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Enjoying Life After Retirement

written by: Olivia Emisar•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/21/2011

Retirement is where fantasy and reality converge and have a battle of wills to reign supreme. Being happy at retirement after a successful career can become a challenge without proper planning, preparation and a willingness to compromise.

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    Preparation and Separation

    Being a top dog at work can bring a certain amount of stress and satisfaction on a daily basis. A social life that is closely woven to include coworkers and work-related activities is going to have to be replaced with something just as stimulating and with less stress.

    For many people, retirement is like a death in the family or a break-up with a loved one. The feelings of sadness and depression are almost identical, and planning ahead to embark on a new life is best done while still employed.

    Question: How do you find happiness staying home after a successful career?

    Answer: Prepare for a divorce.

    Divorce From Work

    • Begin separating slowly by allocating workload and training replacement.
    • Begin establishing relationships with people who don't know you in your work capacity.
    • Start preparing for hobbies and activities by practicing them on weekends. This will tell you if you still have passion for these things or the required skills and patience for them.
    • Gradually separate yourself from the drama of daily work by reminding yourself that it really does not matter.
    • Prepare separation paperwork ahead of time.
    • Get complete physicals and medical tests prior to separation to take advantage of current coverage, and be prepared to embark in a new life as healthy as possible. In other words, be realistic and aware of your limitations.
    • Double-check retirement income figures to sustain your current lifestyle. Distributions may have changed in the pension or 401K plans.

    The greater the preparations, the more in-control you will feel about the outcome. The odds will be in your favor to retire successfully while being happy about it.

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    Vacation With retirement comes responsibilities, and now that there will be two people at home all the time, it is time for a redistribution of the household chores so you can enjoy vacation and free time as a couple again. Household chores can wait, but there has to be a fair distribution to avoid resentment. After all, you are courting each other all over again, so have fun and be fair.

    Common Conflict Issues:

    • Wives complain their husbands expect to be waited on hand and foot after retirement or not incorporating the fact that household chores need to be part of their retirement plans. Educate yourself on what it takes to keep and maintain your home and schedule your responsibilities with your wife. This will avoid resentment and give you both what you crave: free time.
    • Husbands complain that upon retirement, their wives supply them with an endless list of "honey do" jobs and they work harder than they did at the office. Schedule and agree on what will be done and when and avoid resentment and burn out. Retirement means freedom to do as one pleases, not indentured service as handyman in perpetuity.
    • Wives don't know what to do with their husbands at home all day long and resent them sitting around doing whatever they want while they still have the cooking and cleaning chores. If the wife has been staying at home longer, she too, needs to retire. Talk about getting a cleaning service or finding an equitable solution because neither one of you should be held hostage to the four walls. This is your time to be free and have fun.

    Communication at this stage may take some work but it is well worth it. You are in fact, starting over a new chapter in your life and if you really like each other, you will spend time enjoying activities together that were not possible when you both were working.

    Communicate your desire to have time to yourself. Just like when you scheduled your work day, now you have to schedule your retirement. This is especially true if one of you likes being on the go at all times and the other one wants to have quiet and sedentary time. Not every one likes to devour books for days on end or hit the golf course at 6:00 a.m. on a daily basis. After all, fun should not feel like a chore or scheduled obligation.

    Communicate with yourself and be honest about it. As we age, we may still think we can conquer the world mentally, but our bodies refuse to cooperate.

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    Plan a New Lifestyle

    Retirement Fun Don't just sit there the day after retirement unless you planned for it. If you wanted to travel, you should buy the tickets and plan the trip while you are still working. It gives you something to look forward to and automatically changes the routine by creating a transition associated with fun activities.

    Both Type "A" and "B" personalities need activities, no one lives for work and then withers and dies in retirement on purpose. Type B personalities are more prone to depression during retirement but type A's are not immune, specially if they have no plans to keep them feeling productive. "Honey Do" lists may work for a while but the routine is bound to make them develop cabin fever.


    • Plan time at home to be productive.
    • Plan time at home to relax and do nothing. It could be days or weeks without a phone or alarm clock.
    • Schedule social time with friends and/or family.
    • Plan for time with your significant other to do big and small things outside of the home.
    • Renew old friendships and/or create new ones


    • Don't sit around waiting for something to happen. Make things happen.
    • Don't call coworkers, they are busy working.
    • Don't drop by the office to chat. If you want to go back, inquire about a part-time or consultant position.
    • Don't expect others to entertain you because you now have the time.
    • Don't take other people's time for granted. Small talk is not an invitation to be a sounding board.
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    Doing Something

    For those who can't see themselves "doing nothing" and need structure, consider doing one of the following to fill the day and keep life interesting and an extra check in the bank:

    • Get a part-time position doing something new.
    • Mentor someone in a field you know something about.
    • Volunteer at the library, local schools, food banks or wherever there is a need in your community.
    • Invest in self-improvement by exercising, eating better, reading for pleasure, painting, etc.
    • Take a couple of courses at the university or local college that have nothing to do with your field of expertise but you always wanted to know.
    • Start your own business doing something you love.
    • Travel: Go camping, RVing, pleasure cruising and take plenty of photos to have a project once home and memories to share.

    How you find happiness staying home after a successful career is going to be as individual as you are, the main thing is to be in charge of your life and avoid depression and stagnation because retirement does not mean you get old and die. It is a great opportunity to live a full life without major obligations. You have earned it.

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    BBC News: Retirement Can Spark Depression

    MSN: Money doesn't buy happiness in retirement; Liz Pullman Weston

    Photos; Free Digital Photos; photostock ; Arvind Balaram