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6 Fun Things to Do in Retirement on a Budget


Retirement offers you the time to do the kind of stuff you always wanted to do but couldn’t because work filled up your schedule. Of course, retirement also typically means living on a fixed income, which may limit your ability to enjoy relatively costly indulgences like round-the-world cruises.

But even if your budget isn’t infinitely expandable you can still have a good time in retirement. Here are six broad categories of fun things you can do in retirement that will cost you little or nothing.

A financial advisor can help you create a budget to manage retirement spending.

Retiree Fun by the Numbers

Retirement can be fun! In fact, it is for most people. A 2022 survey by the Employee Retirement Benefit Institute found most (53%) of retirees rated their satisfaction with retirement life as high, pegging it at an 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Another 37% reported moderate satisfaction rating their lives 4, 5, 6 or 7. Just 10% rated satisfaction as low, below a 3.

That’s not all. A 2016 Merrill Lynch survey found that people aged 65-74 reported having more fun than any other age group, notching an average of 7.3 on a 10-point scale. That compares to 6.4 for 25- to 34-year-olds and just 6.0 for both 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 54-year-olds. Those older than 75 had the second-highest reported fun level, with an average of 7.1.

Based on these findings, it seems likely you can have a good time when you are living on a fixed income. And, according to research into types of activities that are best at keeping retirees happy, many of the most beneficial ways to spend your time in retirement are not necessarily expensive.

Budget-Friendly Fun Things to do In Retirement

SmartAsset: 6 things to do in retirement on a budget

Here are some of the activities can do in retirement that are the most popular and beneficial, while also costing little or nothing:

Read and Write

Reading books, magazines or newspapers as well as writing letters and journals were among activities found to reduce chances of experiencing depression in a 2022 analysis of data from the Health and Retirement Study published in Social Science & Medicine.

Indulge Hobbies

Hobbies are defined as activities people engaged in during leisure time for pleasure that involve imagination, novelty, creativity, sensory activation, self-expression, relaxation and cognitive stimulation.

Specific activities in these studies included gardening, cooking or baking something special, doing projects, listening to and making music, drawing, dancing, model-making and many more.

Interacting with other people in social settings is an inexpensive, readily available and potent way to keep the retirement blues away.

Be Social

Interacting with other people in social settings is an inexpensive, readily available and potent way to keep the retirement blues away. Meeting with others for a book club, going out for dinner, parties, movies and other social gatherings can bring a lot of joy. It can also be an opportunity to make new friends.

Go Outside

Staying home all day, every day can create not only dull moments in retirement but for anyone regardless of age. Whether it’s attending the theater, visiting a museum or checking out art galleries, you can enjoy retirement more fully if you get out and absorb some culture.

A 2021 article in the Journal of Public Mental Health systematically reviewed studies involving more than 49,000 participants with an average age of about 59 and found that experiencing others’ artistic creations reduced depression.

Play Sports and Games

Sports and games encourage moving your body and interacting with others, two activities consistently shown to make retirement more fun by improving both mental and physical health.

You don’t have to run ultramarathons or train like an Olympic powerlifter to benefit from engaging in sports and games in retirement.

Walking, hiking, dancing, bicycling, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, pickleball and many more can be indulged in long after you leave the workforce.

Take on Mind Challenges

Mind-stimulating leisure activities were tied to higher levels of well-being as well as lower levels of loneliness, pain and depression, among other benefits in a large, cross-cultural study of older people published in 2023 in Frontiers in Public Health.

Studied activities included doing number and word games and playing cards, all popular activities among the retired.

Bottom Line

SmartAsset: 6 things to do in retirement on a budget

Once you get working for a living out of your daily routine, it opens up more room for fun activities that can greatly increase your enjoyment of retirement. Scientific studies have found a variety of mental health, satisfaction and well-being benefits from easy and inexpensive pastimes including doing hobbies, playing games, attending cultural events, joining clubs and reading.

Tips for Enjoying a Happier Retirement

  • Talk to a financial advisor about managing your savings and investments effectively. Having an advisor on your side who understands your concerns about money can help you come up with a game plan for using your assets effectively. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Figure out what matters most to you in retirement. Eliminate those things that may be wasting your time or adding to your depression. And surround yourself with people who motivate you to enjoy your later years.

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