Most retirement centers provide advice on saving for retirement as well as what to do to help you age gracefully and reach those golden years. But what should you do once you have actually retired? Perhaps more importantly, what should you avoid doing? Making poor choices during your retirement could negate all the effort you made to escape the rat race and enjoy your later years. Here are six behaviors to avoid when you are retiring.
Don’t Stop Learning
It can be very tempting to kick back, and do nothing with your brain during your retirement. After all, you do not have a true need for new skills. Everything you already know has gotten you through your working years and into your later life. You are no longer working, so you do not need to learn new skills for a job, and you no longer have children at home, so you do not need to learn how to accomplish new tasks to help you keep up with your little ones. You have no responsibilities to anyone but yourself and potentially your spouse. Given that there is no external need to learn anything new, it can be easy to let any thoughts of continuing education slide. Learning, however, is more important than ever in your later years. Your must work your brain to keep it healthy in the same way you must exercise to keep your heart healthy. The mind naturally begins to deteriorate as you age, and learning new things can help keep this age-related decay at bay. Do not just sit back and rest on your laurels during retirement. Work to master a new skill that engages your whole brain. Learning a second language or learning to play an instrument have been proven to be some of the best “full-brain workouts.”
Don’t Become a Couch Potato
It is easy to see retirement as a final, multi-year vacation where you lay back and relax. You put in years of hard work. You earned this period of rest, right? You are only partially correct. There is nothing wrong with spending retirement relaxing, but “relaxing” should not mean a complete lack of exercise for the body or mind.
The general rule of the human body is “use it or lose it.” If you do not exercise your mind, your mental capabilities will begin to decline. If you do not work your heart, this vital muscle weakens. If you do not push your muscles, they begin to fade. This basic biological principle does not change simply because you are retired, quite the reverse. Most people retire in their later years which is when keeping up mental and physical exercise is absolutely essential. Refusing to use your body as you age will increase the likelihood of it breaking down at a faster rate. That said, if you exercise intelligently, you will find that you stay physically healthier for a longer time. Cardiovascular exercise will help stave off heart disease and decrease the possibility of a stroke. In addition, careful strength training can help lower the risks of osteoporosis and some forms of arthritis. Similarly, working your muscles will help you improve or maintain your balance, reducing your risk of injuries from falling.
Don’t Become a Hermit
This may sound like an amusing or obvious piece of advice, but the ways of the hermit can creep up on you slowly. Once you have retired, you have limited obligations to anyone outside your immediate family, and those are less urgent than when your children or siblings were young. You no longer have coworkers that you must interact with every day, and it is easy to begin skipping bible study meetings or local softball games. At first, this lack of commitment is wonderfully freeing and relaxing. Over time, however, you begin to lose contact with people and drift away from your friends. You become lonely and isolated which can easily lead to depression.
When you retire, you are not leaving society behind entirely. You need to continue to interact with people, and be involved in your community. You do not need to become president of the local arts council or head your church’s music group. You have earned your relaxation and do not have to take on jobs that carry a great deal or responsibility or have a high potential to be stressful. Simply make sure you are involved in some way, shape or form. Instead of heading the entire music ministry, sing in the choice. Take a painting class instead of being chairman of the local arts association. Find some way to continue meeting new people rather than hiding away in your home.
Don’t Ignore Your Health
Any injuries or illnesses you contract will take longer to recover from as you get older. Compound this with the fact that, as a retiree, you are living on a fixed income, and thus, you have limited funds for medical bills. When you think about that, preserving your health and preventing illness or injury suddenly becomes much more important.
There is, unfortunately, no formula that will guarantee that you will stay healthy, but following some common sense rules will go a long way toward keeping you functioning at your peak health: get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthy and exercise. This is simple advice that everyone knows, but not everyone follows. Once you have retired, though, these basic strategies for living healthy become essential.
Don’t Let Family Members Take Advantage
Yes, you are retired. Yes, this means that you have limited responsibilities. Yes, your working family is still very busy. No, that does not mean you are always available to babysit, watch the dogs, let someone sleep on your couch, pick someone up at the airport or anything else.
Plenty of retirees find themselves living “on call” for whatever their working family members need. Usually, the retiree has their heart in the right place and wants to help their busy children. The working family members usually are not trying to take advantage of the retiree either. It is just easier to leave the little ones with Grandma than try and find a short-notice sitter. That said, plenty of families come to rely on retirees for childcare, pet watching or airport pick-up services simply because it is easier to turn to a family member.
When you retire, you need to decide what you are willing to do for your family members and how often. If grown children or siblings push, remind them that you are retired not working for a daycare. Do not let family simply “pop-in” or feel guilty because you are unavailable to act as someone’s chauffer. This does not mean that you should refuse any and all request for assistance. You may enjoy watching your grandchildren once or twice a week, and there is nothing wrong with agreeing to pick a sibling up at the airport when their car breaks down. Just be sure to make sure you do not let your family control your retired life.
Don’t Ignore Your Finances
You spend most of your life saving to retire. Do not go out and blow years of careful planning by being financially irresponsible. Once you retire, you are living on a fixed income which means a budget is critical. Sit down with your spouse, and create a monthly budget for your retired years. Make sure to include flexibility for any healthcare concerns that arise, and be sure to take inflation into account. Your money will likely be worth less as you age. Most importantly, stick to the plan once you have created it. The best budget in the world is useless if you do not use it.
Your retired life should be one of relaxation and enjoyment, but that does not mean you should leave the rest of the world behind. Make sure you stay involved in your community, and continue to be intelligent about your health and finances. You worked hard to reach a comfortable retirement. Do not throw away your hard work by being foolish.