Many retirement articles have been written about all the wonderful things you can do with the free time you will have after you retire. Once you leave work, you'll have more time to travel, volunteer, take courses, play golf, enjoy hobbies and so much more. The possibilities seem endless. All of these articles talk about everything you can add to your life.
After adding many of these things to your life, you could easily find yourself busier than you were during your working years. But filling your life with busyness probably won't make you happier. In fact, it could leave you more stressed out. As it turns out, your happiness in retirement could be determined as much by what you remove from your life as what you add. Here are four things you could eliminate from your life to be happier in retirement.
Activities you don't enjoy. Once you are retired, you will have more time for chores such as cleaning your house and maintaining your yard. If you truly enjoy gardening and landscaping, that's great. These may even be among the things you are looking forward to having more time for.
But if your vision of a satisfying retirement doesn't include a lot of time spent on home and yard upkeep, look into ways to reduce or eliminate it. Consider removing high-maintenance trees and plants from your yard or replacing your grass with artificial turf. Moving to an apartment, condo or retirement community will eliminate your yard maintenance altogether. Moving to a smaller home will reduce the amount you have to clean indoors, or you could hire a maid if your financial situation will support that.
Obligations that don't bring fulfillment. After you retire, people might easily assume that you have a lot of free time on your hands. In their eyes, you are now a prime candidate for serving on committees and boards. This can be enjoyable and fulfilling, but only say yes if you really want to do it. You shouldn't feel obligated to accept a commitment just because you have the available time or the required skills.
Similarly, if you live near your children and grandchildren, your children might assume that you are readily available on call to babysit the grandchildren. Of course you love your grandkids and want to spend time with them, but it's up to you to decide how much time you are willing to devote to looking after them and to say no when that time is exceeded.
Possessions you no longer use.Getting rid of items in your house that you haven't used for years is both therapeutic and practical. Rooms that are neat and uncluttered are more inviting and pleasant than rooms stuffed full of things crammed into every available space. You will have less to clean and keep track of. Chances are, you waste time looking for things you know you own but can't find. Worse, you may end up buying duplicates of the things you can't find or have forgotten that you own.
If you are currently renting storage space to hold your extra stuff, emptying it will save you the monthly rental fee as well as the time you spend driving there and rooting through boxes to find what you're looking for. Most items you are storing in a storage facility are things you really have no further need for, but you can't bring yourself to throw away. When you finally dispose of them, it will be a weight off your shoulders.
People you don't enjoy. Life is too precious and too short to spend with people who are negative and drain your energy. Some personal development experts claim that you are the average of the five people you associate with the most, so surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive and fun.
Of course, you should be available to help your friends through difficult times, such as a death in the family or recuperating from an illness. But if you have people in your life who are constant whiners or complainers, disengage from them. If you know people who are petty gossipers, distance yourself and don't get caught up in their drama. If you have friends who only call or visit you when they want to talk about themselves or need a shoulder to cry on but who show little concern for you, replace them with friends who are more caring and uplifting.
Humans are creatures of habit. By the time you retire, your lifestyle habits have been ingrained for many years. Retirement offers you an opportunity to redesign your life into one that is more happy and fulfilling. Try to look at everything you do, everything you own and everyone who is part of your life with fresh eyes. Ask yourself whether each activity, thing or person is contributing to the retirement you want, and if not, make a change. You have worked hard all your life, now it's time to live life on your terms.
RELATED: See 10 surprising facts about retirement life:
10 Surprising Facts About Retirement Life
10 Surprising Facts About Retirement Life
After decades of accumulating enough money to retire, it can be psychologically and emotionally challenging to spend down that money and watch your nest egg get smaller each year. "They are going to feel like they spent a lifetime accumulating this pile, and the idea of spending this down is just repulsive to them," says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and co-author of "Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About It." "For anyone who is retiring, I would give them permission to spend their money," she says.
Saving enough to retire is not your final goal. You should also develop a plan to make that money last the rest of your life. "You need to understand how you can minimize your risk in the portfolio, but you also need a component of that strategy that gives you growth because you need to stay ahead of inflation and taxes," says Laura Mattia, a certified financial planner and wealth management principal for Baron Financial Group in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
Social Security is a significant source of income for most retirees. Almost all retirees (86 percent) receive income from Social Security, and Social Security payments make up at least half of the retirement income of 65 percent of retirees and comprise 90 percent of retirement income for 36 percent of retirees. "Most seniors do not have much income other than Social Security," says Nancy Altman, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security coalition and co-author of "Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All." The average monthly retirement benefit was $1,282 in December 2014.
High medical care bills don't go away once you qualify for Medicare. Although Medicare covers a large amount of the medical treatments older people need, there are several popular services that it doesn't. For example, Medicare won't cover routine eye exams, eyeglass, dental care or hearing aids. And Medicare only covers up to 100 days in a nursing home. Retirees who require additional long-term care will need to find another way to pay for it. And while many preventive care services are covered by Medicare with no cost-sharing requirements, if something concerning is found, additional tests and procedures will be considered diagnostic, and copays and coinsurance are likely to apply. "You really need to understand what health benefits you can receive from Medicare and check how it will cover any ongoing health issues," says Christopher Rhim, a certified financial planner for Green View Advisors in Norwich, Vermont.
Without a job to go to every day, you could find yourself spending an increasing amount of time alone. Some 44 percent of Americans ages 65 and older live alone, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Unless you sign up for a volunteer position or make an effort to socialize on a regular basis, you could become bored and lonely.
If you outlive your spouse or divorce, you might find yourself single again in retirement. While just over half (55 percent) of Americans age 65 and older are married, the rest are widowed (28 percent), divorced (12 percent), separated (1 percent) or never married (5 percent), according to census data. Some of these single seniors begin meeting new people and dating. There are a variety of online dating services that cater to people over 50.
As attractive as it sounds to move to the Sunbelt, most retirees don't relocate for retirement. Only 5.7 percent of Americans age 65 and older moved to a new residence between 2009 and 2013, and the people who do move most often relocate to the same state and even the same county, the Census Bureau found. Only 1 percent of retirees moved to a new state, and just 0.3 percent went overseas. Relocating to a new community in retirement often means leaving behind family and a support system that can be difficult to rebuild in a new place.
While the act of aging is an expected part of retirement, the loss of independence typically isn't as welcome. There may come a time when you can't drive, shovel your own walkway or climb on a chair to change a light bulb. You may even eventually need help with meals and bathing. Although the beginning of retirement is often full of fun and adventures, it's also a good time to make contingency plans for later down the road when you might not be able to care for yourself.
Retirees spend over half of their leisure time watching TV. Seniors ages 65 to 74 tune in for 3.92 hours on weekdays, and those 75 and older watch TV for an average of 4.15 hours each day, according to the 2013 American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compared to the overall population, retirees ages 65 to 74 spend extra time lingering over meals, working on home improvement or garden projects and shopping, the American Time Use Survey found. Retirees also spend more time reading, relaxing and volunteering than younger folks.