What I Look Forward to Most in Retirement

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Getty ImagesSavor the freedom of retirement by managing your own days.
By Dave Bernard

As someone on the cusp of retirement, I occasionally pause to picture life ahead when I will take my first steps toward senior citizen status. After surviving the working world and being fortunate enough to set aside what I hope is a sufficient nest egg to fund retirement, I have big hopes for the next 20 years. There are so many things I enjoy doing, and retirement is by definition the perfect opportunity to pursue my interests and feed my passions.

A reader of my retirement blog has an excellent perspective: "I'm retired (and, yes, past the honeymoon period) and I'm loving it! Each day opens up new possibilities. I find myself becoming more able to insist on things I want, rather than satisfying other's expectations. I don't necessarily need excitement, just newness. Don't do the same old stuff you always did! Try something new each day."

Where should I start? I feel like a kid in a candy shop with so many options that it is almost overwhelming -- but in a good way. Since I am in control of my days, I plan to revel in the freedom to try a little of this and taste some of that, ever sampling and experimenting with new things. As I think about what excites me most about beginning this next chapter, I am looking forward to the following:

No longer on the clock. After a career spent with every minute of every day tightly scheduled and carefully planned, I appreciate the virtues of a blank calendar. I dreamily imagine starting my day with nothing that I must do. It is invigorating to realize I need not worry about being late to the next engagement, but rather I am free to savor the moment. The only clock I have to adhere to is the one I manage.

Picture this: You start a project that keeps you entertained for a while. Then, even though not yet finished, you change course and start something entirely different. In retirement, you can do just that. No more deadlines, no rules or regulations from on high, no more last-minute fire drills. You control how you spend the hours in your day. You are off the clock and how sweet it is.

Freedom to choose. How I spend my retired day will be entirely up to me. It is hard to fathom this incredible freedom of choice. There may be days when I am high-energy and want to get out there and rock the world. On the other hand, there may be days when I am happy sipping my java seated in the backyard with a good book in hand. What I choose to do is solely up to me and not dictated by others. I am free to change my mind as often as I like. I am the decider, and that freedom of choice is something I plan to savor.

Time to nurture the creative me. Although I do not consider myself a particularly artistic person, I do have interests that allow for creative expression. I love writing. Blogging and books are excellent vehicles to put into words my feelings and thoughts. And the fact that some people might enjoy and even benefit from my efforts is pretty cool. When I was a youngster, I took a good many years of piano lessons. As is often the case, I did little to sustain my skills through teen years and raising a family. But now that I have the time, I love to sidle up to the piano and jingle the old keys. Many retirees have a creative side that may have been smothered during a demanding career. The good news is retirement can be the perfect time to rejuvenate your artistic side and express yourself through whatever means you find most rewarding.

Refocus on good health. While we are stuck on the job, perhaps traveling too frequently and typically maintaining a hectic pace, it can be difficult to sustain healthy habits. When it comes to diet and exercise, too often the lifestyle we are forced to live doesn't remotely resemble how we should be living. Since this state of affairs is largely due to lack of time, retirement can be just what the doctor ordered -- literally. Instead of being forced to squeeze in a quick workout in a limited time slot, you can exercise when you feel like it. With the luxury to take all the time you want, your options become more interesting. You also have time to prepare better, more nutritious meals rather than succumb to fast food.

Revisit my relationship with my wife. We have been together for years, and during that time have become best friends. The demands of family and job have sometimes come between us, but only for a moment. We find strength and love and fun in the time we spend together. Once we both retire, we will have more quality time to share. I look forward to traveling and exploring and sharing time focused exclusively on us. My wife deserves to be spoiled, and I look forward to putting to good use my free time as a retiree doing just that.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to when you retire?

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be." Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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What I Look Forward to Most in Retirement
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