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Is it OK to retire and do nothing?

Many people dream of the day when they can retire and take life easy, free from the daily grind of work. The idea of no more alarm clocks, meetings, deadlines or commutes is certainly appealing. But is it wise to retire and then do practically nothing with your time? There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.

The case for retiring and doing nothing

Here are some of the main reasons why retiring and doing very little can be perfectly acceptable:

– You’ve earned it. After decades of hard work, long hours and making sacrifices for your career, you deserve to take it easy and enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation in retirement.

– It’s your life, your choice. Retirement is a time when you can finally live life on your own terms, free from the constraints and expectations of work. If you wish to spend retirement simply relaxing and enjoying leisure pursuits, that’s your prerogative.

– Doing nothing can be rejuvenating. After a busy career, having long stretches of unstructured time allows both your body and mind to recharge. It provides the opportunity to relieve stress and just “be”.

– Busyness isn’t inherently valuable. Society tends to emphasize constant productivity. But being busy for the sake of being busy isn’t necessarily the key to finding meaning and fulfillment in retirement. Doing very little can be just as valid a choice.

– You can still do some activities. Retiring and doing nothing doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll become a complete couch potato. You can still engage in hobbies, volunteering or part-time work occasionally. But you’ll have the flexibility to do these at your own pace.

The case against retiring and doing nothing

However, there are also some potential downsides to steer clear of if you retire and then take a completely inactive approach:

– Health hazards. Being largely sedentary for long periods can lead to muscle atrophy, weight gain, loss of bone density and an increased risk of medical conditions like heart disease. Some activity is important for staying fit and healthy.

– Cognitive decline. Keeping your mind engaged and challenged is believed to help maintain cognitive skills and prevent declines in memory and thinking abilities. Retiring from work and then having very few intellectual pursuits may speed up mental deterioration.

– Loss of purpose. For many, work provides a sense of meaning and structure to life. Removing this without replacing it with anything can leave you directionless and lead to boredom. Some sense of purpose is important for overall well-being.

– Social isolation. Work provides regular social interactions for many people. Retiring and doing nothing may result in too much time spent alone, leading to loneliness. It’s important to still have social connections.

– Financial problems. If you live for another 20-30 years in retirement, the combination of inflation and withdrawals for living expenses can put a major dent in even sizable nest eggs over time. Keeping busy with part-time work may help enable your savings to last.

Key factors to consider

When looking at the idea of retiring and taking it easy, keep the following key factors in mind:

– Your personal interests and values. Do you value productivity, achievement and keeping busy? Or are rest, relaxation and freedom from obligations more important to you?

– Your health conditions. If you have chronic medical issues or mobility limitations, doing very little may be necessary to avoid pain or fatigue. Healthy retirees have more options.

– Your financial situation. The more you’ve saved, the more feasible it may be to fully retire from work and not deplete your funds too quickly. Review your assets and projected costs.

– Your personality traits. If you’re an extrovert who thrives on social interaction, doing nothing may not be ideal. But introverts may treasure large amounts of quiet solitude.

– Evolution of interests over time. You may wish to do very little for the first year of retirement, but then feel boredom setting in. Be open to trying new pursuits. Retirement interests can change.

Weighing the pros and cons

Retiring from your career can certainly be a good time to take a break and recharge your mental and physical batteries after years of work. But before committing to doing nothing in retirement, carefully weigh the potential advantages against the possible downsides for your health, mind, finances and overall well-being.

Potential advantages of retiring and doing nothing

– More time for rest, relaxation and freedom
– Reduced stress levels
– Flexibility to control how you spend your time
– Ability to recover from burnout and rejuvenate
– Increased enjoyment of hobbies, friends and family
– Lower expenses since you won’t need to maintain a work wardrobe, commute costs, etc.

Potential disadvantages of retiring and doing nothing

– Declines in cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness
– Increased risk of obesity, diabetes and other conditions
– Accelerated cognitive decline and memory loss
– Greater social isolation and loneliness
– Loss of sense of purpose and structure
– Higher healthcare costs from medical issues
– Boredom and lack of fulfillment or meaning
– Financial strain if savings are depleted too quickly

Assess how well your unique interests, health, personality and financial situation align with the pros and cons. Retiring yet staying active in some way may offer you a healthy balance. But doing very little can be appropriate for some retirees.

Staying active in retirement without going overboard

For many retirees, the healthiest approach is to remain active both physically and mentally without taking things too far. Here are some ways to stay engaged that don’t require overexerting yourself:

Physical activity options

– Take leisurely walks, do yardwork at an easy pace or try low-impact exercises like yoga, swimming or cycling. Get activity in for 30-60 minutes most days without pushing yourself.

– Explore new parks, nature trails, beaches or other interesting areas in your community for walking.

– Try fun movement-based hobbies like dancing or golf at a recreational level.

– Sign up for a gym membership, but don’t feel obligated to spend hours there every day. Go when you feel like it.

Mental activity options

– Read books on topics you enjoy, visit your local library, or join a book club.

– Take a class on an interesting subject at a community college or community center a few times a week.

– Join a club or group for hobbies like gardening, cooking, photography or crafts.

– Learn to play an instrument, speak a new language or master a new skill at a relaxed pace through books or videos.

– Do word games, crossword puzzles or other mind-stimulating activities to keep your thinking sharp.

The key is to remain active enough to gain the benefits for your health and cognitive function, but without overscheduling yourself or feeling pressured to be overly busy just for the sake of it. Structure your days however best suits your needs.

Examples of scheduling retirement days with a mix of activity and relaxation

To give you a better idea of how to blend activities with ample free time in retirement, here are some sample one-day schedules that achieve this balance:

Morning person schedule

– 7:00am – Wake up, breakfast

– 8:00am – Walk or bike around the neighborhood

– 10:00am – Read or work on a hobby

– 12:00pm – Lunch

– 1:00pm – Take a class or volunteer for a couple hours

– 3:00pm – Return home, relax

– 5:00pm – Spend time with friends over dinner

– 8:00pm – Read, watch TV, listen to music

Night owl schedule

– 9:00am – Wake up, light breakfast

– 11:00am – Tidy up around the house, run errands

– 1:00pm – Lunch

– 2:00pm – Visit the gym for exercise

– 4:00pm – Return home, work on hobby or leisure activity

– 6:00pm – Dinner

– 8:00pm – Take an evening class or meet up with friends

– 10:00pm – Read, watch movies, chill out

As you can see, both schedules allow a mix of activity and free time without requiring you to fill every minute with busywork. The key is finding the right balance for your personal preferences.

Remember, retirement is meant to be enjoyed

The most important thing to keep in mind as you approach retirement is that this time of life is meant to be enjoyed. While reasonable activity contributes to health and fulfillment, don’t feel obligated to be constantly busy just for the sake of it.

If you wish to retire and take long vacations, lounge on the beach, take naps, read novels, pursue hobbies at a leisurely pace, or simply relax and do very little, that can absolutely be a rewarding way to spend your later years. Retirement is a time to unwind, and you deserve to use it however you find most meaningful.

Key takeaways

– Retiring and doing nothing can be rejuvenating after a long career, but also risks boredom, declines in health and loss of purpose for some. Assess your specific situation.

– Remain reasonably active physically and mentally without overscheduling yourself or feeling pressured to be constantly busy.

– Balance activities you enjoy with ample relaxation time. Structure your retirement days however suits you best.

– Remember retirement is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t feel obligated to be busy. Relaxing and doing very little can be perfectly fulfilling if it aligns with your values and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it healthy to do nothing in retirement?

Doing nothing in totality is generally not healthy, as complete inactivity can lead to increased risks of medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. However, retirement certainly doesn’t need to be packed with non-stop activity. A healthy balance of some activity along with plenty of relaxation and free time can be a good approach.

What are some good hobbies for retirees?

Some great hobbies for retirees include gardening, golfing, photography, learning new cooking skills, painting, reading, crafting, woodworking, travel and volunteering. Hobbies that get you out into the community and interacting with others can be especially beneficial. Choose pursuits that match your interests and fitness level.

Is watching TV all day OK in retirement?

Watching many hours of TV daily can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. But it’s certainly fine in moderation, as a way to relax and unwind. Combine TV with other more active and social pursuits for a balanced retirement. Getting out into nature, reading books, spending time with others, and doing physical activity can complement periods of TV viewing.

What are signs you are not handling retirement well?

Signs include: excessive boredom, loneliness or isolation, feeling aimless or without purpose, depression or anxiety, cognitive or physical declines, unhealthy diet and weight changes, loss of interest in activities, overspending due to lack of structure, and relationship strains. Address any struggles proactively.

How do you enjoy retirement with no money?

Focus on simple, affordable pleasures like reading free library books, taking scenic local walks, growing vegetables in your garden, cooking at home, listening to free podcasts or music, doing DIY crafts, playing board games, volunteering for worthy causes, forming clubs with friends around common interests, and learning new skills online. Creativity and community can go a long way.


Retirement is a time to take advantage of the freedom from workplace obligations and finally live life on your own terms. For some, that may mean pursuing non-stop activity, travel and bucket list quests. For others, it can mean plenty of rest, relaxation and “doing nothing”.

As with most things, balance and moderation tend to be key. Remain reasonably active to maintain health while also unwinding and taking it easy. But don’t feel pressure to fill all of your days with scheduled events either. Listen to your own needs and interests. Ultimately, retirement should be enjoyed however you wish to spend this newfound time.