Wondering What to Do in Retirement? Consider These 12 Ideas

A happy couple sitting on a couch discusses what to do in retirement

Key Takeaways

  • Retirement offers the opportunity for diverse experiences, from traveling and pursuing hobbies to giving back through volunteering or mentoring.
  • Consider exploring new interests, starting a business, going back to school, or engaging in public service.
  • Create an ideal routine that aligns with your passions, interests, and goals for a fulfilling retirement.
  • The retirement phase allows you to design a life that suits your preferences, providing the freedom to choose activities that bring joy and satisfaction.
  • Embrace the chance to reconnect with loved ones, explore personal creativity, and contribute positively to your community.

When you work 40 hours a week, year in and year out, there's often little time left over to pursue your passions, travel around the world, or just sleep in whenever you want.

That's why retirement can be so sweet. After working so hard for decades, you likely have more free time and can spend it however you choose. Still, some people struggle with deciding what to do in retirement. If you're one of them, here are 12 ideas for meaningful and fulfilling retirement activities.

1. Travel

Traveling can be an enjoyable way to spend your time in retirement. Some retirees choose to explore the world after selling or renting out their home. Others opt to travel closer to home and spend extended time in various cities that were always on their wish list. Early in retirement, you might also try a staycation and become a tourist in your own town, whether that means visiting local museums, going on local historical tours, or trying new restaurants in the area.

The point of retirement is that you get to design it however you like. So, whether you want to travel to Southeast Asia or visit a nearby city, you can do whatever works for you. 

2. See the Country in an RV

Sometimes, travel is all about nostalgia, and what better way to celebrate the past than to get in an RV and travel around the country? An RV allows you to control your own travel schedule, set your own pace, and explore both new places and old sites you may have visited before.

If you've downsized in retirement, getting an airstream trailer or camper may also help to stretch your retirement dollars further in the long-term. You can camp out at national parks, visit the country's most well-known landmarks, or discover small towns without needing to book a flight or stay at a hotel. If you're looking for more adventure in retirement, seeing the country in an RV may check all your boxes.

3. Spend Time With Loved Ones

After traveling, one of the top priorities for many retirees is to spend time with friends and family.

Work can demand so much of your time that you may not always get the opportunity to visit your best friend who lives across the country, spend time with adult children and grandchildren who live only a few hours away, or even spend quality time with your spouse and do things you both enjoy together. Retirement may be the perfect opportunity to do all these things and reconnect with your loved ones.

4. Go Back to School

Have you always dreamed of getting an MBA or maybe becoming an interior designer, a real estate agent or a chef? While you can opt for a more laid-back retirement, going back to school is another option.

Some people are lifelong learners who feel most fulfilled when they are learning something new. This doesn't necessarily require a college or graduate degree; you also can go back to school to learn a new trade or to acquire skills that will help you in a new business venture. For example, if you want to start flipping houses in retirement, getting your general contractor's license might help you be more successful in this new venture. In many states, this only requires several hours of class time, so going back to school doesn't have to be a multiple-year commitment.

5. Start a Business

Retirement doesn't necessarily mean no work. After retiring from your career, you could start your own business, such as a restaurant, an online shop where you sell handmade crafts, a consulting business or a local gym franchise. Whatever you do, it can be rewarding to find something that aligns with your passions and interests if you do plan on working after retirement. 

6. Put a Fresh Spin on Old Skills

Starting a new business can be a huge commitment of your time, finances and emotions, so you may want to put your skills to work in other ways. For example, if you were a drama teacher for decades, you could use that experience to launch an online introduction to acting course through an e-learning platform. If you were an accountant who focused on small businesses, you could launch a blog focused on helping entrepreneurs with their finances.

Just because you don't have a 9-to-5 job anymore doesn't mean you can't take advantage of your skills to help others or start a side hustle that helps you earn additional income.

7. Volunteer

When you trade your time for money, every working hour is dedicated to earning income. Since retirement doesn't come with this requirement, you can spend those hours on retirement activities and causes that matter to you. If you love animals, you can volunteer at a shelter or foster animals. If you have a passion for helping children, you can donate your time to a local nonprofit that helps kids facing serious illnesses or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. You could even volunteer at your church, your kids' or grandkids' school, or at annual events in your local community. Giving back can be a meaningful and fulfilling way to spend your retirement while making a difference in the lives of others.

8. Make Art

Some people aren't fortunate enough to have a career that nurtures their creativity, so they may take advantage of retirement to satisfy this yearning. If you have a passion for art, there are many ways you can use it to express your creativity. You could take a sculpture or painting class, learn how to do pottery or animation, or take up photography. Art doesn't always have to be tactile either — singing, dancing and acting are just as much a form of art as painting.

Retirement can be an opportunity to express yourself in new ways and nurture a lifelong passion. Becoming a budding artist can feed your creative spirit and make your retirement even more gratifying.

9. Try a New Sport

When you were working, you may not have had as much time for health and wellness. In retirement, you'll likely have more time to hit the gym — or you can even take it a step further and try a new sport. If you're really ambitious, why not train to run your first marathon or participate in your first triathlon? You could also take up a more leisurely sport, such as tennis or golf, or join an intramural league, which can help you learn a new sport and meet new people at the same time.

10. Become a Mentor

Volunteering isn't the only way to give back. Many young people need guidance and advice when it comes to navigating their careers. You can use your many years of experience to teach life skills that will serve them well inside and outside of their careers. You can become a mentor by finding a local organization that is looking for mentors, by being more active in your alma mater's alumni network, or just by taking a younger family member or friend under your wing and offering advice when they need it.

11. Dedicate Your Time to Public Service

If you want to become more civically engaged, running for local office or participating in public service is one of the best ways to do this. You can run for your local school board, city council or parks commission, or you could volunteer at your local polling place or for a state or local political campaign. Public service can help you give back to your community and make it a better place for future generations.

12. Start a New Routine

If you're wondering what to do in retirement, you also should think about what an ideal day looks like for you in retirement. Think of this in terms of what you would do on a day off from work if you didn't have any other obligations. Depending on your interests, you might start your day with a morning run, a bike ride or a class at a local gym. It also could be as simple as sleeping in, especially if you were an early riser for years. Next, you might decide to have breakfast or lunch at your favorite café every day or alternate between local restaurants that you like.

If you love cooking, you might designate a day to try making a new recipe. Be sure to build in free time, too. One of the joys of retirement is a flexible schedule, so part of your ideal day may be reading a book or sitting on your front porch doing nothing but people-watching and listening to birds chirp. If you plan to become a world-class traveler in retirement, your ideal day may look very different, whether that means going on a zip-lining excursion, trying exotic local cuisine, or visiting a historic landmark.

There are a lot of things to do in retirement. This is the time to live the life you choose. So, however you decide to spend your days, weeks or years, it's completely up to you to design the retirement of your dreams.

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