What Will Your First Year of Retirement Be Like?

You have probably been anticipating your retirement for many years. Perhaps you’ve entertained some general ideas about what your retirement will look like, but you’re not sure what your day-to-day life will be like once the big day comes to pass.

Despite your years of anticipation, you may be surprised by what it’s really like to wake up and have no job to go to. You will find that your life will suddenly be different in more ways than you might ever have anticipated.

It might be stressful.

This may seem counterintuitive and surprising. After all, you are leaving all the stress of your job behind. Shouldn’t your retirement be exciting, liberating, and stress-free?

In many ways it will be, but any life change can cause stress. Even positive and welcome changes, such as going off to college, starting a new job, getting married, or moving into a new house can cause stress.

Entering retirement may be the time when you experience more changes happening simultaneously than at any other time during your life. Your daily routine, your physical surroundings, the people in your life, your relationship with your spouse, your spending habits – all of these things are likely to change.

Simply acknowledging all of the changes you are experiencing will go a long way towards alleviating the stress. If you can postpone some changes, such as moving to a new house after you retire, that will give you fewer changes to adapt to at once.


It’s unrealistic to think that every day in retirement will be fanciful bliss. It’s not a permanent vacation.

It’s not a permanent vacation.

It’s easy to imagine that every day will be filled with fun and recreation. If you love playing golf, you may envision that you will play golf every day. Your idealized view of retirement may be moving to a house by the ocean and spending every day on the beach.

While every day in retirement is not fanciful bliss, you will have plenty of time to do the things you enjoy. Some of your days will be consumed by more mundane tasks like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and paying bills, just like you did during your working years. You will have good days and bad days, just like you have had throughout the rest of your life.


Without plans or goals, it’s easy to spend all day sitting in front of the TV, and you’ll be miserable.

It’s easy to be lazy and undisciplined – which is not always good.

Immediately after you retire, it’s fine to allow yourself some time to chill out and decompress. You’ve earned it. You may derive great pleasure from turning off your alarm clock and getting up whenever you feel like it.

That’s fine for a few weeks or even a few months, but sooner or later you need to settle into your new life.

Devote some thought to how you want your days to look after you retire and to what extent you want to be driven by a schedule. Allowing yourself some spontaneity is one of the joys of retired life, but don’t expect to live with no plan at all. That’s a recipe for boredom and unhappiness.  If you get up each day with no idea what you’ll do that day, you’ll resort to sitting in front of the computer or the TV all day, and you’ll be miserable.

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Have some conversations with your spouse about how much time you wish to spend together and division of household labor.

Have some conversations with your spouse about how much time you wish to spend together and division of household labor.

Your relationship with your spouse will change.

If your spouse will also be home all day, you will now be together almost all the time. As much as you love your spouse and enjoy his or her company, being together constantly will change the dynamic between the two of you.

Now more than ever, it’s important to talk and share your feelings and concerns with each other. Discuss how much time you wish to spend together and how much time you wish to spend on your individual pursuits and with your separate friends. It may be helpful to establish regular times that you will spend together, such as meals, mid-afternoon breaks, and “date night” evenings.

You may need to re-negotiate your division of household responsibilities. Perhaps while you both worked you hired a cleaning service and a landscaping service, but now you will be doing those jobs yourselves. In cases where one partner worked full-time and the other worked only part-time or was a full-time homemaker, or in cases where one partner traveled extensively for work but no longer does, realigning household chores may be in order.  The retiring worker may feel that his days will now be free for all the golfing, reading, and TV-watching he desires, without considering that the homemaker will have to prepare meals and clean house for the rest of their lives.

After you retire, you'll probably have to revisit how you spend money.

After you retire, you’ll probably have to revisit how you spend money.

Your relationship with money will change.

If you are fortunate enough that your retirement income matches or exceeds your working income, this won’t be a problem. But for most people, retirement means living on a reduced income. Therefore, your spending habits will need to change. You will need to develop a budget which will probably allow less money for discretionary spending such as eating out and impulse buying.

If you are married, it’s important that both partners participate in developing and agreeing upon the new budget – even if one spouse handled all of the financial matters during your working lives.

Be aware that in spite of your best efforts to budget and plan, you will not be immune to unexpected expenditures such car repairs, house repairs, and medical or dental incidents. Be sure to allow enough of a cushion in your budget to cover these unforeseen expenses when they arise.

Your retirement should be an enjoyable, relaxing and fulfilling stage of your life. But it will be different from your working years in many ways besides simply no longer going to work. Being aware of these changes, anticipating and planning for them, and talking about them as they occur will go a long way towards making your transition from work to leisure a smooth one.

If you are retired, what caught you by surprise? What unexpected adjustments have you made?

If you are anticipating retirement, what concerns do you have?

Please share in the comments below!

Reprinted from my blog on U.S. News – On Retirement.

© 2016 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Man jumping on sand: Chris Wilpert at GlobeSurferSome rights reserved.
Feet on lounge chairs: Laszlo Ilyes. Some rights reserved.
Remote and TV: flash.pro. Some rights reserved.
Couple by the ocean: Andrew Whalley. Some rights reserved.
Wall of coins: Jenifer Correa. Some rights reserved.

4 Responses

  1. Kenny says:

    I think I am lucky, in that my spouse and I have very similar financial approaches to life, so that I expect in retirement to have very little stress related to money. Not that I expect to have scads of money, but we both strive to live minimally, so not a whole lot of money is needed. No downsizing for us, as we’re already right-sized! 🙂 But I expect the biggest stressor we will deal with is all that time together, so I think you are correct to mention that. Don’t get me wrong- she’s a saint and all that- but 24×7 togetherness when the previous decades we’ve had huge blocks of time apart at work, this will take some adjusting.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Kenny,

      You ARE lucky – or, more accurately, well-prepared! I so wish I had not accumulated so much “stuff” along the way. I’d sure like to have that money now, not to mention not needing to downsize.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. William DeyErmand says:

    Since I have started reading your website, I have been learning to cook, and do laundry. I find it more enjoyable to do it together. Safer too since I am all thumbs and colorblind. Lol! For years my wife has had us living on a “retirement check” budget, to help us save more for retirement. OUCH! That was stress at first, then the sizing down, we couldn’t agree, until we divided into his, hers and ours. Moving is always stressful, but Uhaul can provide drivers that load and unload for you at a reasonable rate. I want to go back to school, and volunteer at a State Park. My wife has pre-scheduled me for friday nights, church and boat fishing! Reminds me of when we were dating.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi William,
      Your wife sounds like a smart woman! It looks like you and she are making the transition well.
      I like your idea of dividing your stuff into “his, hers, and ours” when it comes to downsizing. Something that you might be willing to discard easily might have a lot of value to her, and vice versa. This will work great as long as the two piles of things to keep are roughly equivalent.
      Thanks for your comments!

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