Preparing for retirement is like preparing for the trip of a lifetime – you never know exactly what adventures lay ahead. Whether you’re coming off a stressful career of long hours and cannot wait to relax, are anxiously awaiting to travel the world, or even just planning your next act in a part-time gig – every retirement is different.
While you were once accustomed to just two or three weeks of vacation every year, you’re now embarking on 52 weeks of unoccupied time to use however you wish. It may seem daunting. And as you navigate these emotions and newfound time and flexibility, it’s important to remember that life after retirement can be anything you want it to be.
So how can you make the most out of these so-called golden years? Check out these 7 ways to improve your retirement lifestyle.
In a recent study, retirees were three times more likely to say, “helping people in need” brought them greater happiness than “spending money on themselves1.” What’s more, retirees who donated to causes or volunteered felt a stronger sense of purpose and self-esteem, in addition to being generally happier and healthier. Volunteering is not only a great way to give back, but also provides a sense of meaningfulness and opportunities to socialize with people of all generations.
If you’re looking to get involved, contact local charitable organizations to find volunteer opportunities that suit your skills. From hospital and food pantry volunteers to museum docents, there are plenty of opportunities for retiree volunteers to step in. Better yet, you can also volunteer somewhere that aligns with your interests and allows your to pass on your expertise to the next generation. Love to read? Volunteer at your local library. Enjoy taking in the great outdoors? Consider volunteering as a tour guide at a local garden or national park. Making use of your time to do the things you love while giving back to the community is a win-win-win – not to mention a great way to enrich your retirement lifestyle!
Find Your Second Act
Now that you’re retired, you may find that you miss having a place to go every day. And you’re not alone. A poll found that 74% of Americans plan to work beyond traditional retirement age – with the majority planning to do so because they “want to,” rather than “have to2.” With this in mind, it’s safe to say that the stereotypical notion of retirement being time on the golf course or laying on a beach is becoming outdated.
Today’s retirees crave the sense of purpose that working once provided. If you relate to this sentiment, consider taking on a fun part-time or seasonal job with a company you love. Working in retirement not only provides this sense of purpose, but also helps to bring in a little extra income and give you a place to socialize.
Prioritize Your Health
They say that “health is wealth” – and this is especially true when it comes to retirement years. In fact, in a recent study, more than 80% of retirees said that health is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement1. Leading a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits including a reduced risk for developing certain health conditions, increased energy levels, strengthening your immune system, and improving your overall mood. And the good news is that even if you haven’t been living the most health-conscious lifestyle, it is never too late to get started.
To get started, aim for half an hour of activity every day. Swimming, gardening, biking, running – whatever you like to do, just get moving. You can also check out local gyms or community centers for group exercise programs – many of which are offered at free or reduced costs for seniors. Even a simple routine, such as regular walks around the neighborhood can provide physical and mental benefits such as lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of dementia, and increased longevity. And you don’t have to go it alone – exercising with a buddy keeps you more accountable and likely to develop an exercise routine.
Foster Strong Social Relationships
While social networks tend to shrink after leaving the workforce, your social life shouldn’t stop there. Low levels of social interaction have been found to be just as unhealthy as smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse or even physical inactivity. Fortunately, with more time on your hands in retirement, there are plenty of ways to foster strong social relationships. Start with your hobbies – if you like to read, consider joining a book club. If you like to get outside, call up a neighbor and take a walk around the neighborhood.
You can also look to your local community center or library for ways to stay active close to home. From weekly outings to game nights, movie screenings, and even museum tours – you may be surprised with the variety of activities to partake in. It’s all about keeping connected! After all, a recent poll found that the happiest retirees were found to be those with more social interactions3.
Never Stop Learning
Just as your body requires exercise to perform best – so does your brain. In fact, keeping your brain mentally sharp may help in preventing cognitive decline and reducing the risk of dementia. But keeping sharp goes beyond just the daily crossword puzzle – it’s all about learning new things and keeping your brain engaged. With more time on your hands, retirement presents a perfect opportunity for you to find a topic or activity that interests you – and pursue it. Always enjoyed classical music? Maybe now is the time for you to learn to play a new instrument. Like to cook? Perhaps register for a class to learn new cuisine. With senior centers constantly offering classes on various subjects, you’ll be able to keep learning and expanding your knowledge base. Plus, many community colleges offer discounts to retirees of certain ages – so you may even be able to rack up some credits in the process!
At the heart of aging with grace is one word – optimism. As a matter of fact, having a glass-half-full attitude may be huge dividends in your retirement lifestyle, especially when it comes to your health. Recent research found that people with higher levels of optimism tend to live longer4. What’s more, another study found that participants who rated highly in optimism were much less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease or heart attacks5. Fortunately, optimism is a trait that anyone can develop at any time. Adopting a more optimistic mindset starts with consciously reframing every situation in a positive light. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes for your brain to naturally think more positively. But keep in mind that negativity is often contagious – so you’ll also want to surround yourself with optimistic people that bring out the best in you.
Keep Your Finances in Check
Once you’ve reached retirement, planning doesn’t stop there. It’s important to maintain a realistic budget to keep you living well within your means. Start by looking at your purchases and spending habits over the past month or two. Take into account fixed expenses that you’ll incur every month for the essentials – housing, food transportation, and utilities. From there, assess how much you tend to spend in other areas such as shopping, travel, or dining out with friends. Add up these expenses to get an estimate of how much you are truly spending, relative to the funds you have allotted. From there, you can set a realistic budget that will keep you within these limits and allow you to do the things you love, while living within your financial means.
While your retirement lifestyle may be bounded by your retirement savings, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy a high-quality life on even a small budget. It’s all about prioritizing the activities and experiences that matter most to you.
And if you could use another source of cash flow to fund the retirement lifestyle of your dreams, tapping into your home equity with a reverse mortgage may be a viable solution. Available to homeowners ages 62 and older, a reverse mortgage allows you to convert a portion of your home’s equity into cash to use for whatever you wish. And if you’re a high-value homeowner, our Longbridge Platinum proprietary, non-Federal Housing Administration reverse mortgage can offer even more cash – depending on your home’s value, up to $4,000,000.