10 Things Not to Do When You Retire

Updated January 25, 2018
Excited silver haired senior woman, dancing

Retirement is a massive change of lifestyle for anyone. As with other major life changes, it's the perfect time to redefine who you are. Avoid pitfalls and make the most of your new life by exploring the perfect things to do after retirement along with what not to do.

1. Enjoy, but Don't Be Undisciplined

As you approach retirement, you become enthusiastic about all that lies on the other side of that long-awaited day. When the day finally comes, you'll sleep late for a week or two (or more), enjoy puttering around the house, and play golf or do whatever you've always done for relaxation and entertainment while you were working. You might even take a few celebratory trips. However, one day you'll wake up with a raging case of existential anxiety.

You had no idea that you'd miss the structure your job brought you, along with its expectations and anesthetizing comforts. Humans are creatures of habit, and for many people, who they are is what they do.

When you feel that existential anxiety, it's time to move past the initial vacation stage of retirement and think about what you want to do with the rest of your life:

  • Do some research, explore your interests, write down your thoughts and dreams, and map out a course. In other words, create a bucket list.
  • Develop new, healthy routines that provide the missing structure and prevent you from feeling you're drifting along through life with no purpose.

2. Don't Immediately Downsize Your Home

When you retire, it's tempting to sell your home and move to smaller digs, especially if you need cash and have equity in your home. However, you might want to hit the pause button on this, especially if your payments are low, or you've paid off your mortgage.

Things to consider:

Seniors entertaining guests in large kitchen
  • It is expensive to downsize.
  • The actual move is a considerable expense and could be emotionally and physically taxing - even if you're just moving to the retirement community on the other side of town.
  • If you're considering a long distance move to what's said to be one of the best retirement areas in the country, consider that you would be leaving behind old friends, everything that's familiar, and probably family.
  • Postponing moving to a new house after you retire will give you fewer changes to adapt to all at once.

If your monthly housing costs are low and it's just a matter of having more available money, there are less traumatic options for putting your equity to work than selling your home. You could get a reverse mortgage, rent a room out, or make the garage an income producing studio rental.

3. Don't Blow Your Savings

Most individuals are on a fixed income after they retire, and usually, it's a great deal less than they earned when they were working. With so much time on your hands, it's easy to spend money like you're on vacation. Budgeting and financial planning are essential. Enjoy yourself, but don't dip into your savings except for necessities.

  • Economize on goods and services.
  • Sell what you're not using.
  • Control your credit.
  • Take advantage of your senior citizen status.
  • Use your head and keep track of what you're spending when traveling.

It may take time to dial back your spending, so try to control impulse buying. When you go shopping keep your receipts and don't remove sales tags until you've decided you need the item you've just purchased.

4. Don't Neglect Your Estate Planning

A subject that many retirees neglect is the inevitable end-of-life planning. However, it's important to make sure all your affairs are in order so when the inevitable happens, your family will not be weighed down with decisions.

You'll probably have to make some necessary adjustments, so talk to your legal and financial advisers after you retire about how best to handle your estate.

5. Don't Expect Relationships to Remain Unchanged

Families are interdependent, and your retirement can and probably will influence your children and grandchildren.

Your Adult Children

Both you and your adult children may either feel uncertainty or have unrealistic expectations about your relationship after your retirement. Some examples:

  • A role reversal is possible. Your adult children may expect to have to take care of you and feel they can tell you what to do.
  • You may expect enhanced support and companionship from your children that they are unable or unwilling to provide.
  • Your adult children may expect increased time commitments from you (e.g., to take care of grandchildren) that interfere you're your planned retirement activities.

Your relationship with your children can be tricky to negotiate especially during the adjustment phase of retirement. However, maintaining previous boundaries and time restraints with your children, and not expecting more than they're willing to give can go a long way in making the life change you're going through less stressful for everyone affected.

Your Grandchildren

Happy multigenerational family taking selfie portrait

Retirement means you'll have more time to share with the grandkids, and more fun and joy in being not only their grandparent, but also their mentor, teacher, family historian, counselor, and shoulder to lean on.

Plus, you get to take advantage of their youthful excitement, learn new skills and keep up with what's happening in the world of the young. As you hear about their experiences, listen to their music, meet their friends, smile and cry with them about their love lives, watch them make their way in the world and hear about their lives and times, you'll keep up with what's current.

Just keep in mind that teenage and young adult grandkids have very active lives of their own. So, text regularly, talk on the phone occasionally, and visit when you can. Be there for them, but don't get your feelings hurt if they are sometimes too busy to respond immediately.

6. Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things

Turn an avocation into a new career, get a part-time job, volunteer, go back to school, or take a class. Try new things! It's never too late to exercise your entrepreneurial spirit or to learn something new, and any of these can add some needed structure to your life, quiet any restlessness and open up new channels of socialization.

You'll have fun and meet new people of all ages who share your interests, plus, your soul, mind, and spirit will love the experience. Who knows, you just might find a passion that will give meaning and purpose to your retirement years.

7. Don't Let Loneliness Creep Into Your Life

Retirement can be socially isolating. US News reports that according to AARP 45 percent of Americans older than age 65 are divorced, separated, or widowed.

If you're one of this 45 percent, you might find yourself missing the daily social interaction with work colleagues. Start by building up a new social network of other retirees, involve yourself in activities where you can meet new friends of all ages, and stay in contact with your old work friends.

If you're not into groups or socializing a pet or two make wonderful and loving companions.

8. Don't Neglect Your Appearance

Flirty senior couple snuggling at home

Ageism exists and especially for women, but ageism can also be an internal mindset. Yes, you're retired and getting older, your body has changed, your hair's gotten thinner and grayer, and you'll never look like you did in your 30s, 40s, or 50s. However, just because you're older and no longer have to look great for work is no reason to let yourself go.

Looking after of your hair, nails, and skin is essential, as is maintaining your exercise routine. Sure, it may be harder and take longer when you're older, but the beauty is that when you're retired, you have more time to spend on beauty and fitness routines.

In her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron says: "At 60 you have to spend at least eight hours a week on maintenance - just to keep you from looking like someone who no longer cares." She also points out something about hair: "You no longer have to wash it every day" and claims there's a correlation between how often you have sex and hair-washing. So, don't neglect washing your hair.

9. Don't Give Up on Love and Romance

It's no secret that love and intimacy are vitally important to happiness, and that's especially true to your happiness, health, and overall well-being after retirement.

If you're married, that's great. Your relationship with your spouse will change, but with just a little time effort and understanding you can get out of housemates mode of behavior, get to know each other all over again, have some renewed fun and rekindle love and romance.

As stated above there are a lot of sexy single seniors, most of whom are dying for lack of a loving companion and being a single senior does not mean giving up sex. It might be challenging to put yourself out there, but if you want a special someone to share your golden years, you'll have to go prospecting for gold.

So, gather your courage, face the challenge and go prospecting. If you need inspiration, take a couple of hours to watch Our Souls at Night starring two very sexy seniors, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, on Netflix.

Connecting with an old or new love is easier than ever today because of the internet. Often you can find the old flame on Facebook or Classmates.com or you could join a senior dating site like eHarmony.

You can also shop around for new potential candidates at the local senior center, church, and other local activities. Don't be shy or afraid to put yourself out there, if someone catches your eye, talk to them or even invite them to lunch or for a cup of coffee, remember the most important part of getting what you want is to figure out what you want and then ask for it.

10. Don't Be Impatient and Go Easy on Yourself

It will take time to adjust to your new status. However, do your best not to get bored. Stay active, be social, try out new things, reassess your needs and recalculate. Like with any major life change, you'll make some mistakes and false starts. However, if you have patience and go easy on yourself, everything will begin to fall into place and you'll come to realize that you are now on your own time and can do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it, and have plenty time to correct any mistakes or false starts.

The Golden Years

The Golden Years are typically a time of fewer responsibilities and when coupled with adequate financial resources, and good physical and psychological health, they offer possibilities for self-fulfillment, purposeful engagement, and completion. Individuals retire at different ages and for various reasons. There are no set steps for navigating your retirement years. Retirees lives are as diverse as the individuals, and when you're retired you're free to do what you want, within limits. However, there is always a period of adjustment and it useful to know what to do and what not to do during that delicate and important time of transition.

10 Things Not to Do When You Retire