Why you need to prioritise fun and recreation in retirement planning

By David Lamb

We all understand the need to work; it puts food on the table and pays the mortgage.

It is so important that very early in our children’s lives we ask them ‘what you want to do when you grow up?’ Unfortunately, however, fun and recreation is often seen as an add-on; something we could do without if we had to.

But it is much more important than that.

Fun and recreation can reduce stress. Too much stress, for too long, can increase our cortisol levels, which can lead to lack of sleep, headaches, low energy levels and ultimately high blood pressure and heart disease.

Many studies have shown that people who continue to play games and learn throughout life are much less likely to suffer from dementia or prone to get heart disease.

It comes back to the following question: do you stop doing things because you get old, or do you get old because you stop doing things?

Leaving a career at retirement can leave a big gap in people’s lives and unbalance their lifestyle. It is a gap that must be filled.

What are you going to do in retirement to replace your career? This is just as an important question for retirement planning as ‘how much should I put into my pension?’ or ‘how much do I need in my pension fund?’

Other than Christmas, on which two weeks do you spend the most money? When you are on holiday.

When you retire, you will be on holiday 52 weeks each year. Calculating the cost of fun and recreation in retirement, to build into your cash flow projections, is essential. We always recommend assuming expenditure on sports and hobbies will increase and suggest doubling the cost of holidays between retirement and age 80. Everybody’s active retirement will be different, but you get the idea.

We see a lot of people who do not take fun and recreation seriously and therefore do not prioritise it. They end up not taking enough time off work and can often take work away on holiday with them! Not only can this have a massively detrimental effect on the third most important component of a balanced lifestyle – relationships – but it is not very healthy and can have a negative impact on the second most important – emotional health.

I have learned that the first thing to do when making my business plan for the year, is to allocate time for holidays because if you don’t, they can be left to the last minute, fitting around work. Ideally, work should fit around fun and recreation.

For those that don’t think fun and recreation is important, the next time you’re sat down with a cup of tea try this: Hold your full mug at arm’s-length. Is it heavy? Probably not. Now hold it there, still at arm’s-length, for 10 minutes. Is it heavy now? Yes, and getting heavier. Put the mug down for couple of minutes then pick it up again and hold arm’s-length. It will be a lot lighter than before. Fun and recreation has the same effect on your emotional health.

You need the break!