3 things to do when theanticipation of retirement far exceeds the actual event. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Sooner or later, retirees reach the point where they ask thesame question Robert Redford's character asked at the end of the1972 classic movie The Candidate: “What do we do now?”

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Think about it. After a lifetime of anticipation, of viewingeverything in terms of saving, not spending, the new retireesuddenly makes a u-turn. Life now consists of spending, not saving.

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At first, this seems fun. Like a sugar rush. Eventually, andoften more quickly than expected, the rush subsides. A suddenemptiness haunts.

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Retirees now find themselves repeating the last line ofSenator-Elect Bill McKay – Robert Redford's question – “What do wedo now?”

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Relax, all is not lost (see “3 Ways Retirees Adjust Their Lives Once TheyDiscover Their Pre-Retirement Assumptions are Mistaken,”FiduciaryNews.com, October 9, 2018).

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The mechanical things – those would be the fiscal and physicalmatters – have well-recognized templates and available advice tohelp. But life is not mechanical. We are not merely moist robots.We need something greater. Something deeper. Something moremeaningful.

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OK, I see I'm losing some of you. Rest assured, this essay isnot headed down the road of philosophy. Rather, it's morepractical.

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A purpose-driven retirement need not reflect a spiritualpurpose. It might simply be the recognition of knowing what onelikes and pursuing it.

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If you like travel, you travel. It you like socializing, yousocialize. If you like working, you work.

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Wait! What? Work? During retirement?

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Well, yes. And no.

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I'm not talking about the kind of work people often refer to as“second careers.”

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A second career implies doing everything you did in your firstcareer, and all the stress involved in attempting to ascend somesort of (second) career ladder. Who wants that during theirretirement?

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Rather than “work” as we've come to define it, think “activity.”And by activity, I mean hobby. Maybe retirees get paid for thisactivity, maybe they don't. The point is, they're doing something.Anything.

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Why is this important? Remember what the typical employee doesduring the course of their working life. The alarm rings in themorning and the day begins with a mental “to-do” list of what needsto be accomplished at work today. That regularity acts as animpetus. It gives people a reason to wake up. And waking up isgenerally considered a good thing.

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We can categorize post-retirement “activities” into threegeneral categories.

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Where retirees place themselves depends both on theirpersonalities and the size of their retirement savings. In allcases, the similarity between all three is the social element –you're doing these activities with other people. Here they are inno particular order:

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1. Leisure activities – These includeeverything from exotic travel and visiting distant friends toshuffleboard and tennis. As implied by the heading, these kinds ofactivities generally cost money. You're either paying the cruiseline, the tour guide, or the retirement community. That being said,there are low-cost leisure pursuits ranging from simple day-tripsto the neighborhood bowling league to stamp collecting. The onething all these have in common is relaxing fun. OK, maybe not toorelaxing if you're highly competitive in nature, but you get theidea.

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2. Volunteer activities – These involvedonating your time and energy for a non-profit cause. The cause maybe one of advocacy (e.g., “save the whales”) or one of avocation(e.g., a historical society). What sets apart volunteer activitiesfrom leisure activities is the modus operandi. While the need forfun prompts involvement in leisure activities, the objective to “dosomething for the community” drives you to volunteer. The bestthing about volunteering is that it doesn't cost money. Anyone canafford to volunteer.

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3. A paying gig – Sometimes retirees need a fewextra bucks, sometimes they need the comfort of a routine or beinga part of system, and sometimes they just need to be with people.For all these reasons and more, a paying gig might be anappropriate post-retirement activity. Of course, if you've been anentrepreneur all your life, you're always tinkering with onebusiness or another. Only, in retirement, its more of a hobby thana vocation. The beauty of these activities is, not only don't theycost money, they actually generate revenue. That could be important(for psychological reasons) even for people who otherwise don'tneed the money.

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Eventually, after retirement's initial excitement fades, manyretirees will ask Bill McKay's question. Now you know the answer toit.

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READ MORE:

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The future of 401(k)s may look like this —Carosa

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5 conversations to have about retirementbefore leaving work for good

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Majority of women planning to work inretirement

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).