A Gap Year for Retirees May Help Clarify Goals

This time of year, high school and college graduates gather to celebrate their achievements and the beginning of the next stage of life.  Many will pursue higher education or job training, but a brave few will announce they are taking a gap year to travel, explore career opportunities or simply regroup after what has been an extraordinarily challenging few years.  Older adults at the precipice of retirement too may be considering the game plan for their second act – and a gap year to adjust to a new lifestyle may be in order.  

Our society tends to highly value busyness and productivity.  But there is much to be said about letting go of to-do lists for a while and savoring an unscheduled block of time to daydream, read, meditate, paint or just walk the dog.  Many retirees will agree that it takes about a year to figure out what retirement looks like for them, trying various hobbies or activities that bring them joy, purpose, and meaning.  There is no wrong answer. 

One brother entering retirement may significantly downsize his home, pack up, and move to the coast to enjoy daily ocean-side excursions.  He may even start volunteering and putting his talents to good use in the community. The other brother may travel more, reconnect with old friends, play golf or tennis, and work to tick off items on a long household to-do list.  

As The Oldish discussed in a recent article, creating a bucket list can help people focus their energy on what they value most.  Writing about the things one would like to do in their lifetime, and the experience of tackling these projects or activities can help clarify what comprises a successful and meaningful retirement for each individual.   Giving oneself time to explore new, or renewed activities and contemplate how they “fill your bucket” can help guide new retirees on a rewarding and happy second, or third act. 

What’s on your retirement wish list?