How to survive your first year in retirement: dos, don’ts, and expectations

Welcome to your next chapter! The golden years. The stage you’ve spent years preparing for. No more daily grind. No more tight schedules. No more meetings, co-workers, or commutes.

“Survive” may seem a bit steep, but hear me out. You’ve been anticipating this day for years, but have you envisioned what it would look like? For some, retirement may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Many individuals struggle during their first year of retirement with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Retirement should be a time of fulfillment and joy when adequately planned for.

Living your life from an abundance mindset is key to finding happiness and meaning during retirement, but it might not come without a struggle. You may experience stress, loneliness, conflicts, and identity issues. But, with the proper plan and expectations, your first year of retirement can be full of the abundance and joy you deserve.

Avoid surprises

Considering most people will spend over one-third of their day working–commuting, completing tasks, and interacting with other people–the immediate change of pace can feel like an empty void. Be intentional each day to lessen the struggle during your first year in retirement.

  1. Manage your stress. Sure, the chaotic commute, office drama, and looming deadlines may be gone, but any life change–no matter how beneficial or anticipated–can cause stress. The changes to your daily routine, social life, budget, or household tasks can leave you feeling frazzled. To combat the stress, acknowledge the shift and lean into it. Don’t fight it, and never fear talking with a friend or therapist if you need some help controlling your stress.
  1. Remember, this isn’t just a permanent vacation. You may have envisioned spending hours on the golf course or beach each day, but eventually, the novelty of filling your days with hobbies and activities you love will wear off. Lowering your expectations can help reduce stress (see #1) and also leave the time in your day to enjoy the hobbies you’ve longed to do, as well as the mundane daily tasks you’re less excited about (yes, you still have to buy groceries, feed the dog, and do laundry).
  1. Don’t become complacent or lazy. Beware: inactivity and idleness can lead to complacency. Do allow yourself some time off immediately following retirement, but consider adding it to your schedule like you would a vacation. Block out a few weeks to lay around and soak up your new life, then hop back into a daily routine.
  1. Protect your relationship. Being home all day with your spouse can cause problems as you both adapt to a new schedule. Give each other space when needed, and communicate expectations for the relationship, including the necessary divvying up of chores and household responsibilities. With consideration of one another’s schedules, you’ll love all of the extra time spent together!

Re-think your “free time.”

You’ve been planning this for decades, dreaming of the day when you could stop working for someone else and take control of your time. But you might not have realized just how much time you’d have. Our work becomes our identity after all, and it won’t be easy at first to find your place in the world again.

  1. Consider an encore career. If, after a few months of retirement, you decide you’d prefer to fill your days with something more engaging and fulfilling, look to a second career. Perhaps one that offers flexibility with your schedule while allowing you to pursue a passion. And, I use the term “career” lightly here. Because you’re no longer dependent on a paycheck, a late-in-life career choice can be as financially lucrative as you desire. Tip: don’t overlook the volunteer organizations you’ve never had enough time for or the nonprofits that advocate for issues you’re already passionate about.
  1. Enjoy your meals. Now that you no longer have to rush through breakfast to get into the office, make it memorable. Embrace daily rituals like slicing fresh fruit and making your own coffee. Have you tried the pour-over method? It’s not the quickest, but it sure is worth it! Or utilize meals for socialization. The social vacuum experienced in early retirement may leave you feeling lonely. Meet a friend for a long, slow lunch or prepare a gourmet dinner with your spouse.
  1. Participate in tech-free hobbies. Sure, it’s crucial to maintain your social life in retirement, and social media is a great way to keep in touch with colleagues, old friends, and family members. But don’t spend all your time scrolling through feeds and accepting friend requests. According to Colorado University, older adults spend 27 hours per week online, two hours more per week than younger generations. Make time to step away from your devices each day. Maybe sign up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge. How many books do you think you can read in a year?
  1. Get some rest. After working countless hours each day for the last several decades, you’ve earned the right to some sleep! Aim for 7-9 hours each night. According to the National Institute on Aging, too much or too little sleep can negatively impact your health.
  1. Take time to discover what brings you joy and do that. Start a business, teach, travel, exercise, or visit family & friends. It’s critical to consider what will give your retirement purpose and fulfillment. Build a routine you enjoy doing, nurture your hobbies or interests, and create new social connections.

Finally, consider adjusting your budget, lifestyle, or investment strategy.

Just because you’ve transitioned from the planning to the enjoyment stage doesn’t mean you can sit back and coast on through your golden years. Yes, if you planned everything correctly, you should need to do very little work in the future, but it’s always a good idea to consult a trusted advisor and check in on your plan.

  • What’s working?
  • What are you doing wrong?
  • What do you need to change? 

You may find it necessary to make adjustments to your budget, lifestyle, or investment strategy.

  • Budget: Start with knowing how much you can spend. Not sure where to start? Create a comprehensive retirement spending plan that accounts for big-ticket expenses (like vacations, home remodels, buying new properties, etc.) and everyday costs (housing, food, utilities, taxes, insurance, etc.). Be careful of spending too much money during your first year.
  • Lifestyle: Some people love all of the extra time; others hate it. Be mindful of maintaining your purpose. If you hate all the free time, consider a hobby, going back to school, or volunteering. You need to keep your mind active and have a reason to get up each morning. Use this first year as a gauge. Keep a journal of your day-to-day activities and how they affect your emotions. Make changes to your routine as needed.
  • Strategy: And finally, a successful, fulfilling retirement is built on the foundation of a comprehensive wealth plan.

No matter how long and hard you’ve planned, the first year of retirement will be an adjustment. But if you manage your expectations and invest in yourself in this first year, you’ll not only survive, you will thrive!

I’ve made it my mission to help women retirees live the successful, fulfilling, and comfortable retirement they deserve without worrying about money. I invite you to explore my website, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!