Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Keeping busy with work and family year after year can make it tricky to decide how to spend time in retirement. Discover ways to feel your best and make the most of life after work.

1. Keeping active

According to research from Sydney University, people who have retired generally adopt a healthier lifestyle than their working peers. With more time on their hands, retired people are getting a better night’s sleep and more exercise. The study of 25,000 older Australians shows that retired people sleep 11 minutes longer and spend 93 minutes more per week keeping physically active, compared with the same age group still in the workforce. These findings could be part of the reason why Australians are living longer. “We hope this information could translate to better health in older Australians, preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says Dr. Melody Ding, lead researcher for the study.

So what could your healthy lifestyle in retirement look like? If you already like to run, hike or cycle, you’ll have more time to enjoy these activities and won’t need to budget for extra equipment. Joining a gym or sports team is another way to add exercise into your weekly routine, and make new friends too.

2. Staying social

Your social networks in retirement are just as important to your health and wellbeing as a regular commitment to exercise. In a 2013 research study, Oliver Huxhold from the German Centre of Gerontology[1] found a significant difference in life satisfaction among older people who regularly take part in activities with friends. Not only does this social activity improve mental health and boost positive feelings, it can also protect people from the negative effects of ageing.

Work can often play a big part on our social life. In retirement, you can find yourself feeling isolated when you’ve been used to daily contact with colleagues and friends from work. So it’s important to strengthen social ties with friends, new and old, who share your interests. There are all kinds of ways to reach out to like-minded people in your community, through volunteering, joining clubs or local interest groups.

3. Working and volunteering

Not everyone sees retirement as their chance to stop working altogether. Continuing to work in some capacity can be a very positive lifestyle choice, giving your days and weeks a welcome routine and purpose. Part-time work can also be a great way to supplement your income in retirement and help your savings last longer. Having more time on your hands can also allow you to set-up that business you’ve always wanted to try or start a hobby that could turn into an extra source of income.

After a lifetime of work, you’re likely to have knowledge and skills to offer others through a mentoring or tutoring arrangement. This can be a very rewarding way to develop your social network and you can choose whether to accept payment or offer your time and skills as a volunteer. This is one of many types of volunteering that can give you the sense of purpose you enjoyed in your work and enable you to make a positive contribution to your community.

4. Spreading your wings

With fewer demands on your time, perhaps you can get around to ticking some destinations off the bucket list? Whether you’re planning to head overseas or pack up a caravan and join the growing ranks of grey nomads, travel in retirement can be a very rewarding experience. According to Tourism Research Australia, the Grey Nomad trend – people age 55+ spending long periods travelling around Australia – is growing, with a massive 90% increase in the number of 55 to 70-year-old domestic travellers since 2000[2] Many people find they can live on a more modest budget as they travel. Others are just drawn to the lifestyle that comes with road tripping their way through retirement.

If you’re heading overseas, many companies organise travel programs specifically for people who are retired. These trips can be ideal if you’re looking to meet and travel with likeminded people and have all the hard work and planning taken care of. When travelling for extended periods, it’s worth organising a Power of Attorney to make it easier to manage your personal and financial affairs from abroad.

5. Family commitments

Having more time to spend with family can be one of the greatest rewards of retirement. Many retirees love to be involved with caring for grandchildren. Having finished work, they have fewer responsibilities to juggle and may welcome the chance to focus attention on their newest family members.

However, taking on too much responsibility for the care of others – whether that’s grandchildren and/or elderly parents – can limit the time you have to look after yourself and do other things you enjoy. And when it comes to helping family out with money, be sure you’re not putting yourself in a vulnerable position with your own finances and be aware of any circumstances where a family member is taking advantage of your goodwill and generosity with money. Cases of elder financial abuse are most likely among family members and there is support and help available if you think you may be experiencing financial abuse.

6. Location, location

Where you live can often be one of the most important choices to make for your future wellbeing in retirement. It can have a big impact on what you’ll do with your time and who you’ll spend it with, as well as your retirement budget. Sometimes downsizing can make sense for practical reasons, as it can allow you to move somewhere that’s easier to maintain and ‘lock up and leave’ if you’re planning to travel. For others, it’s a way to use the equity in their home to fund their retirement.

If you’re planning to sell and make a sea change, this can bring more budget benefits if you’re moving to a location where the property and lifestyle is more affordable. But it’s also important to think about the possibility of starting from scratch with your social life in a new neighbourhood and having access to activities you enjoy and the transport and health facilities you might need as you grow older.