Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

The Top 7 Things People Plan to Do in Retirement

senior couple dancing
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What do you expect retirement to look like? Golf and gardening, spoiling the grandchildren and spending time with friends might be what you see as top replacements for decades of stressing over alarm clocks, commutes and career advancements.

While retirement allows you to take more control of your time, what you choose to do may change as you age, says a recent AARP study, “Second Half of Life.” When you’re 40, what you expect retirement to look like might differ from the reality of life at 80.

As we age, we get more in tune with our quality of life and focus less on longevity, the study says. The study results are based on 15-minute surveys of 2,580 U.S. adults ages 18 and older and conducted by AARP Research in collaboration with National Geographic Partners.

Here’s a look at what the AARP study found are the top choices of what people plan to do in retirement.

Hobbies

Senior men playing tennis
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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time on hobbies in retirement: 77%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time on hobbies in retirement: 68%

Retirees typically have more than seven hours of leisure time daily after sleep and daily chores. Hobbies, like other social activities, not only fill that time but also can boost physical and mental health and lower the risk of dementia, heart disease and stroke, says the National Institute on Aging. Hobbies help you create a sense of purpose in your daily life.

To learn more, read “10 Hobbies That Can Help You Live Longer.”

Travel

Senior woman on the beach with friends
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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time traveling in retirement: 72%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time traveling in retirement: 37%

For some retirees, the question isn’t “What do we do now?,” it’s “Where are we going?” Travel is the top retirement dream among workers, says the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. In its 2021 report, traveling was cited as a retirement goal by nearly two out of three surveyed workers.

However, the desire — or ability — to travel declines with age, the AARP study finds. Wanderlust may fade over money concerns since travel isn’t cheap, as Visa points out; retirees want to stay closer to home for safety reasons, as AARP finds; or they have health concerns, as an RBC Wealth Management study notes.

If you want to fulfill you travel wish before it fades, set goals, assess your health and abilities and make a bucket list of destinations.

Family

Grandfather and grandson looking at old family photos and genealogy
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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time with family in retirement: 67%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time with family in retirement: 68%

The expectation of spending time with family remains consistent as we age, the AARP study indicates. Our joy and purpose from family increases as we age, it says.

Also, many of us expect we will need the support of family as we age, so we want to stay close and make sure family relationships are strong, the AARP study notes. Family support can help another common retiree goal: living at home as we age.

Friends

senior men having fun
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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time with friends in retirement: 58%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time with friends in retirement: 58%

People under age 40 and people age 80 and up share the same expectation of spending time with friends during retirement, the AARP study finds. In between those ages, the expectation dips. However, as retirees age, they see that having friends, being social and doing activities with them adds to their joy, the AARP study says.

Retirees would do well to stay in touch with friends, make new ones and regularly engage in group activities. This can help avoid social isolation which has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, dementia and death, says a study on “The Four Pillars of the New Retirements” by Edward Jones financial firm and New Wave, a company studying aging issues.

Volunteering

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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time volunteering in retirement: 43%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time volunteering in retirement: 36%

Volunteering during retirement can give you a clear sense of purpose in life, studies say. So much of our identities are tied to our jobs, volunteering can help give new meaning to retirees’ lives.

Volunteering can help promote physical activity, prevent isolation, bridge generations, boost self esteem, improve cognitive health and lower your risk of memory loss as you age.

If you don’t have much wealth, volunteering during your golden years may be particularly beneficial.

Working part time

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Respondents under age 40 who expect to work part time in retirement: 29%

Respondents age 80 and older who work part time in retirement: 6%

Our expectations of working part time in retirement diminish after age 50, the AARP study says.

In a similar finding, a recent Gallup poll learned about 2 out of 3 non-retirees expect to rely on part-time work as a major or minor source of income, but only about 1 in 6 retirees actually do.

More retirees are working because they want to, not because they have to, a Merrill Lynch study says. Meanwhile, retirees often claim keeping their brains alert or maintaining social connections as key reasons to work part-time, according to the Transamerica study.

For a look at 20 great part-time jobs for retirees, go here.

Caring for a loved one

Happy senior couple
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Respondents under age 40 who expect to spend time caring for a loved one in retirement: 14%

Respondents age 80 and older who spend time caring for a loved one in retirement: 11%

While the percent of people caring for loved ones in retirement might look low, it adds up.

With 10,000 people a day turning 65, all baby boomers will be at least 65 by 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau says. Also going up will be the number of unpaid family caregivers, says AARP in another recent study. About 19% of the estimated 53 million unpaid family caregivers are 65 and up, the study finds.

“Alarmingly, the stress associated with caregiving may exacerbate declines in health that occur with age,” the study says. It can also cause financial strain as caregivers stop saving and use up their personal savings to provide care to aged parents, partners or children.

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