59 Tips for the Retirement Transition

59 Tips for the Retirement Transition based on my personal experience
  1.  Working part-time and in a consultancy role for another business to that in which I had spent nearly all my working life, for the 3 years before retirement, was a sensible decision. I certainly think I would have struggled much more with the concept of retirement in the early days if I had gone straight from being a full-time partner in my own business to total retirement. Also as the big retirement day beckons there will be inevitable moments of panic and self-doubt as well as excitement. Remember, you are not alone in this enormous experience; aim to enjoy it; it is the rest of your life.
  2. It was necessary to consider the financial implications and to use a professional to make the resources we have accumulated work for us in retirement, as well as gaining a very clear view of our expenditure. Like it or not, retirement needs planning and should not be winged. Inevitably it is hard to determine just how much you are going to need to live on. However, you are not alone and there are plenty of blogs and other websites out there offering free advice and sharing experiences. I even bought some books to read by way of preparation and am pleased to have been advised of an apparent correlation between saving and life expectancy. It can seem scary at first when the regular monthly pay cheque ceases but time engenders confidence.
  3. There are habits of mind to overcome in the early days and of which habits I was previously unaware. In my case the most noticeable were the voids created when I no longer had case files to fret over during the night or when driving.
  4. There are practical re-arrangements to be made at home including, I realised very quickly, in my wardrobe.
  5. For me, avoiding routine really works, certainly in the initial stages, although I know that it is contrary to most people's instincts and you have to work hard sometimes to achieve it.
  6. From Day 1 of retirement I was more active as I escaped the chains of the office desk; in turn I slept better but also felt less tired during the day. Nonetheless I was not fit and ended up making this one of my very first priorities signing up for a fitness challenge at the gym, taking exercise classes I had never previously considered and pushing myself beyond my previous limitations. In due course my quest for fitness extended to a review of my weight and BMI and in which connection I found My Fitness Pal, an app that counts calories and their expenditure, as well as an online course on nutrition invaluable. Strength training as well as aerobic exercise is needed. However, whilst you can never get too much exercise (the aim being at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day), you do have to remember to stretch out afterwards.
  7. Walking helps keep you fit and healthy seems to be the generally accepted wisdom these days and old friends proved it to us when they joined us in the Lake District. Just how far you have to walk to get fit, I am unsure. Don't forget the importance of maintaining the ability to balance too, in later life it can help prevent falls and aid independence.
  8. Obesity is a world issue that we are now familiar with. I am constantly aware of the battle between exercise and food to which retirement provides no easy solution. There may be more opportunity for physical activity but equally there's ample opportunity for eating!
  9.  Smaller appetite or trying to lose those extra pounds? Try going out for coffee instead of lunch or even better a walk. If you mix eating out with walking, then of necessity you have to walk further. The good news is that if you begin to lose significant weight as you age, eating cake, cream and chocolate is viewed as good for you!
  10. However much you enjoy decorating, fitness classes and workouts it probably isn't sensible to leave all your redecoration or getting fit for retirement. With the benefit of hindsight I ought to have kept abreast of these whilst still working. However, in retirement I seem to live life much more attuned to the seasons and come late winter/spring, the nesting instinct kicks in and an urge to decorate and declutter takes over. Also don't forget that just because you are retired doesn't mean you have to  indulge in DIY, although most of us do with varying results; alternatively, professionals are still available. If however your beloved insists on doing the task himself it may even be better to make yourself scarce.
  11. Retirement is not a holiday but it can feel like one if you want it to. There's nothing wrong with that except you can't really eat ice-cream every day. Moreover being constantly relaxed can have adverse consequences. Important administration can't be neglected and I did find it beneficial to sort through neglected paperwork from my pre-retirement days. Retirement can feel like living on another planet where life indulges you, but sadly you still have to deal with banks and, unless excused, submit a tax return.
  12. Nevertheless, you are perfectly entitled to enjoy yourself, whatever your conscience might say. There's no obvious destination in retirement or route to get there, so make your own and find pleasure in travelling to it.
  13. Retiring in the summer when the weather is warm and the days are long is probably the best time to properly wind down. If the temperature gets too hot, give into it and definitely never dream about the benefits of an air conditioned office.
  14. You may feel like a novice; go with the flow and enjoy it. Retirement is the perfect time to re-invent yourself.  It is after all like living in a parallel world to that which you previously inhabited (for entertainment try watching people behave the way you were compelled to do when working) and half the time you struggle to remember which day of the week it is which can be disorienting.
  15. Take your time, there's nothing wrong with experimentation and exploring until you know you have found what is going to suit you best in retirement. Delay committing until you have found it. Indeed whatever plans you have made may even end up being put on hold as your retirement journey heads off in a direction you had not initially expected. Indeed retirement plans may takes a few years to implement and don't be surprised if you embrace a project you had never previously considered, once you get into the swing of your new life.
  16. Getting away is easier, so make sure to travel and don't necessarily be put off by headlines. Travelling can be brutal but also uplifting. Recovery times are longer as we get older, so you may want to think carefully about comfort whilst travelling (cruising is a popular choice for many and we have tried it) and also the times of any flights. I don't have the solution but have discovered that packing is very important. Perhaps it is an age thing but omitting items from my suitcase seems to arise far too easily! Retirement gives the opportunity to go away for longer than a week or two but be warned it's not as easy as backpacking in your twenties was but with thought and preparation is equally as enjoyable. Also, I have sometimes been disappointed by visiting places previously explored decades previously and on reflection prefer to venture to the unknown.
  17. Holidays (including traditional holiday periods at home) give you a much longer benefit in retirement as there is no longer work to soak up the after effects and no obligation to have your mobile phone with you and switched on. A traditional holiday enables you to wind down to a level you may not previously have thought possible. Christmas in particular should now be a time of pleasure even if it can sometimes be chaotic, but never a feat of endurance following a frazzled December build-up. Favourite de-stressing boltholes now become familiar and much loved extensions to retirement life, even enabling you to recuperate from the effects of longer trips. When the weather is really good in the summer, make the most of it and take a staycation.
  18. The sun doesn't have to shine to travel. Out of season journeys can still be interesting and the scenery and architecture captivating despite the weather or time of the year. Even the monochrome conditions of a dull, wintry day can be appreciated as beautiful and I especially like the cosiness of overnight winter breaks in a country house hotel. That said there are some brilliant B&Bs to stay in too that won't break the bank (or not as much). Also don't forget the availability of a Senior Railcard and indeed of train travel.
  19. Also you don't have to leave the UK to enjoy new places and awesome sights and seeing more of my own country is a must in my retirement. Rural or urban, historical or modern, there is always something that pleases. We have discovered the delights of being tourists in our immediate locality and even in visiting places that have long been familiar to us, armed with a camera and our new "retirement eyes"
  20. Coupling retirement with another major life event, like children leaving home, can still be successful. When they gain their independence a new era begins and you regain yours.
  21. It is not work that gives you your identity or self-worth; you have or can make other roles. Indeed unlike the work-place, retirement is not a target-led, rational progression.
  22. There is no longer the need to set an alarm clock or, in winter, get up in the dark. Indeed shortening of the days in autumn can become a treat rather than a bind. You also get to enjoy all those wonderful sunny weekdays that are inevitably interspersed with wet weekends.
  23. Following on from the last item, avoid making appointments for the morning and you can avoid venturing out on untreated roads in the ice and snow of wintertime. Similarly, remember that you can now plan your road journeys to avoid peak traffic and gridlock. However, there will still be instances where you may need to go out in adverse conditions or just want to get up that hill outside your house, so don't be like me and wait until the end of the season to fit winter tyres.
  24.  If you begin to think your life lacks meaning in retirement, document your core values and live by them. Reduce, reuse, recycle and even repair; fair shares for all, has become my mantra and I'm actually finding time to try to do my bit for saving the planet.
  25. Most of all, be happy, but, if you need to, work out how. Anxiety is common especially as we age but could be a sign of depression.
  26. Never forget that laughter is good for you even if the laugh is on you. Statistically the early retirement years are even the happiest of your life and there are even an abundance of occasions to celebrate making retirement the golden age for partying.
  27. It is easier to be patient with bureaucracy and incompetence in retirement
  28. Something that I have always known is that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. In retirement, volunteering, which is rewarding in itself, substantiates this. However, it may demand a routine and commitment that you are unable to give, so it is important to choose a role carefully and not assume that what fitted pre-retirement will continue to do so afterwards.
  29. Never be afraid of trying new activities. Indeed learning new or reviving  old skills (especially those that involve social engagement and physical exercise) is the best prevention for cognitive decline and even better if combined with a higher purpose such as volunteering or mentoring. Society needs and loves volunteers.
  30. You can also apply new skills acquired or information learnt in retirement to the activities you have always enjoyed doing. So, in my case, I am really trying to bolster my love of gardening by creating a permaculture.
  31. Don't waste your retirement doing too much housework  (but if you give up on it in those last few weeks leading up to the retirement day itself, I'm afraid it will still be waiting for you). When you get an urge to clean, experiment with planet saving methods and alleviate the drudgery with a free conscience. Be warned too, even the most slovenly amongst us gets caught up by Spring cleaning; I think it's something to do with finally noticing the dirty windows that you used to be too busy at work to see.
  32. You'll find you can make time to  be a savvy shopper and maybe save some pennies in the process.
  33. If you read for pleasure, make sure the subject matter provides escapism from your pre-retirement life or fears for the future. I've curiously only now discovered just how powerful good literature can be and am purposefully increasing the number of books I read. I'm also devouring a lot more non-fiction aimed at hobbies, interests, self-help and the political and social issues of the day. It's a good way to learn, makes me more aware and thoughtful as well as throwing up moral dilemmas  for resolution in the fullness of time.
  34. Don't make plans based on the assumption that the weather will be good (well at least not if you live in the UK) and make sure you pursue both outdoor and indoor projects. Disappointment when snow, rain or wind stop play is easier to handle in retirement but a Plan B is always useful. However, don't be tempted to hibernate; you're not a hedgehog and life could get lonely. By the same token, it pays to take advantage when the sun does shine although if you prefer to leave the garden behind and head to the city, there's nobody to censure you. Also, in the event of a heatwave, you can consider a staycation and maybe properly enjoy your home and garden for the first time in years.
  35. Retirement provides an opportunity to follow sport in a way that you may not have done for several decades.
  36. It's also a time to make new friends
  37. You can learn languages and about new subject areas without even leaving your home, thanks to the Internet and online learning which includes many free courses
  38. As backed up by various studies, the natural world is good for you and there are health benefits in strolling through it. Some of its simplest aspects especially the colours make you feel happy, putting a smile on your face and it can link with art or other pursuits. Trying to analyse why the outdoors feels so good, isn't always easy, but like much of retirement just go with the flow. Get outside whatever the season: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
  39. I'm told that gardening can benefit both your physical and mental health and even the bacteria in the soil can  be good for your mood. Remember your garden shouldn't be just about hardwork, make time to enjoy it.
  40. Light and colour are now two of my greatest pleasures and find me an art gallery or a camera and I'm in seventh heaven. For me art is uplifting and inspiring and retirement has offered an opportunity to visit more museums, galleries and exhibitions than ever before. They are even more enjoyable when I find myself challenged perhaps by disagreeing with the artist's take on life, particularly if it infringes on my experience of retirement or I simply don't like what I see. As a species creativity is innate within us and you only have to pick up a paint brush to experience how.
  41. You can't fight getting old and for me the jury is still out on anti-ageing products. You are going to slow down at some stage, you are unlikely to be as adventurous or risk averse as in your youth and, if English, tea  will be a great comforter. My priority, however,  is to be hale and hearty and young on the inside. New studies seem to be published continuously giving insight into combating dementia, heart disease etc.
  42. It's important to stay healthy. Don't overlook the vaccinations you can receive from the NHS especially against flu or the PPV, there will come a time when you will be grateful for the protection offered. Prevention is generally better than a cure and time in retirement is too precious to spend in bed if you can avoid it. At 60 there are free NHS prescriptions, eye-tests and screening for bowel cancer; make sure you take advantage of the latter. Who knows how long before these and other age-related benefits end up being means-tested? In fact in our case February/March have become a time for a full body overhaul along with car sevices and home make-overs.
  43. You will be ill; we all are from time to time. If like me you rarely gave in to it when you were working and tried to carry on regardless, it may take you by surprise just how often now a brief illness can keep you in bed or prostrate on the sofa. Give in to it now you are retired; you owe yourself proper recovery time; you didn't get a medal for turning up at the office and nobody is going to give you one in retirement either. However, never forget the health benefits of socialising, it can speed up the feel good factor. There's even a scientific hypothesis that Leisure Sickness really exists and it is adrenaline that helps build up resilience! Time to take up sky diving or bungee jumping perhaps.
  44. Tread carefully, falling hurts. Overdoing anything can hurt and in those first few gardening days of the season it is easy to pull on the old back muscles. Sadly as we age, or should I say mature, recovery times do seem to be slower. However, don't assume every ache and pain is simply a sign of age and when you are suffering take expert advice. My experience suggests there's often a simple cure.
  45. Get out of your slippers even if you are spending the day in the house. Lack of proper support can be as damaging to your feet as high heels. Also don't be surprised when your feet start to rebel if you get them to wear shoes you used to think were comfortable for working in.  
  46. You'll also find you have choice and time to make decisions that previously you would never even have pondered over. Retirement allows you to determine how you want to live your life and indulges you with the opportunity to pursue options to infinity if that is what you wish. Starting with a blank canvas or an empty diary, it can sometimes feel that you even have too much choice. Planning can be taken to the utmost degree but sometimes it's the unplanned moments that provide the best memories.
  47. Retiring to a ski chalet in the Alps for instance may not seem as practical now as it did thirty years ago when you first came up with the idea. However, there are always alternatives and if you still want to live abroad think laterally: the Netherlands for instance is flat and it would seem from our experience at the Keukenhof Gardens popular even with those who use mobility aids.
  48. "I don't know how I found the time to work," is an awful truism that will slip from your tongue before you realise it and quicker than you think. Being busy is, of course, a great aid on the positivity front. Sometimes though there can be so many things you want to do that grasshopping from one to another makes you feel out of control. Seriously, there's no need, not once you realise that there is time for everything when you don't try to do it all at once.
  49. In retirement, however, you will find time to agitate on all kinds of issues, writing to your MP, blogging and generally boring the pants off anyone who will listen. Keep at it; it makes you feel worthwhile and if you need any ideas air pollution  and Save the Children are two of my favourites.
  50. You might also find yourself rediscovering the political energy of your youth now you have the time to listen to the commentators, read the editorials and stay up late to watch the election results come in. Yes it can make you angry but at least you are now in the know (unless it's about if, when or even what kind of Brexit) and your ranting is educated (some of the time). It's also worth remembering that in retirement you are enjoying freedoms achieved by the protests and sacrifices of those who went before us. Of course if you become sufficiently irate, you can invent ways to express your disapproval or even join a protest march.
  51. Free yourself by making life simpler (within reason) and reducing stuff, a necessity when it comes to downsizing and probably  best done over a period of time rather than on the eve of the big move. Minimalism is purportedly a buzzword for well-being. Getting rid of extraneous stuff is actually liberating albeit difficult. Even after 4 years, I don't find it easy although I have managed to swap shelves of old books gathering dust for virtual reality shelves. If you want to turn it into a formal challenge then the Mins Game might help.
  52. Reducing the clutter (mental and physical) and aiming for the simple life frees you from distractions, allowing you to rediscover important aspects of yourself as well as life. If your previous occupation robbed you of creativity and imagination, now is the time to recapture them.
  53. Technology and gadgets create their own dilemmas. Do you need them? Should you renew and keep up to date? Don't be disheartened, as a retiree you can actually be in the forefront of embracing new technology.
  54. There will be times when you feel your brain is suffering from disengagement; it's all part of the ageing process I suppose. I do think that sometimes I am so relaxed that I actually let my cerebral matter disappear off on vacation all by itself. I guess that's why I've started to make checklists, something I never needed a few years ago.
  55. Much is said about keeping the mind active with a daily crossword or puzzle game, but learning a new activity especially one that involves both physical and social activity is apparently better for retaining cognitive ability. Mind it is claimed that Marmite can help too!
  56. Many of us retire knowing that we are going to spend more time with our partner. It doesn't always work out and I can't deny that in my professional life I certainly acted for any number of clients who sought divorce before their spouse retired and because they could not envisage a life of leisure and happiness together. Obviously there are adjustments to  be made to accommodate retirement and our tastes do not always converge. Whilst it might not suit every couple we certainly still pursue our own separate hobbies, interests and friendships rather than spending every moment as a pair. In fact there are times I relish in having our home to myself and why not? That said, there's nothing better than getting together for lunch and dinner or working on a joint retirement project.
  57. We all like a bit of a moan but you have to stay positive and embrace change to properly enjoy life and get the most out of retirement. Sometimes it's even worthwhile setting yourself a challenge or two. They don't need to require skill, tenacity will do. I certainly prefer the idea of lifestyle challenges to a bucket list or what about a retirement project?
  58. In retirement the realisation that time is no longer infinite begins to dawn and perhaps therefore an effort to cram as much into each day as possible. Time purportedly appears to go quicker as you get older. Au contraire, I believe that  by keeping my life varied I have created the illusion of slowing it down!
  59. Never, ever rebuke yourself for relaxing and doing nothing; appreciate the simple pleasures (and I do mean simple) in life. Live in the moment. Endeavour has led you ultimately to this period of discovery and adventure and you deserve to do as you resolve. Sometimes retirement can even feel more active than working and you need those down periods to recharge


Laura Benjamin said…
Very much enjoyed your hints about how to succeed in retirement! I am also on the journey into retirement on the other side of the pond. Good luck to you!
Caree Risover said…
And to you too! We all need a little luck in this strange new world of retirement.
Stephen Twist said…
Well considered with some very sensible retirement advice.
Caree Risover said…
Thank you Stephen. Having completed the transition, I suspect I should be sharing lessons drawn from the next stage now.
Malcolm Lowe said…
Just stumbled on your blog and on the final road to retirement. After 35 years of the corporate treadmill and spouse recently recovering from breast cancer it feels like the right time to retire, even if it is early (56). Life is too short.

It is both scary and exciting and your 59 hints and tips have really inspired me.
Caree Risover said…
I’m so glad your wife is recovering, Malcolm. I retired at 56 too and hope that you will enjoy this next phase of life as much as I am.

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