Two happy older couples Learning the new ground rules for a jobless (or less-job) future might make all the difference between a joyous retirement and a depressing one. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Lots of people facing retirement have their whole identities tied up in their jobs or professions, and may be anticipating their so-called “golden years” with more dread than delight.

If you number yourself among them, you might want to consider a notion that’s far more commonly employed at the beginning of a career rather than at an end—an internship.

Learning the new ground rules for a jobless (or less-job) future might make all the difference between a joyous way to use the time you have for your own interests and ambitions and sinking into a stultifying routine filled with boredom and lacking purpose.

According to a Kiplinger report, people should be approaching retirement the way they did college or their career—taking a period of time before diving in head first to see what they want to do, to try out what they think they’d enjoy or to redesign their notion of retirement altogether.

And a Money report says that the old rules just don’t apply any more—among other things, it suggests that retirees seek to keep themselves employable, lest all that new leisure time prove to be more of a burden than a reward.

Money is a big factor, of course, whatever you plan to do, and it suggests “bursts” of savings toward the day you retire—when college expenses for the kids end, or if you manage to pay off your mortgage, put the extra money away against potential expenses in retirement that you may not have anticipated (yes, even the toll inflation will take on your savings).

Experimenting with living on less can make a big difference, too, since you may find that you enjoy a simpler life with fewer expenses and fewer complications, or perhaps totally unacceptable after a newfound interest in pursuing an expensive hobby makes you feel the squeeze far too much.

It also suggests not plunging in and spending like mad on whatever leisure activities you may have looked forward to for decades—spending too much too early in retirement can leave you short and force you back to work (there’s that employability thing rearing its head).

And Marketwatch points out that retirement, early or not, is not the same as vacation and really does require preparation if you’re going to enjoy it properly and not screw up something important—whether that’s money, health, time or relationships.

Yes, relationships. You can spend more time with your spouse or partner or less; rekindle old friendships you may have let go over the years; get to really know the grandkids; or find that people you used to associate with no longer share your interests or that you no longer share theirs. It can also be a chance to meet new people, especially if you’ve moved to new surroundings, and to build a new network of friends.

Whether you volunteer at a local animal shelter, take up mountain hiking or perform in community theater, decide to learn archery and fencing and follow the Renaissance fair circuit or turn professional with that musical instrument you loved so much in high school, there’s plenty you can do to transform retirement from a shapeless blob of time into the image of whatever you used to dream about.

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