Charting a course through retirement

Hitting retirement is a milestone we all forward to. The relief of no longer having to do the old nine-to-five, dreams of spending time with friends and family, being able to take up a hobby, tick off your bucket list and, generally, live your life on your own terms.

And while the ideal notion of retirement is certainly appealing, what many people don’t tell you is that reaching this important milestone can also be quite a challenging time – financially, physically, socially and emotionally.

Some of you may already know this.

Life after retirement can be anything that you want it to be. It’s up to you to set your own goals and chart your own course.

Here are some of the most common (and best) retirement pursuits.

Taking up a hobby, such as woodwork, sewing, photography
The Men’s Shed program is a popular starting point for men wanting to get back on the tools. Embroiderers’ guilds are always looking for anyone handy with a needle and thread or sewing and fashion design classes can be found online or at community centres. Photography is an excellent skill to learn as a side-earner, and classes can be found at community centres, U3A, TAFEs or from online training providers. Who knows, you may even be the next Annie Leibovitz.

Seeing more of friends and family
You no longer have the old ‘I’m busy with work’ reason (or excuse), so retirement is the perfect time to make up for lost time.

Finding your creative side through arts, crafts and cooking
Decades with your nose to the grind can mean you ignore your creative side. Well, this is the time to find it. Let loose your creativity by painting, cooking, or any number of digital media or visual arts pursuits – any one of these could also earn you additional income in retirement.

Writing books or learning journalism
Think you’ve got what it takes to tell it like it is? Why not follow your dream of writing your life story or a kids’ book? Or how about that novel that’s been brewing in your head for years or even punching out some hard-hitting news stories? Writing is one of the more worthy pursuits (says the writer) and with a bit of networking, can also score you some extra scratch.

Getting better on the computer
You could delve into the digital realm and study IT, web design or development, social media marketing or graphic design. You could even reveal to all your friends the mystery of ‘the cloud’. Again, these are all skills that could also line your pockets in some way.

Doing yoga, Pilates, dance or some other form of exercise
Now you’ve got some time to really stretch yourself, and there’s no better way to improve your posture and overall wellbeing than with yoga, Pilates or dance. You may even like to be more serious and help your friends get into shape, too!

Do you feel that you have more to offer to those around you? Why not pursue part-time teaching, tutoring or some other form of training instruction?

Ask anyone who volunteers, and they’ll tell you that being able to share your time with others in need or who just need a hand is one of the most rewarding aspects of retirement.

“Reading keeps your mind alert and delays cognitive decline in elders. Research even found that Alzheimer’s is 2.5 times less likely to appear in elderly people who read regularly, while TV was presented as a risk factor,” wrote Melissa Chu for Medium.

“Six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68 per cent, according to researchers at the University of Sussex. Reading beat out other relaxing activities, including listening to music (61 per cent), drinking tea or coffee (54 per cent), and taking a walk (42 per cent).”

Need we say more?

It’s time to tick off your travel wish list, so start planning. Need inspiration? Make sure you read YourLifeChoices weekly travel news (each Saturday). Or maybe you’re a budding travel agent? Believe it or not, with a little bit of training, you could set yourself up as a home-based travel consultant or find work as a part-time travel agent.

Got itchy green fingers? You can make sure you’re not all thumbs in the garden and learn all about horticulture or land management – you may even be able to market yourself as a gardener or landscaper to the locals.

Renovating your home
A lick of paint, a spot of tiling, or maybe just some savvy interior design and you could create wealth by renovating your home. You could even learn the art of selling houses with a real estate course.

Becoming more involved in the community
There’s always someone who needs a hand. Someone to listen to them or someone to help them through a tough time. It may be helping someone with a disability, offering free massages to those who can’t afford them or caring for folks at the local aged care home. Educating people to eat better or learning to be a beautician or hairdresser can change lives. Affecting those immediately around you is a sure-fire recipe for a satisfying retirement.

Starting a small business
Maybe you could learn to turn a profit from your hobby or something you’re passionate about. Starting a small business is easy for some, but others require a little help with marketing or keeping the numbers in check. With the right training, you could be entering the most rewarding years of your working life – in retirement!

Joining social organisations
Joining your local land care group, Rotary or Lions Club, or just signing up with a community action group keeps you socially active and, just as important, can mean you’re still making a positive difference to your community and, in turn, your sense of self.

Learning a new sport
Running, going to the gym or riding a bike may not be everyone’s idea of fun. One way to stay fit, have fun and stay socially engaged is to learn a new sport – or take up one you used to do as a younger person with more time on their hands.

Fixing up an old car
Ever wanted to ‘do up’ an old Holden? You can, with a bit of knowledge, a few tools and, well, an old Holden! Car clubs are a great way to get out and about and see the countryside. They’re often getting together for long drives that culminate in picnics, lunches or drinks in pretty places. So, why not realise that dream, fix up an old jalopy and hit the road?

There’s no limit to your potential. All you need is to set your mind to it and find the right training or education course for you. You don’t need to get your masters (although you can!), you could find a short course to get you started, then find out if you’d like to pursue it further. Upskilling can make you more employable or can simply be an enjoyable pursuit!

Finding a part-time job
Not ready to fully retire yet? Or maybe you’ve had a go at the retirement thing and you’re ready to get back into the jobs market. It’s not easy for over-55s to find work – let’s not beat around the bush – but there are ways to make yourself more employable. See above.

Learning more about finance and investing
If you have a little bit of cash to play with, you could play the stock market. Not everyone is a natural at investing, but anyone can learn about it. You could find out about finance or accounting. Everyone seems to be raking it in on cryptocurrency, but do you even know what it is? Maybe you’re a natural with numbers and could help others with their financial planning. You could be accredited in no time and start making money by knowing more about money.

Learning a new language
Set yourself up for your dream holiday to the French Riviera with a course in the language of love. That is, French. Learning another language can help you in more ways than making sure you’re ordering the right food at that café on St Mark’s Square. It can do wonders for your brain and, if you become fluent, could even help you pay for extended trips, teaching others English in foreign countries.

Going back to school or U3A
You can go back to school without leaving your living room, or you could get that ‘college experience’ on campus. How good would it be to get out there with all those beautiful minds and learn something you’ve always wanted to learn? What are you waiting for?

Many retirees embrace life and treat every day as an adventure, and one of the greatest adventures of all involves learning more about the world, pursuing lifelong passions and discovering more about yourself and others.

A 2018 report, titled The New Social Contract: a blueprint for retirement in the 21st century says that one of the most important aspects of retirement planning is “lifelong learning, longer working lives and flexible retirement to help people stay economically active longer and transition into retirement on their own terms”.

And Dementia Australia says that “challenging the brain with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them”, which helps to develop more ‘reserve’ or ‘back up’ to help your brain “keep working properly if any brain cells are damaged or die”.

Learning a new language, a musical instrument, a new sport, or studying a new field are the types of things that challenge the brain and keep you younger, longer. It’s also a great way to keep you active and in shape, stay in touch with those around you, help you feel relevant, vital and, most of all, happy. offers courses online and in class from leading providers across the country, making it easy for you to find your way through thousands of education programs of all levels. From short courses to Masters degrees, you can find a course that suits you.

Whether you’re looking to change your career path, return to the workforce, learn a new hobby or upskill in a certain area, or simply keep your brain in shape, can help you take that crucial first step in achieving your goals.

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