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Why Everyone Needs a Hobby

having a happy retirement

“People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made. 

This is from the late Joan Rivers and one of my favorite financial quotes of all time. While I believe Joan is right on many counts, money doesn’t always mean life satisfaction, especially after retirement. That’s why everyone needs a hobby.

Retirement After 44 Years of Work!

My Dad started full time work at age 23 after receiving a degree in architecture from the University of Kentucky. He was never content working for other people and started his own building supply business around the time I entered kindergarten. Even though his business was always successful, he still wasn’t satisfied. He also ended up becoming part owner of a grocery store, bought and sold some land for commercial development, and did designs for other businesses that were outside of his typical job, including a nine hole addition to the local golf course.

When I was in high school, my Dad changed careers, selling his building supply store and going into the hardwood lumber business. At the time, it seemed risky, but in hindsight, it was really smart because this was about the time Home Depot and Lowe’s were growing and putting small operations like my Dad’s out of business.

Anyway, he ended up being very successful in the lumber business and sold his share for a big payday about a decade ago. While it might not have made my Mom and Dad rich in Manhattan, they were certainly set for living in rural Kentucky, Dad went on to consult for another lumber company and has been working for them over the past ten years. When they decided to do some restructuring recently, he decided to call it quits and finally retire.

You’d think someone with this much career success would be throwing parties and passing out cigars at a retirement party, but you’d be wrong. My Dad didn’t even tell anyone he was retiring. I was there a month ago and had no idea. I probably still would have no idea if my Mom hadn’t texted me with the news.

My first question was, “Is he happy?” She wasn’t sure, said he even seemed a bit sad.

Don’t Let Work Be the Boss

My Dad is not alone among the workaholics of the world.

I’m sure in the beginning he felt the need to work 15 hour days to get his business started. Even when he could have cut hours, I think he felt it was lazy not to be working. As a result, he never really developed any hobbies or free time activities outside of work.

How sad would it be to get to the end of a 44 year career and feel like there’s nothing to do. Sure he could learn some new hobbies or take a vacation, but I doubt he will. My Dad will never have to worry about money, but is he happy? Doesn’t sound like it.

Find Four Hobbies

I love having multiple streams of income, even if it takes a chunk of my free time. But it’s important not to let work and the prospect of earning money take over your life to the point where there isn’t time for anything else. Money Magazine found that the happiest retirees participated in three to four hobbies on a regular basis, preferably ones that involved social interaction.

Right now, my time outside of work is mostly spent on kid activities, but I think I have enough outside interests to keep me busy when I step away from my day job. Everyone needs a hobby because I can’t think of anything worse than being unhappy in retirement.

Do you have enough hobbies to be happy in retirement? Do you take time for other things besides work? 


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. This is why so many retirees love golf, lol. But in all honesty, things like golf, bowling, kickball, softball, and volleyball are all sports with weekly games with other people that can help fill your time and give you something to look forward to.

    Volunteering is another way to be busy. I was an intern at a local National Archives branch in NYC and there were 2 regular retirees who were dependable and came one day a week every week in my area. They enjoyed the work and only did not show up if they had a vacation planned (and always gave advance notice).

    Some people take retirement as a time to join or become more involved in a club like Rotary, Elks, Lions, etc. They often have community service events which are fun ways to help the community with others.

    Lastly, a great way to get involved as a retiree is to join a Board of your favorite charity. Many charities, especially ones that aren’t as financially rich, need strong board members to help out. It’s a volunteer-only position that often have meetings during the day or afternoon so reliable board members can be hard to find, especially for small charities that don’t have the pull of big name charities. Also for some one like your dad, who owned a business, he has good business skills that can really go to to use in a charity. If he has a favorite non-profit or even a historical society (it doesn’t have to be a social services agency) that he loves, that’s a great way to have a commitment, but is for a cause he believes in.

  2. This article really speaks to me. My mom had one of the happiest retirements ever, because she managed to fill it with hobbies and friends, and found ways to make her hobbies social. She did quilt guild, a hiking group called the Menopausal Movers, 2 book clubs, a birthday club, church vestry, worked with hospice, and helped run a group that did home repairs for those who couldn’t afford it. I think the fact that she was able to make even her individual hobbies like quilting and reading into social activities helped her live her last decade to the fullest. It’s a lesson I’m slowly trying to incorporate into my own life.

  3. I think this can be bigger than many of us realize. It can be so easy to get consumed by work that we either don’t focus on family or don’t develop hobbies to help when we do retire. I know I’ve been guilty of that myself. Most of my free time is filled with activities for our kids or simply spending time with them though I feel I have enough hobbies/interests that would keep me busy/fulfilled if I were to retire right now.

    • I always see various things and think if only I had more time. Hopefully, I’ll still be thankful for that time when I don’t have to work anymore.

  4. My problem is I think I have too many hobbies! 🙂 If I quit today I could easily fill up my time and be happy. I think for me I’d probably still try to make money from my hobbies, whether that be writing or maybe coaching. Yes, I would be very happy in retirement. Problem at the moment is I have the opposite problem of your dad. I don’t have the money.

    • I think it’s always a fine line in balancing working enough to make money but also having time enough for hobbies. If only there was some sort of calculator for telling what the right amount is to achieve that balance.

  5. I see this all the time too, Kim. People are excited to retire but then they don’t know what to do with themselves. Their work has always defined who they were and now they don’t have that any longer. Hobbies are absolutely critical in my mind to helping me keep balance in my life. My family definitely helps but also doing other things that I love keeps me grounded.

    • I hope I can keep a balance between work and hobbies. I always wish for more time, but I wonder how it will be when we don’t have a kid at home and no one who really needs us every day. It might be overwhelming to have that much free time.

  6. Wow your Dad had quite the “career” if you can call it that. I think I can relate to him in a few ways and would be very happy if my career ended up looking similar to his as far as the diversity of work (and ownership of businesses). While I spend basically all my time outside of work on my blog, book, and “profitable” things like getting my MBA and working on improving my house, I’m confident I will be very content and happy in retirement even if I’m not working. There are many hobbies I’d like to invest more time and energy into, and other things that aren’t really hobbies, like volunteering, that I’d like to do more of.

    • I would love to have more time for my non-work related hobbies and I kind of look forward to the day when I can devote more time to them.

  7. Kim this is so true, why would work have a greater balance than life hobbies or fun time. If you cant be happy in retirement, then why not find some fun hobbies to pass the time. Also it might take him a few months to find them. Good luck golfing.

  8. Your dad sounds like quite the successful man. But now that I think about it my dad is the same way. He has had a long career as a pharmacist that will be coming to an end soon, and I’m worried he will not know what to do with himself. He has always worked hard throughout his life he doesn’t have many hobbies. He’ll spend his off days in front of the TV, which is not a very satisfying retirement.

    • Maybe it’s a generational thing? I hope Dad finds something other than TV to occupy his time. He didn’t have a manual labor job, but his workplace was spread out over a large area so he got lots of walking in during work days. I worry about him not getting physical activity. Hopefully he’ll start walking with my Mom.

  9. Hi Kim,

    I hate that what your dad is going through is so common.

    I struggled for a long time with not having any hobbies. I would learn something new, but get bored of it quickly. Then it hit me, I have a hobby of discovering new hobbies. This makes my main hobby (interacting with people) much more interesting because I can relate to them and their hobbies more directly.

    There is also that phrase about having a hobby that keeps you in shape, one that keeps you creative, and one that makes you money. I like that. I like the variety and that the hobbies keep the different parts of your brain and body active.

    I hope your dad finds some hobbies that he enjoys so he can live his retirement life to the fullest. Sounds like a man that capable of success will also find success in retirement as well. 🙂

    • I like you ideas for hobbies. I’m hoping my Dad will get settled and see that work does not have to define him. It sounds like some of his buddies who are retired get together and play cards every week day, so I’m hoping he’ll join in.

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