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The Hard Parts of Retirement: Boredom and Other Problems

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

Figuring out if you can retire securely can be stressful. However, for some, being retired is hard too with retirement boredom topping the list of problems.

(Haven’t solved this problem yet? Don’t worry. Use the NewRetirement Planner to create a plan for cash flow, withdrawals, taxes, legacy goals, where to live, and more.)

The following are the top “hardships” of living in retirement according to a recent survey on the NewRetirement Facebook group and tips for dealing with retirement boredom.

Too Much Time With the Spouse

Black retirees worry about costs.
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After years of living mostly separate lives on most days, spouses sometimes find that retirement affords too much together time.

Richard quoted an old saying, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.”

And, Kris lamented that the hardest part of retirement is having her husband around all of the time. “The husband worked 6 to 7 days a week for the last 40 years. Now he is home all day, every day!”

Trevor feels some resentment that he now has time for the “honey do” lists.

(Here are some tips for surviving retirement with your spouse.)

Missing Work

Retired woman
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Some people miss the routine. Others miss colleagues. And, many people genuinely enjoyed their work more than the relative retirement boredom.

Here is how one retiree worked through his early entry into retirement, missing work, and experiencing boredom.

Recovering From Work Exhaustion

Stressed out retired man sits on a bench in the woods
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Some retirees are so worn out, used up, exhausted, and burnt out from their careers, that they don’t have the energy to make the most of their time in retirement.

As Jim said, “I just need time to recover.”

A period of reassessing life after work can be a useful time, especially if you are mindful of wanting to find a new purpose and way of life.


Retired man
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Ron points out that the hardest part of retirement is getting older and the diseases that accompany aging.

He wrote: “I had 4 years of retirement and all was good: traveled, partied like 1989 (lol). But then the big C came. Liver cancer. I went on the national liver donation list last November and got a new one last week. I am healing at home already. I think I will be partying again for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just no more alcohol. Looking forward to more life.”

As actor Maurice Chevalier said, “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”

Being the ‘Go To’ for Aging Relatives and Adult Children

Man of retirement age
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While many people consider caregiving to be a privilege, there is no way around the fact that it is incredibly difficult.

Bob has it rough. He wrote about the hardest part of being retired, “I have been retired 2 months and have spent 90% of my time dealing with older relatives. I suspected there would be some of this but totally underestimated the time and stress involved.”

And Jeanne expressed frustration with her adult children, saying that the hardest part of retirement is, “Grown children who figure I have nothing else to do now, so I should be available for whatever they need, whenever they need it. Frustrating.”

Tips for keeping your own retirement plans on track as a family caregiver.

Losing Friends

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Herbert pointed out that the hardest part of retirement is, “Saying goodbye to family and friends that pass away.”

Loss is very hard. However, it can also serve as a poignant reminder to live the life you want.

Annoying Your Friends With Retirement Bliss

Happy retired couple
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On the lighter side, Kelly finds that the hardest part of retirement is that she is having so much more fun than her working friends.

She wrote, “[The hardest part is] that I’m irritating my friends with a big smile on my face and my constant repeating of, ‘OMG, it’s fantastic. Retire as soon as you can.’”

Still Not Having Enough Time

Early retirees
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Many retirees can relate to the quote from Bill Watterson, author and illustrator of Calvin and Hobbes, “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”

Mark’s spin on time was this, “Ironic, but I don’t have enough time to do everything I need to do and then want to do in a day. I should wake up earlier, but noooooo way!”

Joseph wondered, “How did I ever have time for work?”

The Hardest Part of Retirement? Retirement Boredom, Nothing to Do, Feeling Irrelevant

Worried woman worries about retirement money
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By far, the most common complaint about retirement is boredom and not having anything to do. Worse, is not having anything to do and feeling irrelevant.

John lamented, “I’m 1 month into retirement and still trying to figure this out. Realizing I have to search out my daily activities, they don’t come looking for me like work did.”

Toby commented, “Work and kids were my purpose for so long. Now I can focus on me and what I want and I feel a little lost.”

Here are 14 ways recent retirees advise solving retirement boredom.

1. Plan before you retire

Excited woman looking at her retirement portfolio
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Many people think it is a good idea that you don’t retire until you have a plan for your time.

Terry said, “I tell my old co-workers if they have nothing to do then keep working. Otherwise you’ll be bored.”

2. Get a dog

Senior dog walker
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Julie posted (along with a picture of her chocolate lab and chocolate lab puppies), “Dogs definitely keep you busy. And, it’s nice to go on walks with them.”

Or, as David wrote, “Get a dog to walk YOU every day.”

3. Have a purpose

Woman unpacking her suitcase in a hotel room
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Your purpose can be having fun relaxing or saving mankind from peril. It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Not sure about your purpose? Here are some tips:

4. Make lists or rules

Happy retiree on a laptop
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While freedom is the goal for most retirees, giving yourself to-do lists or personalized rules for living may be helpful to help you avoid boredom.

Judy maintains three lists: someday, soon and today. Everything that she might ever want to do gets categorized into one of those time frames.

She said, “Each to-do item is a ‘card’ and I move cards around. For example, I have ‘Go on African Safari,’ which was under ‘Someday’ during COVID, then got moved to ‘Soon’ last year.

“Cards that I feel like doing today (or next few days) get moved to the list with that name. ‘Get sprinklers fixed’ found its way to the Today list since yesterday and I’m in the process of doing that. Once the item is completed, it gets archived. ‘Maui vacation’ was a recent card that got archived.”

She continued, “Without the lists, I felt aimless and I couldn’t keep track of things I want to do in retirement. Every so often, I look at the archived items to remind myself where my time in retirement has gone.”

Andy has two rules that he follows to overcome boredom: 1. Stay busy; 2. Do good.

5. Keep moving

senior man meditating or doing yoga at a lake in the mountains in retirement
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If you are struck with boredom, a useful technique is just to move. Go somewhere. Do something. (It doesn’t matter what.) This advice worked for Andy and Julie.

Andy wrote, “We walk every day, we volunteer often, travel somewhere once a month, golf. We are busier than ever.”

Julie commented that her rule is to move, “A body in motion stays in motion.”

6. Make new friends

Retired friends on the beach
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Robert suggested, “Get familiar with the website www.meetup.com. It’s free and you will quickly find otheres with similar interests and hobbies. Five years ago I tried it and found guitar pickers and bicycles groups and … I am now the busiest retired guy around.”

Here are more tips for making friends in retirement.

7. Forget routines: Explore the luxury of free and unstructured time

Senior retired friends having fun
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James thinks that if you are experiencing retirement boredom and looking to schedule your time, then you don’t have the right mindset.

He said, “You’re missing the point of retirement. There is zero need for a routine. And, in fact, I resent myself when I have to schedule anything definite. Let go of the work paradigm and embrace the luxury of time. You’ll figure it out. Or, you never will. Most don’t.”

He continued, “There is no ‘wasting’ time in retirement. You do what you want to do when you want to do it. There are no agendas, no timelines, etc. … Your entire retired life is free time now. Explore that luxury.”

Heather concurred, “Try the no-plan plan. Works great!”

8. Have hobbies, not routines

retired couple in Europe
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Robert wrote, “Hobbies are important (motorcycles are Robert’s passion). However, avoiding ‘routines’ in general keeps me more alert and happier. Some people need routines and I respect that, but it is not in my nature. I like to be unpredictable. I keep the neighbors confused.”

9. Keep to a routine

senior man looking at calendar
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While many experts (and the guys quoted above) endorse the benefits of unstructured time, much research suggests that having a routine can help you stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.

Joseph endorsed a routine. He wrote, “I try to get up and go to bed at a similar time each day. I attempt to walk 6,000 steps by 1 PM (daily goal is 7,500+ so I want to jump start it early.) I schedule in-house appointments only on Monday and Tuesday if possible. I schedule doc appointments only on Wednesday if possible.

“COVID has cramped me some in that I don’t have a regular gym or workout routine which I really need. I nap around 2–2:30 PM if possible. I write down a list of things that need to be done and pick 3 even if it’s just something easy. Much more definition needed because I don’t want my family to find things for me to do.”

Jordana was passionate about the benefits of routine: “Routine is actually very good for you and healthy. Without it you’re liable to spend so much of your time wasting away on nothing important or healthy.”

She continued, “That’s what all the billionaires have figured out and that’s why they never want to retire even though they don’t need money, they work for charity — for creativity — to better society.

“You can’t do any of this if you don’t have a schedule and obligations to others. Work is good for your mind and brain anything with commitment and stimulation motivates you — in purpose and doing for others out of some obligation to help instead of just leisure all day.”

10. Read ‘Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals’

Senior woman playing on her tablet
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Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals” is a book by Oliver Burkeman. The book’s title refers to the finite number of years you’ll live, assuming you make it to 80.

He addresses the struggle of how to best use your 4,000 weeks.

“Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Oliver Burkeman delivers an entertaining, humorous, practical, and ultimately profound guide to time and time management.

“Rejecting the futile modern fixation on ‘getting everything done,’ ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ introduces readers to tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing finitude, showing how many of the unhelpful ways we’ve come to think about time aren’t inescapable, unchanging truths, but choices we’ve made as individuals and as a society ― and that we could do things differently.”

11. Make a to-do jar

retirees fun at the beach
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Kelly has systems for combating retirement boredom.

She wrote, “Write down things you want to do, like 100 of them, and put them in a jar. Pull one out a week and DO it. Also, find one NEW thing to do in each of these categories: physical, spiritual, creative, intellectual, social, relationship and community. That gives you a well rounded life to keep you busy and fulfilled.”

12. Use a calendar

early retirement woman drinking coffee
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Karl wrote, “If I don’t put it on the calendar, it doesn’t happen and I spend way too much time on Facebook and other time wasters.”

13. Make screen time limits

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Technology can be a time suck. And, with nothing but time in retirement, you want to be careful not to use up your time on the boob tube, phone or other mindless screens.

Fiona has a solution, “I give MYSELF screen time limits.”

14. Go back to work

Retiree with money
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Yep. Many retirees find happiness by going back to work.

Cathy wrote that she is, “Resisting the urge to keep working. I have a habit of starting hobbies that turn into companies.”

All about reversing retirement.

15. Be accountable to someone

Retirees enjoying a walk outdoors
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Karl uses his friends to make sure he does things he wants to do. And he finds that it helps with retirement boredom. He wrote, “I am finding that I need to take control of what I do by inviting others to join me.”

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