You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find fun and meaning.
Posted August 1, 2016
Unless you retired to your yacht or your villa in the Dolomites, chances are good you’re on a fixed retirement budget. Most retirees are. That means there will always be things you can’t afford to do; but it doesn’t mean you can’t afford to keep busy, or to have fun, or to find satisfaction in life. Not everything that’s fun and satisfying is expensive—in fact, most things aren’t.
The first key to finding a rewarding retirement is understanding that ultimately, what’s satisfying is what’s fun. Many seniors envision their retirement years as a sort of extended vacation—doing the same sorts of things they used to do to recharge their batteries while they were still working. You took a break from the job and relaxed with golf or fishing or gardening; but pretty soon you realized you’d relaxed enough, and you wanted to get back to doing something.
It’s no different in retirement. Solving a daily crossword puzzle to relax when you come home from the office: great; spending years doing nothing but crosswords all day long: not so good. There’s nothing wrong with a relaxing diversion now and then; but spending all your time in diversions impoverishes rather than enriches your life.
That’s why so many seniors eventually find themselves bored by retirement: they aren’t accomplishing anything. They’re just killing time.
So how to regain that sense of accomplishment, without sinking back into the same sort of daily grind you just escaped from? The answer is really simple: do what you love to do. Maybe that means a complete change from your previous career: from financial advisor to cabinet maker, for instance. Building something beautiful and useful with your hands can provide many, many hours of involvement, and leave you with an incredible sense of accomplishment in the end. And when you look back on it, you realize there wasn’t anything else you would rather have been doing: not golf, not travel, not crosswords.
Or, you might just find that what you really want to do is what you’ve always done. In that case, volunteering makes sense: from financial advisor to financial mentor, for instance. There are many low-income individuals, and many non-profit groups, who simply cannot afford necessary professional services; but retirees don’t lose their expertise when they leave the office. Why waste decades of hard-won wisdom when it’s so sorely needed in the world? Doing what you love can give you a sense of accomplishment; volunteering can add to that a sense of purpose.
Or perhaps what you really crave is to acquire wisdom. There are millions of seniors who share that with you. Whether it be quilting, or speaking French, or car repair, or astronomy, learning a new discipline can both enrich your life and extend it. That’s right: people who are mentally active have a tendency to live longer—and it goes with saying, they have a tendency to enjoy their lives more, too.
Learning a new skill or mastering a new subject doesn’t have to mean going back to college; there is virtually no end to the classes being taught at the local level in community colleges, libraries, foundations, and by private instructors. And don’t forget the Internet: resources like YouTube can sometimes provide all the information you need to learn on your own.
Another great way to have fun in retirement is, oddly enough, to get a job or start a home business. Perhaps you have an uncommon interest—for instance, bookbinding—which can be expensive as a simple hobby. But if you turn it into a profit-generating business, or find a job doing what you really like to do, your wind up getting paid to have fun. It may not fit in with previous conceptions of retirement, but so what? This is your life, so live it on your own terms.
Finally, residents of active retirement communities often are able to take advantage of programs offered through their community. Whether you’re looking for leisure activities like sports, or hobbies like woodworking, or educational opportunities, you can often find them within your own community. Plus, if you have a useful skill—like the aforementioned financial advisor—you might find it possible to make use of it helping out as a consultant for the other members of your community, or for community management. And of course, there’s always the chance that your fun and rewarding activity could wind up generating income.