10 Things Not to Do When You Retire

Michael Kwan
Senior couple dancing

You've made it. After toiling away through all those years of blood, sweat and tears, your coworkers have pushed you out the door and given you a fancy new Timex for your troubles. You're officially retired and you can now feel like you're a drain on society.

Before you throw caution to the wind or resign yourself to a life lived solely by a rocking chair, take heed of what you should not be doing during your retirement years.

What to Avoid in Retirement

Avoid these dangerous pitfalls as you sit back, relax and enjoy the retirement you've been saving for your entire working life.

Don't Work (At Least Not That Hard)

couple sitting on motorcycle

You're retired. Keep it that way. After you've spent the entirety of your adult life climbing some corporate ladder, you don't want to trade that in for another shot at climbing another ladder. That's a young folks' game. And, truth be told, you're no spring chicken.

This doesn't mean you should necessarily stop working altogether. Contradictory? Perhaps, but working in retirement could be one of your greatest sources of purpose and satisfaction. Volunteer at a nonprofit. Take on a part-time job for fun and a little extra spending money. Just whatever you do, don't get back into the rat race. You're probably tired of running anyway. And you're no rat either.

Don't Let Stereotypes Define You

Mainstream society may try to "put you in your place," telling you that retired people should dress and act a certain way. You should be modest, they'll say. You should dress conservatively, they'll say. You should act your age, they'll say.

Don't listen to them. You've earned your place in society, you've paid your dues, and you've earned the privilege to act and dress however you please. If you want to take up flamenco dancing, don't let anyone hold you back. If your varicose veins bother them, that's their problem, not yours.

Don't Stop Learning

Further education

School isn't just for the youngsters. The brain needs to be exercised like any other muscle. Get that hamster back on its wheel. Your senior years can indeed be one of the best times to go back to college, picking up courses you'd wish you had taken when you were younger.

Are you going to be the oldest fart in a room filled with young whipper-snappers? Probably, but so be it! Explore those latent interests without the overbearing pressure of getting good grades or starting a career afterward.

You don't have to commit to a diploma program, of course. Take individual classes or workshops at a local community center. Pursue new hobbies or learn a new sport.

Don't Become a Couch Potato

Senior Women Exercising in Swimming Pool

They say that age is nothing but a number. Your body may disagree. It's important to maintain an active lifestyle in your later years rather than choosing to slump into the same armchair every day for hours on end, watching soap operas and eating bonbons. Sitting in a rocking chair on a veranda telling kids to get off your lawn doesn't count either.

Keep fit and have fun. Those new sports you're learning can certainly provide some much-needed motivation.

Don't neglect the rising costs of healthcare with advancing age. Staying active and carefully managing your health has the double benefit of reducing the costs of medical care and improving your overall standard of living. Nobody likes old, fat potatoes.

Don't Blow Your Savings

After building up your retirement savings, you may be tempted to splurge on expensive cars, extravagant meals and even fancier vacations. Enjoy yourself, but don't empty your bank account with reckless abandon. With age comes wisdom and you're wiser than that, aren't you? You still need to be smart with your money, especially if you want to leave an inheritance for your loved ones.

In a similar (varicose) vein, you may not want to start taking social security payments too early. By delaying just a few years, you can dramatically increase your monthly payments by as much as over 70%. Your retirement savings need to last as long as you do. If you've made it 65, there is a good chance you've still got at least another 20 years ahead of you.

Don't Be a Hermit

Friends Enjoying Beverage

Remember the old guy from the movie Up? Remember how grumpy and stubborn he became? Remember how he isolated himself from society? Don't be that guy. . .be what he was like by the end of the movie instead.

Since you don't have to go to a job anymore and you may not have the same social obligations as you did in your younger years, you may find yourself slowly retreating from the world as a recluse. Don't do that.

Don't isolate yourself and don't restrict yourself to the same small bubble. Go make new friends, not only among fellow retirees but with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Everyone can learn something from everyone else, including young Wilderness Explorers named Russell and talking dogs named Dug.

Don't Eat Poorly

Watch what you eat. If you've been taking good care of your body throughout your adult life, now is not the time to throw all that hard work away. If you haven't been eating well for years, now is the best time to turn those bad habits around and to start paying closer attention to your nutritional needs. One extra brownie won't kill you, except that it might.

A supplemental multivitamin is good, but a balanced and complete diet is even better. Subsisting on an exclusive diet of Werther's Originals is a recipe for disaster.

Don't Become the Default Babysitter

"Oh, just leave the kid at grandma's. She's always home and never doing anything anyhow."

As treasured and as cherished as your grandchildren may be, you don't want to turn into the automatic dumping place for the little rugrats when their parents deem it convenient for them. You're not running a daycare center and you're not a teenager looking to earn some babysitting money.

Tend to the wee ones when it works for you and you want to and not when your adult children feel like leaving their ankle-biters at your place for several hours without notice.

Don't Neglect Your Estate Planning

Couple With Financial Advisor At Table


There. Pandora's box has been opened.

A subject that many retirees avoid as taboo is the inevitable conclusion to their story. And while the hope is that your retirement is a long and happy one, it does have to end at some point. At that time, the most important thing is to ensure that all your affairs are in order for your survivors.

Talk to your legal and financial advisors about how best to handle your estate if you haven't done so already and make the necessary arrangements.

Don't Get Comfortable

It's awfully tempting to lull yourself into a state of complacency upon retirement, settling into a mundane routine that just feels comfortable. You need to remember that there is far more to retirement than simply waiting it out. Don't get tired of retirement. Don't stop believing. . .in yourself.

Continue to challenge yourself. Go out and see the world. Travel to exotic locations. Experience new things and continue to push yourself, because life's too short to wonder what could have been. You're never too old for anything if you continue to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. Yes, you can even be a flamenco dancer, varicose veins and all.

Old Dogs and New Tricks

The old saying asserting that old dogs can't learn new tricks is simply rubbish. There is a reason why these are called the golden years and you owe it to yourself to live out your retirement to its fullest. Teach yourself all sorts of new tricks and continue to be a valued member of the community.

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10 Things Not to Do When You Retire