What will you do when you retire?


When you have a full time “day job”, your weekdays are fairly busy. You can feel like you’re on an endless treadmill, constantly moving and going, where even your sleeping hours feel oddly regimented.

But, if you’re like me at all, you can get so focused on the week’s activities that when the weekend comes, there’s a sense of a kind of surprise. The moment you have some breathing room, you don’t know what to do with it. Didn’t I have things you wanted to accomplish?

One of my earliest posts on this site was what to do with unstructured time when you finally get it. It’s been one of the most important posts for me, and I refer to it frequently in my own life when I feel adrift.

But in this case, we’re only talking about a single work week here. Now let’s increase the scale. What would it be like if your “work week” was 40 years instead of 40 hours, and then the “weekend” was your “retirement”?

I feel a chill just thinking about it. And if you don’t, maybe you haven’t thought it through.

Time to retire

The average American retires at age 63. (This dude is an exception.) A person at that age has a life expectancy of around 83 years. So that’s 20 years worth of retirement.

That’s a fairly long time. (If you disagree, think back to where you were that many years ago. Were you even the same person?) And let’s assume that you are healthy enough to be physically and mentally fit and in total control of your faculties until the day when the proverbial piano falls on your head.

(No, I hope that doesn’t actually happen to you.)

What are you going to do with this time?

In my opinion, this is a question that is not sufficiently addressed by prospective retirees to the extent that it needs to be. A lot of the people I know who are talking about retirement have mentioned vague things like “I’ll volunteer / spend time with family / take classes“. All of which are good things, and I support them fully.

But for those working stiffs like myself who are used to having most of our time directed by others, retirement is a full time job. It takes up as much time as your working life did. If not more.

Now, I recognize that I’m a bit of a Type A person, and I like to keep moving and doing things. And I may not feel that way once I get closer to my target retirement age. So perhaps I may be a bit overzealous in my desire to allocate my time in retirement.

But, then again, I’m reminded of a quote I heard once (can’t attribute it, apologies) that’s never left me: “People who retire early die early.”


Now, I’m not saying that I agree. (I don’t expect to see Mr. Money Mustache kicking over at age 37 or anything.)

But what I am advocating for here is for those people who are thinking of retiring, you need to figure out a plan for your time.

Because, just like the secret life of your money, your time has a secret life too. And if you don’t keep tabs on it, it will do what it wants, and not what you want.

And that would be a shame after so much hard work.

But enough about me. Do you have a plan for your retirement?

One Comment

  1. Jess

    I think about this a lot. I don’t have a plan for my retirement. I have no idea what I’ll want to do or what I’ll need to do when I retire. Will I want to travel? Will I have children, or grandchildren, that I’ll want to spend time with? (So far, the answer is no.) Will I want to volunteer?

    I don’t know what 30-years-from-now me will want to do or need to do.

    Financial planners often ask you, “What are your retirement goals?” My reply is always, “I don’t know.” Then I tell them that I want to save as much money as possible so that I’ll have options. I’d like to stop working when I want to, not when I have to. I’d like the freedom to pick up and go on vacation if I want to. I’d like the freedom to eat dinner at five star restaurants five nights of the week, if that’s what makes me happy. (Hey, at that point, I’ve earned it.)

    That’s the best possible plan that I can come up with—for now at least.

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