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Create your retirement bucket list

Retirement is not the end — but the beginning.

“Freedom,” “enjoyment,” and “stress-free” are the top three words that workers associate with the word “retirement.” And it’s no wonder. Traveling (58%), enjoying time with family and friends (53%), and engaging in hobbies (46%) are the top dreams of many workers, many of whom hope to spend at least 25 years in retirement.1 

To make the most of your retirement, be sure to create a plan, set goals, and make a bucket list to stay motivated and engaged for the next phase of your life. Remember, to be able to cross off the things on your list will take commitment — and time. But the sense of satisfaction you’ll get will be worth it.

Here are some ideas to get you started planning for your golden years.

Travel everywhere

If you’re a new retiree, celebrate your retirement with a fun trip. If you’re a baby boomer, it’s likely you’re already retired or semi-retired. The 50-year-old-and-older set loves to travel, with the majority (67 percent) planning a getaway on a regular basis — in fact, they take four trips a year. Thankfully, for most travelers (77 percent), travel-related worries about Covid are in the rearview mirror. In 2022, 43 percent of people 50 and older planned to travel both domestically and internationally.2

Travel is a luxury — whether you go domestically or internationally — so make sure you plan for it. That means socking away savings in a separate travel fund five to 10 years before you plan to retire, ideally, and thinking about how many trips you’d like to take each year. You also might want to take into account getting trip and international health insurance when the time comes.3

Now on to the fun stuff. Where do you want to travel? If you hope to visit someplace like Australia or Africa, do that earlier in your retirement years since you’ll need the energy and stamina for long flights, travel days, and (ahem) delays. The same goes for if you want to go mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps or downhill skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Plan more active trips early on.

Do you have a goal of visiting all 50 states? Road trips to the lower 48 could be a fun way to experience them. Don’t be in a rush to check off a box. Instead take some time to smell the roses, as they say. And experience a quintessential activity in each state: nosh on a deep-dish Chicago pizza in Illinois and hike the Grand Canyon in Arizona. With each state you visit, place a pin next to it on a map. Soon you will have filled it up.

Certainly there are places near your own home that you’ve wanted to see. Maybe there’s an arboretum, a zoo, a park, or a music venue that would tap your sense of exploration — if only for a day.

But there’s nothing like hopping on a plane — and racking up those travel miles — for your next adventure. With 25% of those in the 65 and older crowd traveling outside the United States every year, the world is catering to their travel needs. For example, as an incentive for travelers who want to savor their international trip, many vacation rental companies are offering monthly discounts for extended bookings. According to Airbnb, the 60 and older crowd is its fastest-growing demographic.3

If you want some company on your travels, consider traveling with a tour group. There are types that cater to all different groups and interests. Love to bird watch? Book a trip with other likeminded travelers to Florida, Maine, or Costa Rica to see their feathered residents. Be among the 95 percent of birdwatchers who note that relaxation and stress relief are some of the top reasons they love the hobby.4

Colleges and universities offer trips for exploring interesting destinations and cultures to alumni who’d enjoy the camaraderie of other travelers. Have grandchildren? If you travel with them, you can experience a trip from their perspective, adding a bit of excitement and wanderlust to the mix.

Stay in shape

Keeping physically active will enable you to better enjoy your retirement. To keep motivated, find what you enjoy — whether it’s to walk, hike, ski, swim, do yoga, bike, play pickleball, or golf.

Many of these activities will not only keep your body engaged, but your mind as well. One reason is because you’re socializing with other people while having fun. And you can gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Golf checks four important boxes; it’s social, measurable, challenging, and routine. Playing pickleball for one hour three times a week improves cholesterol, blood pressure, cardio performance, and balance.4 And even a simple daily walking routine has many benefits. Almost everyone can do it, it has definable health benefits, and if you walk in your own neighborhood, you get to know the people who live there better. If you decide you’d like to walk (or camp) among the redwoods or babbling brooks at a national or state park, consider getting a lifetime visitors’ pass for seniors, for just $80.4

Explore your hobbies

Once you retire you’ll have more time and freedom to delve into your hobby (or hobbies). Maybe you like to read, paint, make jewelry, or build birdhouses. Now you can do so with gusto.

And don’t be afraid to take up a new hobby. The book Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning by Tom Vanderbilt cites many benefits of getting out of your comfort zone to explore new areas of interest, be it chess or surfing. And if you fail, consider it to be your first attempt in learning.

Now is the time to explore other areas of your being without being an overly critical boss. The days of having a demanding boss should be long gone by now.

You can even turn your hobby into a money-making venture. Start an online shop where you can sell your wares.

Build and connect with friends

Our emotional health suffers when we isolate ourselves. We saw that firsthand during the early days of the pandemic. Conversely, having healthy friendships can improve our psychological well-being and even the length of our lives. They can decrease the likelihood of a person being depressed and dying from heart problems and chronic diseases.5

Having a good friend is powerful. One study on friendship showed that people who saw a hill viewed it as less steep when a friend was by their side.5

Now is the time to focus on your friendships. During your working years, you might have had time to socialize only on the weekend. Now you can plan lunch dates and excursions with your friends all week long.

If you feel like you could use more friends, there’s plenty of ways to get them. One idea is to enroll in a class (or volunteer) where you can meet people who have similar interests as you. If you’ve always wanted a dog, you should get one. You’ll have a loyal companion and he or she will surely introduce you to other people and their furry companions on your walks.

Eat healthy

As we get older, we’re prone to put on the pounds. In fact, a third of people who are 65 years and older are obese. So, it’s important to be cognizant of our diets. Many older adults will benefit from taking in 1,800 calories a day from a balanced diet that supports your muscles, bones, and heart. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, skinless poultry, and nuts and beans are all healthy food choices.6

Tip: Make it your hobby to grow your own fresh herbs and vegetables.

Other things to keep in mind: Foods rich in vitamin B12 can boost memory; antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation; and vitamin D assists in your body’s ability to use calcium.6

Following a Mediterranean diet is a good brain booster. A study showed that a group of healthy older adults who incorporated the principles of the Mediterranean diet experienced better cognition, especially in the area of delayed recall. Eating fish (and less meat) protects a brain’s blood vessels, suppresses damage from oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation — all thanks to the fish’s omega-3 fatty acids.7

Have fun cooking up new recipes and see how you grow. And if you want a break from the kitchen, go on a tour of some tried-and-true and new restaurants in your area.

Volunteer in your community

Communities are in need of volunteers. Animal shelters, meal-delivery programs, working farms, and tutoring are just a few of the opportunities available. Find what gives you meaning and then find a reputable organization you’d like to work with.

Tip: Go online and look for a site that lists volunteer opportunities.

It turns out that giving back is good for your health and well-being. A recent study of nearly 13,000 retirees who volunteered for a minimum of 100 hours per year for four years were at a reduced risk for mortality and physical limitations and felt more optimistic and purposeful.8

Be sure to think about some things before settling on a particular volunteer opportunity or organization. What is the “why” behind what you are doing? To connect with people on an individual or community basis? Does it align with a particular skill? Or are you looking to learn a new skill?8

Create a plan

However you plan to live out your retirement, take the time now to map out a plan for the next phase of your life. You’ll want to keep it realistic and within budget.

Here’s to living a long and healthy life post-career, one that flourishes well after you stop going into the office.

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1. “Emerging From the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Retirement Outlook of the Workforce, 22nd Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey,”, June 2022.

2. Doherty, Patricia. “15 Trips You Need to Take as Soon as You Retire,”, October 12, 2023.

3. Tigar, Lindsay. “How to Travel the World After You Retire,”, May 22, 2023.

4. O’Connell, Brian. “8 Great Hobbies in Retirement,”, August 4, 2023.

5. Abrams, Zara. “The science of why friendships keep us healthy,”, June 1, 2023.

6. Donovan, John. “Foods for a Strong Heart, Brain, and Bones,”, April 27, 2022.

7. Migala, Jessica. “3 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Brain When You Follow the Mediterranean Diet,”, July 18, 2023.

8. Lagemann, Jennifer. “11 Meaningful Ways Older Adults Can Volunteer Right Now,”

DOFU 1-2024