8 ways to embrace retirement if you’ve been forced into it early

The pandemic means some people have had to take early retirement. Here’s how to make the most of all that extra free time.

Not having to get up early for work or take orders from a boss you don’t really like, while still being young enough to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, sounds like a dream come true – doesn’t it?

But while some aspects of early retirement are appealing, there’s no getting away from the many downsides – particularly the drop in income and the lack of meaning and social contact.

A new report by the LV wealth and wellbeing monitor estimates more than 150,000 (3%) of 55 to 64-year-olds have been pushed into retiring early by the coronavirus pandemic, due to redundancy and income cuts, wanting to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, or simply reassessing priorities in life because of the current global situation.

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But, if you’re plunged into early retirement, what’s the best way to embrace it and make use of what could be more than 40 years off work? Here are some tips…

1. Learn something new

Dr Alan Potter, a researcher involved with Long Life Learning says learning is a great way to help people make the most of early retirement. “When people retire early, they’re often retiring from jobs which involve lots of decision-making, and learning really helps the brain to adjust from having a very demanding life, to having a large portion that’s much less demanding,” he says.

But while learning can be academic, with exams at the end, there are plenty of things you can learn that are practical – like reading a book on DIY – learning a language, taking up a hobby, or simply learning about your environment by exploring your local area.

“Learning can build wellbeing and help us feel good about ourselves,” says Potter. “You can become better informed, for example, about your health, so you can make wiser choices – there are many ways you can learn.”

2. Have a plan

It’s all too easy to let the days drift away when you have no job to get up for, and without having any plans, you can start to feel aimless or even useless. So, plan your days…

“When you’re in a work situation, the challenges are normally external, but once we retire, that doesn’t happen – any challenges, or plans we make, have to come internally,” says Potter. “That’s one of the biggest changes people have to make when they retire. If you don’t structure the day and the way you approach it, then any problems you have can linger for 24 hours and affect things like sleep.

“Depression and stress can come with retirement, particularly at the moment when you don’t have access to other people, or as much professional help as you might have got in the past. So, people need to look at ways they can help themselves. At the moment, that’s about setting yourself much smaller goals and not expecting too much of yourself. And as we get out of lockdown, your plans can expand.”

3. Get a part-time job you enjoy

If you’re worried about money, remember you can always get a part-time job for a couple of days a week. Once life gets back to normal after the pandemic, you could work in a coffee shop or a pub, for example, where you’ll earn a bit of money and get to talk to plenty of people, too.

4. Maintain social contact

At the moment social contact can, of course, only really amount to phone and video calls, but once lockdown’s over, it’s crucial to make sure you don’t spend your retirement feeling lonely. “It’s important to create social capital by talking to people, exercising, going to the shops and having a group of people you have regular contact with,” stresses Potter.

5. Enjoy the reduced stress

For many people, working involves at least some degree of stress, so the beauty of retirement is you don’t have that external stress, and that can be really good for you. In fact, research suggests retiring from work is good for your health, mainly because there’s less stress, and more time to exercise and sleep. Mental health often improves in retirement, and a 2002 study of British civil servants found retiring at 60 had no negative effects on physical health, and the mental health of those who retired from higher-level jobs improved, possibly because they no longer had to deal with work-related stress.

6. Exercise more

If you’ve taken early retirement, there’s no excuse for not getting fitter. Resting is rusting – and if you’ve retired early, you’re not old yet – so keep your body as young as possible for as long as possible, by keeping it moving. Yes, gyms are shut at the moment, but you can exercise at home, do online classes or go running. But don’t forget to get a medical check before you begin a moderate to vigorous exercise programme – although you’re not exactly old, you’re not as young as you used to be, and it’s sensible to make sure your body’s in good working order before you start getting out of breath.

7. Sleep more

Although you do need to have some structure to your day, that’s not to say you can’t have plenty of lie-ins too. Getting lots of sleep means you’ll have enough energy to do all the other things you can plan now.

8. Travel

While you can only make plans for travelling at the moment, once the pandemic’s over you can visit the places you’ve always wanted to – assuming your pension and savings allow it. And because there’s no work to get back for, you can stay away for as long as you like.

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27th Jan 2021
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I exercise a lot more and wish we had flexible working back in my day

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