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I laughed when an acquaintance asked me that after learning I’d recently left paid work. Her semi-horrified look summed up a lot of the funny reactions and assumptions that I have encountered regarding this life change.

Each retired person takes his or her own approach, but here’s what I do:

  • Sleep a little more—about half an hour longer.
  • Be better informed. I read part of the local newspaper and New York Times every day, and I have time to read blogs that interest me.
  • Get more exercise. When my only free time was in the evening, I often had to choose between working out or relaxing—now I can work out during the day and relax at night—or vice versa.
  • Read more books. Since I’m a readaholic, I actually have to limit myself to an hour in the morning and an hour or so in the evening.
  • Take classes. Like European History from 1300 to 1800 and Drawing. Not for credit. Just because I want to know.
  • Lose myself in a project. Say I want to make a complicated recipe, research plants for a shade garden, or figure out how to make my own scented lotion—I can. I have time.
  • Volunteer more. I continue to tutor immigrants, but now I’m also writing marketing communications for a nonprofit. That’s work I enjoy, so it feels like fun.
  • Travel more. Our calendar quickly books up with inexpensive weekend driving trips like camping, staying at a friend’s lake home, and visiting family.
  • Write more. I’m able to spend more time on my blogs, personal essays, and short memoirs. Finally, I have the time to write to my heart’s content. I love this.
  • See more of my friends. I love this, too. Most weeks I have coffee, lunch, or drinks with a friend.

What I Don’t Do

  • Spend more time on housework. There are WAY more interesting pastimes.
  • Cook if I don’t feel like it. Instead, we just pull something out of the freezer.
  • Become cranky and set in my ways—yuck!!
  • Play bingo. Um, even my 93-year-old mother didn’t want to do that.
  • Watch the golf channel, or really, any daytime TV.
  • Look for Early Bird Specials.
  • Obsess about coupons.
  • Think about performance reviews. Now my performance reviews come down to this: Was it fun? If so, I’m using my time well. If not, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Ellen Shriner is one of the founders of WordSisters, a shared blog (

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What Do You DO All Day? Explaining Retirement To The Uninitiated was last modified: by

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