Many people enter retirement with the plan to relax — and that’s a normal, natural approach to this next phase of life — but they should maintain or even add to their skills after they’ve left the workforce.
Retirement Tip of the Week: Whether you’re already retired, a short time away from retiring or have years to go, consider what skills or tools you can obtain or maintain in retirement so that you remain active, healthy and happy.
“It’s not just, ‘hey, get a hobby,’” said Chris Orestis, president of Retirement Genius, a company dedicated to assisting older Americans navigating retirement. “There’s a real benefit to it.” He suggests beginning with a mental inventory of what skills you already have, and what your goals are, such as helping the community, going back to work or just staying active.
Studies show learning a new hobby or maintaining a skillset are good for brain health and aging. Retirees sharpen their expertise and their cognitive abilities at the same time when engaging in lifelong learning, according to a study conducted by Scientific American in 2019.
These activities could also be helpful financially, should a retiree ever decide to go back to work or start a little side business. Extra spending money can delay tapping retirement assets, or possibly put off claiming Social Security, allowing this money to continue growing until later in life.
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Some people may want to build on past experiences, while others try something completely new. Skills can also be transferred to various types of work. For example, someone who is good at developing budgets could expand into accounting or office management, or someone who cared for children or relatives throughout his or her life could take up work in caregiving or customer service, according to Eldercare Locator’s brochure on tips for older job seekers.
Universities and other institutions offer older Americans free or discounted classes throughout the country. Here’s a list of some available programs in each state, curated by personal finance site The Penny Hoarder. The City University of New York has The Lifelong Learning Program, where participants from all backgrounds come together for weekly noncredit study groups. Harvard University also has a program for retired professionals. Orestis cautions retirees to vet any classes or training programs before joining to ensure they’re legitimate. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams,” he said.
There are also plenty of resources online, including blogs and videos, for people who are more interested in self-study.
No matter how the person absorbs these lessons, hobbies and education can also boost social relationships and stave off loneliness. Beyond classes and training programs, retirees could pick up new skills and education through book clubs and events with guest speakers, for example. They might also approach lifelong learning through volunteer work, according to the Whitney Center, a nonprofit retirement community in Connecticut.
Developing or maintaining a skillset is just one way to promote a healthy, content retirement, Orestis said. “It’s helping other people and helping yourself.”
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