what to do in retirement

6 Ways to Keep Busy After Retirement

From Career to Leisure

Financially, retirement may still seem like a distant dream to some baby boomers, but for those of us who are nearing or already at retirement, the looming question is: what’s next? And that’s a great question to have.

Retirement means that you get to decide what you are going to do, when, why and for how long. The most common choices seem to be a second career or self-employed business, home projects, volunteerism and non-profit support, peer networking, travel and exercise. And for many people, their idea of retirement heaven is doing some of each! If you want to know more about what to do in retirement, keep reading.


Want to be physically active, socially connected, busy and productive? Volunteer! Non-profits need people desperately, and there’s always more work to be done than there are hours in the day.

Sheldon Haynie, owner of Lightheart Cellars in San Martin, CA helps out at Valley Verde, a nonprofit near San Jose that gives low-income families the knowledge and tools needed to grow and maintain their own organic vegetable gardens at no cost. Haynie uses his winery’s flatbed truck to distribute raised bed kits, soil and plants to Valley Verde’s beneficiaries.

Mike Rohrbach, a retired data specialist and software salesman in Tucson, AZ is using his connections and experience in internet technology to start a nonprofit that matches seniors wanting to master computer and smartphone skills with at-risk students who are technology whizzes.

“Volunteering at schools is a wonderful way to give back to our communities,” says Charmaine Gill of Chehalis, WA.

“Volunteering at the food bank or a homeless shelter gives your spirit a boost. Volunteering for anything helps you keep connected to humanity. I volunteered for over 10 years at the local food bank and plan on going back this next month. I like to find things I have a passion for and then help where I can.”

Not sure where to start? Catchafire.org matches skilled volunteers with nonprofits and social enterprises.

New Business and Career

Don Phelps of Chelan, WA, and his wife Judy decided to plant a vineyard and start a winery after they ‘retired.’ The winery tasting room is in an old mining town brothel, so as owners, they get to have a lot of fun with their wine names.

Phelps explains that he never really thought of it as retiring, that it was more like “changing careers.” He refers to it as “the best minimum wage job I ever bought.”

After 15 years in Hawaii, Nick and Robin Gladdis, who now live in Paso Robles, CA, took advantage of California’s mild coastal climate to plant olives, and now they produce olive oil under the label Casa Pau Hana. “Pau Hana” is Hawaiian for “no more work,” but Nick stays busy attending farmers’ markets with his olive oil, and tackling home projects like designing and building his own outdoor pizza oven.

If you’re interested in starting a new business but don’t have the entrepreneurial experience to start from scratch, consider buying a successful franchise. Franchises range from home health care, cleaning and maintenance, to fun services like party catering and printed chocolates. Do your research, and you’ll very likely find one that’s right for you.


Tackling those household projects you never had time for is a great place to start spending your free time. Once you start planning and executing your days from start to finish, you’ll quickly get hooked on how easy it is to get things done without corporate oversight.

Like Nick Gladdis, you might attempt building a pizza oven from scratch or a kit. You could start renovating your home or backyard, installing energy efficiency measures like solar panels and rain catchers or refinishing family heirloom furniture.

Robert Cohn in Johns Creek, GA decided to write a book about his 20 years in the hospitality industry in the US and Europe. “It was an eye-opening experience, well worth it.”

David Dain Smith of Springfield, MO took up beekeeping. “It is big fun! To get started, I spoke with a local beekeeper and researched on the web. Local farm supply stores sell equipment and bees as well as provide a lot of advice. It is fun. Yes, you will get stung. Unless you are allergic it’s not such a big deal, although it always hurts.”

Social Networking

Finding ways to connect with people socially will get you out of the house, taking off on trips and learning new skills. Play bridge, join a book club, take cooking classes or start a neighborhood culinary club, take lessons in aikido, belly dancing or singing.

If you love animals and your home is set up for it, offer to foster for your local pet shelter or earn a little extra income by pet sitting.


Now is the time to take those tours and trips you’ve always dreamed of. Maybe a safari in Africa or a tour of Europe’s best restaurants. You can visit one of our national parks, or even just buy or lease a motor home and let your impulses guide you.

Lora Kirk of Arroyo Grande, CA says: “I retired early 10 years ago and I'm never bored! I love to travel. We bought a motor home about six years ago and travel about six months out of the year. Retirement rocks!”


Now that you’re unchained from a schedule and desk, getting some physical activity should be at the top of your new ‘to-do’ list. And you don’t need to confine yourself to a predictable schedule or routine, either. Try a different activity for every day of the week. Mix it up by walking with friends one day and swimming laps the next.

You can also experiment with activities you’ve always wanted to try but perhaps didn’t have the energy or freedom to attempt, like dancing or martial arts. George Leonard, who was the West Coast editor for Life magazine, first attempted to train in martial arts at the age of 47. He documented his 30-year journey from a beginner with creaking joints to a fifth-level black belt at the age of 77 in his book The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons From an American Sensei.

Cheryl Alexander of Carlsbad, CA sums it up pretty well: “Work at something you are passionate about, travel, write, meditate, exercise, the list is endless. I'm as busy as ever and enjoying it more as it's my own schedule.”

There's no shortage of hobbies or activities when it comes to finding what to do in retirement.