Golf or grandkids - finding balance in retirement

Life is all about balance – it’s never good to have too much of one thing. When we’re working and having to juggle daily routines and hectic work schedules, it’s easy to lose any semblance of balance. However, that all changes when we retire.

Retirement is all about one thing: time to yourself now that you’ve stopped work. Sure, it’s a nice problem to have, but very often there’s still an imbalance.

Here's why maintaining a balance in life is so important. 

Did you know?

Australia lags behind the rest of the developed world in enjoying a healthy work/life balance. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found Australia ranked 27 out of 35 OECD countries when it comes to levels of work-life balance.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Welfare Report 2017 -

And this doesn’t necessarily improve once you retire.

So what is meant by ‘balance’?

Ask any expert and they will tell you about the importance of having a good ‘balance’ in life. But what does that actually mean?

By definition, work-life balance refers to the prioritisation between professional and personal activities in a person’s life. Ideally, you want harmony between the two because having the right balance reduces stress and burnout and promotes physical and mental wellbeing.
And the need to have a good work-life balance doesn’t stop when we retire.

Finding balance in retirement

Extensive research shows that working is generally good for mental and physical health and wellbeing. Apart from having financial independence, work gives us:

  • purpose, responsibilities and a reason to ‘get out of bed in the morning’
  • daily structure and routine
  • a sense of identity and self-worth
  • social interactions and a sense of community.

When we stop working, these benefits will diminish or can disappear altogether. Some of us are overwhelmed by all the free time and don’t know what to do all day. Others are overcommitted and stretching themselves too thin, with no time to relax.

So how do you replace the social aspect of your work? What can you do to make up for the sense of responsibility and purpose that often comes with a job? How do you enjoy all that extra time, without becoming bored or overcommitted?

Have a routine

Surprisingly enough, other than missing your workmates, you may find you miss the routine of work.

That’s why it’s important to plan out what you’ll be doing in retirement – and try to give priority to doing the things you love. 
Without a regular routine, boredom can set in - especially for someone who had a very busy life pre-retirement. Unfortunately, retirees can often suffer from depression as a result of boredom, loss of purpose and diminishing contact with other people. In fact, BeyondBlue estimates that between 10% to 15% of Australians over the age of 65 experience depression and about 10% experience anxiety.

Join a club (sporting, hobbies or other interests) to connect with like-minded people and socially interact while doing something that you really enjoy. After all, with the average retirement lasting around 25 years, that’s a lot of hours in the day to fill!

Learn to say ‘no’

Do you say ‘yes’ to every invitation or request that comes your way? 

When others learn you’ve got lots of time on your hands you can often become the ‘errand’ point person in your family – looking after grandkids, picking up deliveries, doing the grocery shopping for others, helping out with life admin for others – taking up your precious time to do the things you want to do. 

It’s natural to feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to requests from family and friends, so we avoid that guilt by saying ‘yes’ (women are particularly prone to doing this) and end up feeling stressed or resentful because we’re doing something we didn’t really want to. 

Saying ‘yes’ to too many invitations and requests can have you spreading yourself thin and feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
Learning to say ‘no’ can take practice, because at the end of the day we all like to be helpful or feel useful, but it comes at a cost. Make sure you allocate time to do the things you want and give them priority, so you can work around other activities or requests or simply say ‘no’ to the things that will monopolise your time.

Some practical time management tips

One of the mysteries of retirement is that, although you have a lot of time to spare sometimes it’s difficult to get anything done!

Here are some tips for making the most of your time to get a good life balance:

  • Identify how you spend your time – for a month, keep track of how you spend your day (from doing household chores through to recreational activities – write it all down). It will give you a good idea of the things that are taking you away from your ‘you’ time and the things you enjoy doing the most
  • Make a plan – once you’ve worked out what the ‘time stealers’ are, figure out the best way to make more time for yourself
  • Learn to say ‘no’ to activities that have little or no meaning, or limit them as much as possible
  • Prioritise – give priority to doing the things that give you most joy or satisfaction (after all, you’ve worked all your life and have earned your retirement!)
  • Embrace doing nothing – this is a really important one! Remember to slow down and enjoy having nothing to do – don’t fall into the trap of doing things just for the sake of having something to do
  • Refresh your mindset: rather than just ‘retiring’ think of these years as an opportunity to reinvent yourself!


The information on this page has been issued by Maritime Financial Services Pty Limited (MFS). It contains general information that doesn’t take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It’s important to consider how appropriate this general information is in relation to your situation before making an investment decision. We recommend that you seek financial advice before making any decisions regarding your super or investments. The information on this page is current at the time of publishing.