What Will (Your) Retirement Life Be Like?

By on May 19, 2009 in Current Events, Retirement with 2 Comments

What will retirement life be like? 

This is one of the two items that elicited the most curiosity when I asked Fedsmith readers what they would most like to see covered in upcoming articles.

I have met many people who were unsure what they would do after they retire, and this caused some of them to delay retirement out of concern as to what was ahead.  However, I have met many pre-retirees who knew exactly what was in their future.

Once we are retired we will still have the same 24 hours in a day (168 per week) that we had while working. It’s just that we will have around 50 extra hours per week to fill.  The 50 hours assumes a 40-hour workweek and roughly 10 hours a week spent in commuting.

Early in retirement, we will have little trouble filling these hours.  We will have projects that have been put off during our working days, and we will revel in the fact that we don’t have to be anywhere at any special time.  We may have a special vacation or two we want to take to celebrate our retirement.

Once we settle down (a few months after our retirement date) we realize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what our retirement life will look like.  Our interests vary as much after we retire as they do while we are still working.  We can expect that we will enjoy pretty much the same things we did while we were working.  

Some people do find that things they thought they would enjoy immensely after their retirement lose some of their luster after a year or so. 

Let’s take golf as an example.  Many of us golf as often as we can while we are still working.  Unfortunately, due to our work and home lives, we may only get in a round once every two weeks or so.  When we retire, we can play every day if the weather (or spouse) permits.  This would allow us to play as many rounds in a month as we did in a normal pre-retirement year.  I suspect there are a few readers (wearing Calloway hats as they read this) who will be able to enjoy a daily round of golf, but I suspect there are more who would tire of golf after a while if we played it on a daily basis.

Think of the items that society values. They tend to be rare, such as diamonds or gold (or golf only twice a month).  More common items such as wood or gravel (or golf every day) are not valued as highly.

I have a retirement readiness "test" I often give to people in my pre-retirement seminars. First, they are shown a circle like the following

Please insert a pie chart here with three unequal slices.  One should say "Work, Lunch, Travel: 9 – 10 hours".  Another should say "Sleep, Breakfast, Dinner: 8 – 10 hours".  The third should say "Other Activities Including Leisure:  4 – 7 Hours".


This chart represents a typical workday, though the pie slices may vary slightly from person to person.  Then I show them an empty circle and ask them to imagine they have been retired for a while and to fill in what a typical day of retirement would look like.

If they can quickly fill in the circle with realistic activities, they are mentally and emotionally ready to retire, regardless of whether or not they can afford to or are even eligible to.  If they are unable to fill in the circle, then they are not mentally and emotionally ready to retire.

You might want to try this test when you get within a year or so of retirement.


A good book for those who want to investigate retirement activities is What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement? by Richard Bolles and John Nelson (Ten Speed Press; 2007).  The book has numerous activities that are quite thought provoking and can give you ideas as to what you might like to do once you are retired.  It is not intended to tell you what you should do, but to help you identify activities you might enjoy once you have more time to devote to them.

Volunteering is a common activity of retirees.  Volunteering, like work, is more rewarding if you have an interest in what you are doing and if you have the skills necessary to do it well.  Providing assistance to causes you believe in can be rewarding just in itself.  This website can help you locate multiple volunteer opportunities in your area.  Your local United Way or Community Chest would also be aware of volunteer opportunities.

If you stay in touch with former co-workers who have retired, you may wish to talk to them about how they adjusted to retirement.  Prepare a list of questions that you would like to know the answers to; then ask them.

We also don’t know what the future holds for us.  In a recent article, Steve Opperman outlined his adjusting to a different life in retirement.  Perhaps we should all take to heart some advice that Ben Franklin gave many years ago: "Plan like you will live forever, but pray like you will die tomorrow."

If you don’t feel ready to retire, don’t do so just because it is expected.  After all, unless you are in a position with a mandatory retirement age, no one can tell you that you have to retire.  On the other hand, if you are ready to go (and can afford to), no one can stop you either.




John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.