June 27, 2018

What Do Retired People Do All Day?

  See if you spot a trend with these questions:

* What do I do after retirement?

* Things to do after you retire

* What do you do when you are retired?

* What do you during retirement?

These are just a few of over fifty similar questions I found after some research on what concerns people about retirement. Of course, financial issues topped the list. But, worries about having enough to do and not being bored are very much top-of-mind. After several decades of having time dictated by work, the thought of unplanned days stretching into the future is a little unsettling.

One of the questions included in one of my books was, " How do you fill your days? Are you ever bored or does your time fill up?" I was quite intrigued with the tremendous variety of answers. Here is a sampling:

Gail P. The joke in my family is that my headstone will say, “She was never bored!” Whether I’m busy or relaxing, I’m never bored. 

Paula M. I sometimes wonder how I fill my days!!! I look back to when I was a young wife and mom and remember all that I did in a day, and marvel that I could get it all done. And then I look at what I do now, and think that I am a “SLUG”. I also think I got a lot more done when I worked full time – somehow, you just fit it all in.

Without time restraints, it is easy to sit at the computer and before you know it, hours have gone by – or I go to the gym and 2 hours later, I am leaving – not having exercised for 2 hours, but having talked to a couple people, taken a shower, read the front page of the paper, etc. Before, I would have gone and exercised and been done and gone in 30-45 minutes because I would have needed to get to the store and buy groceries to go home and fix dinner. I guess there are times that I am bored, but not often – seems that there is always something to do and not enough time to do it.

Banjo Steve    My time seems to always fill up. Even when I don't know what to do at the moment, it becomes a time of contemplation for me rather than any kind of boredom. I don't mind, at odd times, constructively doing nothing in particular. Conversely, I try to avoid overbooking myself, having no desire to return to a new manifestation of the rat race.

Bill D. Regular routine includes physical exercise / activities with spouse, friends & family / reading & research re self development / volunteerism / financial (investments & home budget) management /periodic travel. 

Doug N. Our saying is "Retirement means you have to be responsible for your own entertainment." My analogy is that I have a copy of Ernie Zelinski's Get-A-Life Tree on my desk. It's been there for nearly a decade, but I haven't made the time to work on it. Too many other things to do.

I start almost every morning with 10 minutes of stretching while I'm brewing my tea. Next I check the surf forecast so that if conditions are unusually good then I can enjoy an extra dawn patrol. Finally I spend at least 30 minutes every morning working on the blog or the next edition of "The Military Guide".

After that the day writes the schedule: my spouse and I try to work out together every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday morning (calisthenics, weights, aerobics). I try to train taekwondo every Monday & Wednesday evening. That leaves Thursdays and Saturdays for surfing, but I can also double up on Mon &; Wed if the waves are big.

I take a nap almost every day. I meet with an investment club almost every week. My spouse taught me "20 minutes a day". That means we try to do yard work or a home-improvement project together every day for 20 minutes. The reality is that once we've started, we get into it and frequently go for an hour or longer.

Roger W. I am like a little kid in that I get bored easily. For the most part I do what strikes my mood for that day. I am a prolific blogger so that takes quite a bit of time. I have two plus acres of land to keep up. I have an eighty year old home that needs constant attention. I enjoy reading and am now in the middle of a blog study of church history and how we got to where we are today. This and many unplanned things make up most of my days. But then there are some days where I choose to do absolutely nothing.

Michael V. In terms of other interests, my wife has always done a better job than myself. She has played organized tennis for years and has dedicated time to an assortment of local charities. For me, I seem to fill my time dealing with the maintenance of a house that is too big for us, bill paying, finances, taxes, etc., etc. I also enjoy baking, cooking on the grill, bike riding and daily walks. 

We have recently purchased 2 new bicycles and have started riding together. We will soon be taking this hobby on a road trip, right after we get our daughter settled into law school. 

Pat W. I do not remember being bored anytime in the last 20 years. My time fills up rapidly & I have to remember (repeatedly!) that I cannot do everything I want to do, even in retirement.

Don S. There are not enough hours in the day. I am NOT bored. Bear in mind I also stop "working" around dinner so you can call those hours wasted or not. For me I try to achieve some kind of balance between "work" and relaxation. What "relaxation" means is different to everyone but to me it means doing something brainless: maybe reading, TV, Internet, just not work.

Jane P.   I’ve had three boring days in two years. We have an exercise or swimming class every weekday morning. We have a garden. I try to meet one of several friends for coffee or lunch each week. I’m a mediator in training and I try to have one mediation event set up each week. I have a blog and a blogging community. I play games on Facebook.

Bertha T. When did we work? The days fly by and are productive. When I feel bored I do panic just a little. That is when I read a book or do a crossword puzzle. There are periods when a change of work is play. We live in a city that has a lot of opportunities for exploring and in the winters we travel to Arizona for a change of scenery. The fact that we have found a way to make changes as a part of our routine life keeps each day interesting. So the answer is "yes" sometimes I get bored but there are solutions for the short term feeling.  

Dick J. During the early part of my second year of retirement I did frequently become bored, and depressed at times. Not from serious problems but from thinking too much about how my pre-retirement vision of retirement wasn't matching the reality. 

Right now I'm doing some of the training but it will be finished within the month. I most likely will not seek to do more of that anytime soon. I fill my time planning for the next trip, traveling and spending time every now and then in New England, spending 3 or 4 days every few weeks with my 80-something parents who live about 4 hours away, cooking (always has been an activity I enjoy) and doing some light landscaping in our small yard. 

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching British mysteries on Netflix. As the months have gone by, I am more and more relaxed and satisfied with life without work.

John H. With my current routine, my day is usually close to full. Sometimes I get a little bored, but when that happens I call one of my kids, mother or sibling to chat.

Paula S. My days are full and varied which makes it difficult to tell anyone what I have been doing. Thankfully projects don't lie around waiting to get done as long, however there are many still on the list to be completed. I'm never bored.

Katie S. Communicating with friends, old and new, via Internet and Skype. Learning new things - anything that happens to grab my fancy. Learning new languages and planning my next travel. Art, art, art! I love to cook! Yoga, walking around my village and visiting with people I run into, writing, reading. spending time with my guy, gardening and hanging out with friends.

Mark R. I start the day off with what I like to refer to as “spiritual exercises” (including reading, prayer, reflection and meditation). This is usually followed by “coffee time” with my wife. I then usually end up spending an hour or so at the gym. During the late morning to mid- afternoon, I am often involved in various classes/courses offered at OLLI (some with and some without my wife).

My day is often quite filled and I have still not done many things that I wanted to when I first retired (e.g. do more ball room dancing with my wife, getting involved in a ministries that seek to make a difference in the world around me or to find more social connections with other people as I know that I can be a bit of a loner at times).

Carla H. I am always working on something, so rarely bored.

Janet L. When I worked, I regularly wished for a couple of additional hours every day as I always ran short of time. I continue to have that dilemma. The days fly past and often I find myself having to set time limits for tasks. I try to curtail myself from making too many commitments so that I don’t have to dread looking at my schedule for the week.

I feel like a kid in a candy store with so many choices about how I’ll spend my time. Although much is written about boredom as a retirement risk, I have never suffered boredom.

Doreen P. My time fills up. Two days a week I volunteer at the garden. I work with flowers now. I live in NYC so if I feel bored I go to a different museum, library or exhibit. If you live alone you have to leave your house and go out and meet people.

I read, go to museums, concerts, parks, events at the library, out with friends-it is just that everything is at a slower pace-no more rushing. I also like to exercise.

Shirley L. My days are filled with writing, biking or hiking, lunches with friends, gardening, reading, traveling, and probably a little too much news-following. I'm working on that one. And of course some cooking and cleaning--you still can't get away from that!

Bob B. During the summer, we’re active in a number of outdoor activities – hiking, bike riding, kayaking, camping, fly fishing, and target shooting. During the winter, we snowshoe or cross-country ski – when snow conditions permit. 

Billie S. I’m never bored but I am sometimes “lazy”, ignoring chores for the moment and reading a lot. That’s happened less and less over the course of this first year. I miss being part of something I consider important to society, i.e., making a contribution. I am ready to find a way to do that which will fit with my time in the next year.

Sarah V. I play competitive league tennis which fills my schedule for at least three days per week for nine months out of the year. I spend time volunteering for local charities and organizing fundraising events. I am active in our community book club and Zumba class and I love to travel, cook, entertain and take photographs.  

Tammy P. My normal daily routine (not that too many days are normal, actually) consists of waking up around 6:00 AM, enjoying coffee and conversation with my husband before moving on to our morning workouts. This is followed by breakfast and time on the computer doing my various electronic chores of email, itinerary planning and blog reading and writing.

We generally have anywhere from one to three activities planned on any given day, plus our normal chores to get done. Plus, we each have a lot of follow ups we need to do each day as a result of the activities we are involved in. For myself, this means I need to practice piano, the recorder and my Spanish each day, as well as stay on top of the subscribed reading from the four book clubs I belong to.

Other things we do regularly are listening to educational DVD’s on topics ranging from Greek history to the science of wine making, take weekly long distance bike rides, attend yoga classes, attend a lifelong learning program at our nearby university, gardening, and in my case, needlepoint, baking and cooking. We also utilize a variety of online discount sites to enjoy a multitude of entertainment and dining options, often last minute but at a fraction of the price we used to pay prior to retirement.

Regarding boredom: As long as we understand TV is not an option to alleviate boredom, we are never bored. In our experience, using TV to alleviate boredom actually creates an enhanced state of boredom.

These responses from retirees should provide you some comfort. The number of activities and ways of staying busy are as varied as the folks who provided them. 

What do retired people do all day? Quite a lot. Join us!


  1. Boredom is not part of my vocabulary. I do wonder how I had time to work prior to retirement. My first priority is caring for myself (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) and my physical surroundings. There's no end of things to do in the summer months with yard/garden work. I enjoy homemaking/caring and have a niece who calls me Martha (Stewart) - I don't come close, not having the same staff! Next is my family and friends. My ageing mother requires more assistance and I have the privilege of being available because of my geographic proximity and freedom from formal work, unlike other family members. I'm committed to volunteerism so contribute to my community, i.e. local community association, elementary school, Habitat for Humanity, hosting Home Routes house concerts. Yesterday, four of us spent 3 hrs painting some new construction on the local rodeo arena. That was followed by an hour of lawn mowing at home, then R&R while listening to the radio coverage of the chuckwagon races. If I think I have "nothing" to do, I can always go for a walk or read a book. In retirement, I socialize more and sleep better. My goal is not to just fill my time with "busy" work but be purposeful in how I use my time - do time so time doesn't do me. I also strive for balance.

    1. Thanks, Mona,

      I was beginning to wonder if the comment section was turned off!

      Your list of activities is a perfect example of why retirement is rarely boring. There are just too many constructive ways to stay busy and be satisfied.

  2. Great post - I loved reading what people have to say about their retirement time. Banjo Steve resonated the most with me!
    An issue I'm having, possibly as a younger retiree, is how to respond to a somewhat snarky question of "so what do you DO all day?" and the questioner doesn't appear to really want to know any specifics. I find myself stumbling over this one.

    1. When the answer to that question doesn't include a work-oriented answer, people become uncomfortable. Saying, "whatever I want" seems kind of snarky.

      I will usually say that I am writing a new book, learning the guitar, and repairing vintage radios. The person asking the question usually responds, "Oh, you are retired. How wonderful!"

  3. I'm starting to see a pattern. Do many people find the second year of retirement the hardest? I'm just starting my second year and I think this is the case for me as well. The first year was all new and busy. I had a lot of family issues to deal with , on top of just getting used to being retired. I had a list of things I wanted to try. Now I'm finding that some of the things I though would interest me don't, so it's a time of adjustment and exploration. Pushing comfort zones and getting comfortable with uncertainty. I know I will work through this just fine, but year two is shaping up to be very different than year one!

    1. You are absolutely correct. It isn't necessarily an actual second year but it is after the initial honeymoon period has worn off. After your body and mind have released the stress of your working years and you have begun to work through your "to-do" list, you discover that list isn't quite right, or not complete.

      This is the time when you can be open to all sorts of new experiences and opportunities. It is when you try something because it sounds fun. If things don't work out, you can drop that attempt and try something else.

      Yes, there is a bit of "dancing on the edge of a cliff" feeling but so what? We are designed to change. So, now is when you find out what that means to you.

      Enjoy the journey!

  4. I am thankful for this blog. I haven't retired yet but am thinking about it frequently and most of what I find to read (almost all) is about money. This issue like many you post, concerns me. This post is very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, David.

      When I started this blog 8 years ago virtually every bit of information about retirement was money-oriented. Since there is so much more to this stage of life than finances, I found an obvious target for the blog.

      Welcome. I am glad you are finding some value here.

  5. It is interesting to see the comments above about the second year (or the period after the honeymoon phase, as you put it Bob) being the toughest. I will finish my first year as a relatively young retiree in September. I look forward to seeing what the next year holds on the journey.

    I still have not gotten into a lot of regularly scheduled or frequent activities. I remember you telling me last fall that it can take a year or more to de-stress from our work life, and I think that's pretty accurate for me. We have a decent mix of things to do for some variety, but I readily admit that I have never been the "Type A" person that feels a constant need to be productive, or even busy for the sake of being busy. Even when I am relaxing with my laptop, a book or a beverage on the deck, I can't say I have yet felt bored in the traditional sense. That time will probably come, though, and I will be ready with my list of things to do, which should keep me going for a while!

    1. So far, so good! Being aware of what might be ahead while enjoying how your retired life is unfolding puts you in excellent shape.

  6. I as often say to people who ask me about being bored in retirement: "If you are bored in retirement you aren't really trying."

    Perhaps that a bit of a wiseacre remark but it's true in that no one is going to bring you anything to do -- that's up to you -- but you can choose to do whatever brings you the greatest joy and there's a whole world of things to do out there. I know for myself, 3 years in, finding things to do is no problem at all.

    1. Great! I think the problem for some folks is that need to make a choice, and worry that it will be the wrong choice. That reaction is really a holdover from work days when making a "mistake"can have serious consequences. In retirement is just means you choose something else to try.

  7. Thanks for your point about making "wrong" choices. I'm at the beginning of my second year of retirement, and looking for volunteer opportunities in addition to what I already do. I was about to apply for one, when I realized that although it would be interesting, it didn't fit my needs. I called the volunteer coordinator to let her know. It had taken me a few minutes to realize that she wasn't going to fire me, or give me a bad reference! Thanks for focusing on the non-financial aspects of retirement.

    1. I had a similar experience just a month or so ago. A volunteer opportunity just didn't work for me. Rather than put myself in an uncomfortable position and disappoint the organization told them I would not be back. The staff member was sorry but understood.

  8. My intention, during my first year of retirement, was to avoid committing myself to much. A second aim, seeing as we had moved, was to get to know people and begin to become integrated into our new community. The first goal conflicted with the second. As we got to know people, we became involved and committed, and as we became more involved, we became more integrated into the community.

    So on a weekly or biweekly basis, I now attend two different yoga studios, I volunteer for a service group, I attend service group meetings, and I am part of a morning dog-walking group. On a monthly basis, I meet with a writers’ group, I attend book club meetings, and I am involved with an art group. I also devote large blocks of time to creative writing, to academic research and writing, to doing art, to blogging, and to spending time with my grandchildren and family members. Every day, I spend time studying a second language, exercising (walking, hiking, skiing, cycling), and reading. We spend time with friends, travelling, camping, fishing, gardening, housecleaning and maintenance, shopping and errands. Life is full and enjoyable.


    1. Wow. After reading your schedule is it OK if I take a nap?

      I love seeing someone who is quite active and involved, and liking it. As you know it is easy to feel over-committed. But, you have been at the long enough to know when to pull back a bit.

  9. Traveling is great, and my wife and I do some of that, but money places some limitations on that. We have a couple of timeshares which, by the way, are not a good investment, but what they do accomplish is that they encourage us to take a couple of trips each year that we probably wouldn't take otherwise.

    We have some land (100 acres) in Northern Maine, with a camp. Unfortunately, my wife isn't terribly interested in spending time there, due largely to a lack of running water and utilities, not to mention a very weak cell signal. Nevertheless, maintenance on the camp and land gives me an excuse to spend time there during the summer and fall.

    We do some gardening during our short growing season in Maine, and that's something that we both enjoy, and I like puttering around with composting.

    Although we collect Social Security, we both work thirty hours a week online, doing jobs that we enjoy, so that's as much of an enjoyment as as job, although the extra cash is nice.

    Although Facebook comes in handy as a means of keeping in touch with family, friends, and former co-workers, I grew weary of spending a great deal of time there long ago. I do participate in some discussion forums, the Backwoods Home forum and the SENIORSonly Club forum, where there are several people who I consider friends, although we've never met.

    It's also nice to be able to go to bed when I feel like it and get up when I feel like it.

    1. Timeshares can be a real drag unless you are able to book points and use them at other locations. They are hard to sell but the costs never stop.

      We owned 3 weeks at a timeshare south of Sarasota for 20 years. It was tremendous for our family as the girls were growing up. Eventually, the travel time and cost from Phoenix and the constant threat of a hurricane wiping out our units made selling the wisest choice. We were lucky; we sold quickly at good prices but that isn't always the case.

      I'd actually enjoy spending time at a place like your camp. Back to basics for awhile. Some of my fondest memories as a child were the two weeks we spent every summer at my grandfather's "farm" north of Pittsburgh: an outhouse, no running water, and no electricity.