to go after it? Or did you once think about developing your mechanic skills but couldn’t follow through?

Retirement is the perfect time to turn an interest into something that you master. You could create the next great thing in pottery, or fine-tune your woodworking skills. Whatever you pursue, plan to become an expert. And then pass that knowledge on.

#22 Think About the Future

With longer lifespans, most retirees enjoy a longer retirement than any of their ancestors did. But living to 100 doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same at 98 as you did at 70. In time, everyone loses at least a bit of drive to go-go-go.

Re-evaluate your retirement periodically and make adjustments as you see fit. The more you plan ahead, the less likely you’ll find yourself in a situation where you need care but can’t pay for it, want to be near family but can’t move, or any other of the number of surprises that might creep up over the years.

#23 Become Your Own Financial Guru

While you’re in the active saving and investing stage before retirement, you might look to an expert to help guide you in the right direction. But the time will come when you glide into maintenance mode. From there, you can probably manage it on your own as long as you keep learning and stay in touch with what’s happening in the financial world.

It’s entirely possible to become a self-made financial expert. Read everything that you can, including good blogs. And start watching TV shows about finance. Soon you’ll know what disintermediation, econometrics and other terms mean without calling a financial planning expert, because you’ll be the expert.

#24 Keep up With Technology

The millennial generation is the first to grow up in a world where the internet has always been around to some degree. Older generations had a lot of life experience without it, or any of the usual gadgets. And sometimes technology is quite confusing.

Keeping up with technology throughout retirement gives you a lot of freedom, and it also helps you enjoy more of the benefits of living in a rapidly advancing era. So be afraid of it. Embrace technology, and keep on learning.

#25  Spend Time with Your Grandkids

A Welsh proverb says: “Perfect love does not come until you have your first grandchild.”

If you are looking for things to do in retirement, you might want to think about things you can do with your grandchildren.  There is something unbelievably special about being a grandparent.  You get all the magic of the child and not as much of the burden.

Retirement can be a wonderful time to spend time with your grandchildren.  You can share experiences that are important to you and learn about things that are important to them.  They can keep you young and you can help them grow up.

#26 – 120 What to Do in Retirement? Find a Hobby!

You are nearing the end of this list… Are you still looking for what to do after retirement?

Here is a long list of 94 possible hobbies.

ABCs of Hobbies: Activism. Amateur Radio. Antiquing. Aquariums. Archery. Art. Astronomy. ATVs. Badmitton. Baking. Baton twirling. Baseball. Basketball. Beekeeping. Beach clean up. Biking. Birding.  Board games. Book club. Boomerangs. Brewing Beer. Bridge. Calligraphy. Camping. Cartooning. Casinos. Chess. Collage. Collecting. Composing Music. Cooking. Crafting. Crochet. Crossfit. Crossword puzzles.

DEFGHIJKL of Hobbies: Dancing. Darts. Daydreaming. DJ. Drones. Electronics. Entertaining. Fashion design. Fencing. Fishing. Flower arranging. Football. Flying. Four wheeling. Genealogy. Geochaching. Geology. Golf. Graffiti. Hot air balloons. Hiking. Horses. Hunting. Inventing. Jewelry making. Joining a Band. Journaling. Juggling. Kayaking. Kites. Knitting. Lawn bowling. Letter writing.

MNOP of Hobbies: Mah jong. Make movies. Marathons. Martial Arts. Metal Detecting. Mixology. Museums. Models. Motorcycles. Mycology (mushrooms). Orienteering. Origami. Paintball. Painting. Paragliding. Playing an Instrument. Photography. Ping pong. Poker. Pottery. Printing in 3d.  Puppetry.

RSTUVWXYZ of Hobbies: Reading. Remote control cars. Rock climbing. Robotics. Roller skating. Rowing. Running. Sailing. Sandcastles.  Scuba. Sculpting. Senior olympics. Sewing. Singing in a choir. Skiing. Snorkeling. Snowboarding. Soccer. Socializing. Storm chasing. Swimming. Surfing. Tai Chi. Tennis. Theater — try out for a local theater production. Trampolines. Topiary. Upcycling. Volleyball. Water colors. Wine making. Wine tasting.  Woodshop. Wood carving.  Writing. Yoga. Yo yos.  Ziplining. Zoology. Zumba.

Maybe you make it a goal to try all the above.  Or, just choose one or two and get really into it.

How to Choose What to Do in Retirement?

Almost nobody thinks of retirement as winding down anymore. Some people plan to never stop working at all. And some want to experience as much of the world as possible, with finally enough time to do it.

This list shows that there are so many different options.

For most of us, the trouble is how to choose what to do in retirement.  Here are a few questions to to help you with that decision:

  1. When you were a child, what did you love most?  What did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. On your deathbed, will you have any regrets?  Anything you wished you would have done? Not done?
  3. Look over this list of quotations about retirement, does anything resonate with you?
  4. What is your favorite movie or book?  What does that tell you about what is important to you?
  5. Who matters to you?
  6. If money were not a problem, what would you be doing now ?
  7. Describe your ideal day?  Would you want to do this every day? Could you?

There simply is no shortage of pursuits for people who are out of the classic workforce. You might want a peaceful life where everything moves at your own pace. Or you might want the exciting environment of a city with a strong pulse. Or maybe your retirement will include a little bit of everything. You don’t have a pick a course right now. But it’s never too soon to dream.

Of course, we do need to remind you that no matter what you choose to do in retirement, it is important that you have a great financial plan.  Use the NewRetirement Retirement Calculator to help you know what you can afford to do. 

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