When people ask me what they should do upon retiring early, I always say, “Don’t.”
What I really mean by that is… don’t think you will be happy and fulfilled with a life of golf and travel. Most people aren’t. If you are really feeling beat up when you walk out your employer’s door for the last time or sell the company you started, take a year or two off, but then find something you love and pour your heart into it: start a non-profit, join the effort to promote a cause you believe in, run for a local office, start a new enterprise, rescue dogs, build homes for the homeless…you get the idea. If you really love going places, find a way to combine your efforts with a life of globe-trotting.
Visit a financial planner and make sure your finances are healthy enough to withstand 40-plus years of zero income. Yes, that’s right…40 years! If you retire at 50 you have a very good chance of living until you are 90-plus. Remember the words of Cato: “Cessation of work is not accompanied by cessation of expenses.” If your finances are on the edge, make a budget and stick to it or, better yet, plan to do something that produces a little income so you can make your savings and investments go further.
Don’t neglect your body. Plan to stay healthy and fit throughout the rest of your life. Decide on one or two physical activities you enjoy and build them into your daily routine. Running, tennis, brisk walking, weight-lifting, Pilates and yoga are all activities that will help you stay fit and within a healthy weight range. They can be performed in your home or a nearby gym or a safe outdoor path. I like Bill Thomas’s guidance in the health arena. He was referring to older people, but I believe it applies to all of us: M-E-S-H…Move (don’t just sit or lie), Eat (good food; not too much), Sleep (restful & thorough), Heal (let your body recover from its injuries and ailments).
While enjoying your time and being productive, keep adding people to your social network. When you reach your 70s and 80s, your social network will be the most important element of your life. Stay close to your family, your friends, and make a final decision about where you want to live when you are 75ish and older. By then, if not before, you will be truly slowing down. That’s the time to be enjoying your loved ones and appreciating the social network you have developed––the people who mean the most to you––including children and grandchildren (if you have them), extended family members, and good friends.
By Dr. Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D., CRC
Read more from Sara by purchasing her book : Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.