By Robert Powell
During your working years, time is money. But in retirement, time is, well, leisure.
Trouble is, very few pre-retirees are taking the time to figure out what they are going to do with all their free time in retirement, according to Merrill Lynch’s study “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List.”
Here’s what experts say you should do to plan for all the leisure time in your golden years.
• Don’t retire without a plan. Retirement will be the first time since you were 5 when your days will be “nearly completely unstructured,” says Dirk Cotton, who retired 11 years ago from a Fortune 500 company. And without something to do, you’ll likely be unhappy.
“We have a lot of evidence that your happiness in retirement will be strongly correlated to your enjoyment of the activities you pursue,” Cotton says.
So, don’t retire until you have a sense of what you’d like to do to fill your days. “It is possible, though I’d guess unlikely, that you will stumble upon something you love soon after retiring,” he says. “It is also possible that you will plan to do something you think you will love and grow tired of it. What you love to do may well evolve throughout retirement.”
• Expect your plans to change. That’s exactly what happened to Cotton. He retired with plans to travel and fly-fish. Instead, he finds himself “extremely busy and unbelievably happy” doing things neither he nor his financial adviser could have foreseen. He’s blogging, conducting retirement research, providing financial advice and watching college baseball, especially the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
Others also recommend planning for change. “Life always changes — always,” says Farrell Dolan, who retired nine years ago from Fidelity Investments and founded Dolan Associates, a consulting firm specializing in income planning. “Transitions are the norm, and people shouldn’t stress out because they don’t have a locked-down ‘plan for life.’”
• Did work define who you were? Consider, too, that you might have a hard time transitioning into retirement if work defined you.
To make that transition smoother, Dolan suggests asking yourself: What are the key areas you want to focus your time and attention on? Then rank them. In Dolan’s case, he wanted to spend more meaningful time with family and friends; consciously undertake “pleasurable activities” and volunteer. He even, at least in the early days of retirement, “roughly apportioned his time among those areas.”
• Consider a life coach; not a financial planner. Cotton cautions pre-retirees against using a financial planner to help plan their leisure time in retirement. A life coach might be more help. “I’ve never met a financial planner I thought might also be an expert life coach,” he says. “Look elsewhere for that help.”
• Search for a second act. Working for a non-profit in retirement might be another way to spend your time. “Use the gift of time and health by focusing your skills and experience gained over a lifetime to create second acts for the greater good,” says David Guydan, director of the Discovering What’s Next Program at ESC of New England.
His organization offers “resources and seminars to change the way people and society think about what’s possible in the second half of life as they seek purpose in their work (either for pay or volunteer), engagement in their communities, and balance in their lives.”
• Plan for longevity, too. Planning for leisure time is important. But it should be done in the context of your entire retirement plan, and the possibility that you could live a long life, says Michael Hodin, the chief executive officer of the Global Coalition on Aging.
Assume you’re going to be active into your 80s or even past 100, Hodin says. “That will mean a life course of ongoing education and training for multiple jobs and exploration of different careers paths.”
• Stay calm. No matter what, pre-retirees should not worry too much about filling all their leisure time. “Enjoy the uncertainty, the evolution, and embrace the daily changes,” Dolan says. “Remember, you drive it; it doesn’t drive you.”
• No easy answers. The problem of trying to figure out what to do in retirement isn’t unlike the problem that many, many young people have deciding on a career. “How do you help someone else figure out what they will love to do?” asks Cotton. “There is no easy solution to their problem. Fortunately, the world needs baristas while they wait.”
Use the gift of time and health by focusing your skills and experience gained over a lifetime to create second acts for the greater good.
Making An Impact
A new Target ad featuring a girl with a disability is getting an outpouring of support from parents applauding the retailer for including kids with special needs in its campaign.
The advertisement, included in Target’s weekly mailer, shows a number of kids wearing different Halloween costumes. One of the children is a young girl with leg braces, dressed as Frozen’s Queen Elsa. It was a casting decision that didn’t go unnoticed by Jen Spickenagel Kroll, who posted a note on Facebook thanking the store.
In Another’s Words
“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.”
– Mattie Stepanek (Poet)