The Don'ts of Retirement

May 14, 2021 by Mary R. Donahue, Ph.D

In thinking about all that we have suggested to you to prepare you for your retirement and making it successful, I found myself thinking that I should share some DON’TS


For example, don’t put pressure on yourself to accomplish everything we have discussed in the very first weeks of your retirement. Give yourself some time to digest the many ideas that might be swirling around in your head. Don’t feel compelled to immediately put something in place as a new activity.  Breathe!!


It is difficult to switch from having deadlines for implementing programs or other work assignments to having the time to assess what direction you really want to go. Give yourself the luxury of exploring various opportunities without jumping in with both feet. One activity might be a better fit than another, but unless you review what each provides you might not make the best decision for yourself. You need to read and digest the small print before going into action.


We’ve learned from interviewing recent retirees that those that either spent time identifying what they wanted to do prior to retiring and were ready to move forward with their choices; or those that took their time had a smoother transition to retired life. 


Another don’t is leaping into doing something because you have a friend that is doing that thing.  You might think “oh she enjoys this so I’ll give it a shot”, without really thinking through if it’s truly something that you will enjoy. Try to identify what you might enjoy doing and give that a try. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do something with a friend if it is something that you’ve imagined yourself doing together when you had the time.


The same principle would apply to your partner. If you hate golf and your significant other is an avid golf player, don’t agree to take up the sport if you truly have no interest in doing so. To enjoy your newfound time with your partner, you don’t have to do everything together.   Your relationship will be more enriched if you both have individual activities that you enjoy. When you are together, you’ll each be able to share your new interest(s) with each other.


Another don‘t that frequently gets overlooked is doing too much.  It is easy to get sucked in to wanting to do so many things that you didn’t have the time to do before, that you try to pack your days with activities. Don’t fall into that trap. The old adage “Rome was not built in a day” has application here. This is not a race to do as much as possible, rather it is an opportunity to do many things that you’ve always wanted to have the time to explore and do.


Allow yourself the luxury of alone time. This might be in the form of reading a book, working in the garden, taking on a home project, or exploring a new craft. Whatever you select, just enjoy it because it is yours to do at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up if whatever you selected didn’t turn out to be all you had hoped. Just move on to something else. Ultimately you will find what is right for you.


Along the same lines don’t be disappointed if you have teen age grandchildren and discover that they’re not overjoyed about spending extra time with you now that you’re retired. Teenagers are teenagers, and it’s normal for them to be more into whatever is the rage of the moment, hanging out with their friends, or seeking their own independence.  


All in all, the takeaway and theme of the DON’TS is that you give yourself the time you need to identify what it is you really want to spend time doing in your retirement. Don’t be upset with yourself if something you’ve decided to try did not work out. Remember this is your retirement and not your significant other’s, your friend’s, your family’s or anyone else’s. DOtake as much time as you need to figure out what that this will look like for you without feeling guilty.