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  • Debbie Petropoulos

What’s Next? 25 Things to Do When You Retire

Updated: May 18

Try these retirement ideas to create an exciting second act.

One True You, LLC Coach Debbie Petropoulos and Fiance John Maguire In Paris at Eiffel Tower
Travel Dreams Fulfilled!

There are countless ways to enjoy retirement. Having an idea of what you want to do in retirement is as important as the financial planning aspects of preparing for retirement.


If you’re thinking about retiring and what’s next for you, this list of 25 things to do when you retire will inspire some ideas. As a life and leadership coach who specializes in career change and retirement transition for professionals, I’m sharing highlights of the things you can do, as well as my own “Top 10 Retirement List” of what I’m grateful to have experienced during the first six years of my second act:


#1 Plan a Trip and Travel.


Where have you always dreamed of going?

When I retired, I took my dream trip to France. It was something I had planned and envisioned for many years. I spent an amazing week exploring Paris, Versailles, and Luxembourg Gardens. So many museums with incredible art exhibits to see. Monet at the Musée de l'Orangerie was a favorite. The Seine at night with the sparkling lights of the city was incredibly beautiful. I enjoyed delicious food and champagne and the surrounding sights and sounds of Paris while sitting at the sidewalk cafés. And, to make the travel experience even more memorable, there was a surprise proposal at The Eiffel Tower on my birthday!


I’ve also traveled to Nantucket, rented a Moped, and cruised around the island with my fiancee. I took a road trip to South Carolina. If you like walking along a relaxing shoreline, Hilton Head has warm sandy beaches to enjoy. I visited friends in California, and had a great time adventuring through Yosemite National Park and Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and touring the vineyards in Napa Valley. I spent a long weekend in Michigan with friends from Germany. We sampled wonderful wine tastings and experienced a unique plein air picnic hosted by Ox-Bow artists in Saugatuck.


#2 Declutter and Organize


Look around, what uncompleted projects do you need to get done?

To succeed at anything, you have to decide, plan, start, and continue until there’s completion. When you leave something undone, it distracts your attention. For many years, my home was filled with a constant level of activity that comes from seven people and two dogs all living under one roof together. When my three granddaughters, daughter, and son moved out, it took time to adjust to the solitude and quiet. After 25 years in my home, I became an empty nester. Retirement provided the freedom to finally declutter, organize, and create the peaceful home environment that I’d dreamt about for so many years. Marie Kondo would be proud!


#3 Enhance Your Personal and Professional Development.


What do your next five years look like?

Retirement provides space to pause and reflect on what’s important in your life. It’s a great time to focus on personal goals and dreams. As part of my retirement transition, I enrolled in an accredited coaching training program, earned my professional coaching certification, and became an International Coaching Federation member. Enhancing my personal and professional development supported my vision of serving as a transformational life coach to help executives nearing retirement navigate their leadership and life challenges.


#4 Start A Business


What ideas do you want to bring to life?

As you prepare to retire, I recommend working with a coach to help you gain clarity of what you’ll do with your time once your daily routine changes. After retiring from AbbVie, I gained a renewed sense of fulfillment for my life by starting a business. In 2015, I founded One True You, LLC - a career and life coaching business that assists professionals in transition achieve successful outcomes in their careers and lives. If you’re considering making a significant change in your career or life, read more about Why Coaching Matters.


#5 Be A Mentor


Who would benefit from your wisdom and experience?

In my Corporate leadership roles, I served as a mentor. When I retired, I transitioned to mentoring entrepreneurs and small business owners. The relationships formed have been invaluable. Those personal connections have led to engagements with business networks in Lake County and Kenosha, and opportunities to share inspirational keynotes on “Purpose, Passion and Possibilities” and “Making Your Best…Even Better”. I’ve hosted “New Beginnings” workshops and “Create Your Best Life” retreats and enjoy sharing success strategies to help professionals gain clarity of their visions and lead more fulfilling lives.


#6 Volunteer


How could you best use your unique gifts and talents?

When you volunteer, you get back so much more than what you give. Research on volunteerism shows people who volunteer live longer, have stronger immune systems, fewer heart attaches, higher self-esteem, and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Retirement is a great time to “pay it forward”. We all have unique gifts and talents to share. I became involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities when my daughter’s pregnancy complications required specialized care. After retiring, I began volunteering as a Family Ambassador for Ronald McDonald House Charities in Chicago near Lurie Children’s Hospital and collect pop tabs within the community for donation to RMHC.


#7 Spend Time With Friends


Since retiring, I’ve enjoyed many special get-togethers with close friends. It might be something simple, like going for a long walk and enjoying the outdoors, or sitting on the front porch and having a cup of coffee. An in-promptu glass of wine and charcuterie, dinner on the patio with a fire, or a special evening out is a great way to stay connected. I’ve discovered some fun new dining experiences during events like Lake County’s restaurant week. Even during Covid, I was grateful for virtual opportunities to stay in touch with friends. I treasure all of the special moments shared with friends and family.


#8 Care for Family


When family members need assistance, it’s reassuring for them to know help is just a call away. Since retiring, I’ve been able to help with my granddaughters’ care. This was especially critical during their early first years. Now that they’re getting older, the time needed is a few hours after school each week while their parents are at work and on days when they have virtual classes. Retirement has provided enhanced life balance and greater flexibility and has allowed me to also care for my mom’s needs. As our parents age, there are so many new challenges we’re faced with. It’s important to have connections with resources that can help provide the care needed and for us, as retirees, to stay resilient. Read more about resilience.


#9 Self-Care


Are you setting aside time just for you, to reflect, find stillness and quiet?

Making time for your own self-care is essential. This is especially important, when many of us find ourselves at this stage in our life in the roles of caretakers for our grandchildren or parents. Meditating, reading, journaling, or focusing on what you’re grateful for are all powerful ways to help clear your mind and improve mental clarity. It’s important to be the best version of you. Learn more ways to shift your mindset. Since retiring, I enjoy weekly walks with friends, and joined a fitness group to focus on enhancing my overall health and mindset through a practice of yoga, strength training, and High-Intensity Interval Training at Fit Nation.


#10 Garden


What sparks joy for you in your life?

Spring is one of my favorite times of year. Everything is in bloom. The sights and scents are beautiful. Since retiring, I’ve had more time to spend in my garden. I’ve created some beautiful spaces using Japanese Gardens as my inspiration. Two of my favorites are Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Think about the things that bring you the greatest joy. When you’re experiencing that joy, you’re in alignment with your life purpose and you’ll have a greater sense of fulfillment.


Looking For More Ideas?


Read more about things to do when you retire:


#11 Live Within Your Means

#12 Buy A Motor Home.

#13 Remodel Your Home

#14 Move To The Country

#15 Move To The City

#16 Get A Part-Time Job

#17 Go Into Public Service

#18 Teach

#19 Read

#20 Start A Blog

#21 Learn A New Language

#22 Start A New Hobby

#23 Learn To Play Music

#24 Write A Book

#25 Take Up A New Sport


I hope these ideas will help spark the excitement for your retirement plans.


I’m so grateful for all that I’ve experienced since retiring. My retirement journey in the last six years has been memorable in so many ways.


I look forward to embracing new opportunities and continuing to impact lives and inspire successful outcomes through coaching.


If you’re considering retirement and would like help putting a plan together for what’s next, or if you’re experiencing a personal or professional challenge or transition that you’d like coaching guidance on, I invite you to reach out. Set up a complimentary Clarity Call and let’s talk about how we can work together to help you navigate your next steps so you can lead a more fulfilling life.


About the Author


Debbie Petropoulos is a Transformational Career and Life Coach, Inspirational Speaker and Owner of One True You, LLC.


Debbie retired from a senior leadership role in Global Pharmaceuticals in 2015 after working for more than three decades at Abbott and AbbVie where she led, mentored, coached, and developed individuals and high performing teams in Information Technology.