Time is money, as the old saying goes. If true, you may never be so wealthy (in time at least) as you are during retirement. Gone are the days of having to trade your most precious commodity for whatever the market would bear. More than ever, you are free to spend your days doing as you please. As part of the new “moneyed” elite, however, you will want to spend your time wisely. Otherwise you might find that another old saying applies: Easy come, easy go. What are the best ways to maximize your new time windfall?
Shake up your routine
Retirement is a major transition. That transition can be difficult and you’ll have a certain amount of inertia to overcome as you attempt to move from your normal daily routine into your new plans for retirement. To help jump start the process, it’s helpful to have big, new plans—like moving, traveling, or volunteering—that will force you to steer off the well-worn path you’ve become accustomed to and proactively pursue your new goals. If you don’t have specific new plans, it’s easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t look much different from your working years, save for sleeping in a little bit and having more time to run errands.
More than ever, retirement is a time to throw caution to the wind. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
If you’re going to shake up your routine and head off in a new direction, there will be certain activities and commitments that are no longer relevant to your plans. Just as it’s important to make a “To-do” list to keep track of things you need to get done, it’s important to make a “Stop doing” list as you transition into retirement in order to free more of your time to focus on new pursuits. Prior to retiring, make a detailed list of all of your commitments and responsibilities. Go through each one and decide which you plan on continuing into retirement and which need to be stopped or handed off to someone else. Once finished, your schedule will be much less cluttered and you will be able to use your time more efficiently.
In addition to simplifying your schedule, simplify your investment accounts. The average person changes jobs several times over the years. That could mean multiple retirement plans at former employers as well as a number of IRAs and other investment accounts. This account proliferation makes monitoring your investments more time consuming and drawing income from them during retirement much more complicated. If you have multiple 401(k)s, roll them into an IRA. If you have multiple IRAs, consolidate them into one. Doing so will help to reduce fees, simplify your distribution strategy, make your investments easier to monitor, and free up more of your time to focus on other priorities.
Focus on milestones, not maintenance
No matter how effective you are at streamlining your schedule, you will still have a good many maintenance type activities that pop up on your calendar every day or every week; things like sleeping, eating, paying bills, going to the doctor, getting groceries, mowing the yard, and cleaning the house. While important, these things don’t really add much significance to your life.
To find meaning, you will want to focus on milestones. Those are the things that, when done, give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Milestones tend to fall in areas like family, relationships, education, adventure, community, hobbies, travel, and health. When reflecting on your life, the milestones will be the things that stick out. They will be the things that you are most proud of. The maintenance will just fade into the background. Because of that, do everything you can to condense, consolidate, minimize, or (if financially able) outsource the maintenance so you can be free to spend more of each day focusing on milestones.
As you can see, by effectively managing your time in retirement you can make the most out of what will surely be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding periods of your life.