I have retired – What shall I do next?

2. Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire Managing Retirement in the Twenty First Century

So your time for retirement has come and you are wondering what to do next? Most of us do not plan for our retirement, putting off the difficult debate with oneself on the pretext that we will cross the bridge when we come to it.

Yet, inevitably, the time for superannuation arrives and we are ill prepared to face our life after. You have earned your leisure to enjoy the fruits of your work for the past 3 decades.

Yet you have to keep your mind and body active. Most people had started developing one interest or the other. Why should we be looking at any other options when so many already exist for us.

Write a book – It is generally believed that everyone has at least one book “inside” them. After I wrote my first book, dozens of friends and acquaintances told me that they too wanted to write but could not find the time. If you can think of nothing else to write, you have a lifetime of accumulated memories and experiences. Consider recording these memories in the form of a memoir that you can give to your grandchildren.

If you enjoy writing, now is the time to think of starting to write your book. There is no better way than writing a book to leave behind your legacy. Some people I know have started to record their life in video format. They record this on their smart phone and are building a library of their notes that can be left for posterity. Whatever the medium, remember that a lot of preparation is needed for this.

Learn a Language – Some friends have started to learn a language, an aspiration they have had since childhood but never found the time.

There is senior retired Brigadier I know who has made a post-retirement career in teaching Spanish. Not only is he keeping himself very busy but also he is interacting with a new group of people whom he would never have had an opportunity to in his earlier life. He now interprets from Spanish to English and travels to Spain as an interpreter.

Travel to places you have wanted to go to – I have met several couples who have decided to travel and see places that they were not able to visit during their working lives. The difference when they travel now is that they spend much more time in the city or country they wish to see. They read up much more about their destination and they try and take in as much of the local flavour instead of rushing through the visit and “ticking” off one more item on your list of countries to see.

While I was working, when we travelled on a vacation we were always in a hurry to see places since work pressures for both of us did not allow us to spend too much time in one city. Our standard excuse for rushing through was that we could always come back to see the places that we had seen and liked. Now when we travel, we spend at least one week in a country and try and take in as much as we can. Now our thinking is that we must see as much as we can because we will probably never come back again to this place.

There is a whole community of retired people in USA who have sold their homes and have decided to travel all over the world. They select a part of the world they want to see and then go and stay there for a few months. The amount of money they need is sent to them by their financial planner every month and varies based on which city they are living in. Of course, as US citizens, it is much easier for them to travel unlike us from India because of visa restrictions but we could do something similar in various parts of India that we have never visited. The prospect of living for a month in a city in some other part of India is very exciting.

Helping others – Becoming a Good Samaritan and helping people is usually not seen easily. It takes a lot of effort to reach out and help and most people see this help with a bit of cynicism.

Yet there are people who care, selflessly.

I met a retired General who had taken it upon himself to help the widows of deceased retired Army and other Defence services officers to sort out their paper work and to ensure that the documentation for pension and medical facilities was all proper. He was getting nothing in return but yet he felt he owed this to his “brother” officers after they passed away.

Back to college – There must be so many things that you aspired to learn through your college and you were never able to find the time. Did you ever think that you could do a research paper and get a PhD and add the title “Doctor” before your name? Now you can. If you want further education in any area of your choice, now is the opportunity because you have the time and you have the inclination. I met a person who had been passionate about mathematics but he had built a career in marketing. When he retired, he went back to university and obtained a doctorate in mathematics!

For most people so inclined, there is thrill in learning new things.

Become a Life / Executive Coach – You have developed many skills over your working life. This could range from excellence in sports or as an accountant or a lawyer to skills in music, arts, writing etc. you can easily start coaching classes for the adults and young adults in your home. Not only will this give you a sense of achievement and keep you busy, you may find that that you earn some money as well.

Learn to cook – I have been told that cooking can be a very therapeutic process as you create new dishes. Learn to cook.

Every conceivable recipe is now available on YouTube and if you want to surprise your spouse and family with some culinary delights, you no longer need to agonise on how to get started. Start with simple foods like making an omelet and gradually, as you understand the nuances of how long to simmer and how long to steam as well as how much spices will bring tears to your eyes and how much will be just right, you can start to invite your family and friends to sample your delights.

Planning your daily meals is a huge chore and if your spouse and you make this into a routine every morning, there will be communication between you and consensus on what you will eat at each meal!

Learn Music – Several people I know have started to learn a musical instrument. The piano, guitar and violin are generally some of the more popular instruments that people like to learn.

I too, had learned to play the Indian flute while I was in college but gave it up. I have now started playing the flute once again and this time, since I have more time, I am more determined to become proficient at playing my flute!

Read – I know a few friends who have taken to reading books, magazines, journals and newspapers with a passion. They have at least three books by their bedside and they are constantly reading and enriching themselves. They missed out on reading while they worked and I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of them actually finish several books every week. When they have time, they scour the bookshelves at the local book stores and buy whatever they like.

Get involved with Social Media and build your profile – There are many people who have started to engage with various social media platforms to share their experiences and to broadcast their views on diverse subjects. The freedom to be able to say what you wish to is empowering and exhilarating. This ability to express themselves on global public platforms keeps many individuals, engaged, occupied and busy.

At the same time I also met many retirees who categorically stated that they were afraid of using a computer so there was no question of using social media. When I tell them that my 87 year old father uses Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter all the time, they back off with a nod that seems to suggest that they too will make the effort.

Keep a Pet – Some couples who enjoy pets have kept a dog who almost becomes like the new baby in the household. All their waking energy is spent looking after the dog and it gives them a great conversation opportunity with similar and like-minded couples.

I have seen social circles in condominiums evolve around pets. So much time is spent in talking about pets that it almost feels like we are talking about our kids and their achievements all over again!

Watch Television – With over 100 television channels, there are literally dozens of serials and information based channels to follow on a regular basis. You could have a challenge with your spouse who may want to watch news channels while you want to watch something else and I know of several homes that have had to acquire two televisions to ensure peace at home!

Pull out your old Stamp and Coin collections – Most of us would have stored away an old coin collection and an old stamp collection. For the lucky few you may have inherited a collection from your father. And I am reasonably sure that your children would not have had any interest in these collections.

So now is the time to arrange those coins and stamps. Every item you own can be checked and verified on the internet. You can also get prices for these on eBay. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a rare stamp or a rare coin in your collection that may make you a very wealthy person.

Play Golf and other games – Sports is an important part of retirement. This also helps you to stay fit and to exercise your muscles regularly. If you have been a sportsperson then it would be easy for you to continue some of the less intensive sports throughout your life after retirement but if you have not been a sportsperson, this is a good time to start a regimen of daily activity. Several people have taken to playing tennis at their local club or their condominium. This gives them the exercise as well as the ability to socialize with new and old friends.

Play Bridge, other card games – Some retirees have decided to devote their time to play bridge. They do this at different clubs and with separate partners so that they keep having a change on scene. On Sunday, they rest! Some of these bridge players are now playing competitive bridge at a national level.

Do nothing and feel guilt free – I know that the habits built over a 30 year career will take some time to break. One person who I met was very candid in stating that he had chosen to “do nothing”. Reading, napping, and daydreaming will have all the time they need in my retired life” he said. He spends a lot of time at the neighbourhood coffee shop where he meets new friends and sits for hours surfing the net while sipping coffee!

Or a combination of several of the activities listed above. This list is by no means exhaustive and there must be so many other activities that you can undertake.

Plan on ridding yourself of that nagging feeling of guilt if you do not put every minute to productive use. If you decide to sit in the balcony with coffee in your hand for the better part of the morning, so be it.

Happy retirement!