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From 9 to 5 to "Now What?"

You may not think you’ll miss the daily routine—or your colleagues—when you retire, but the transition isn’t always smooth. Here are some suggestions for finding new passions, purpose and friends.

TEN THOUSAND BOOMERS reach retirement age every day. Collectively, they'll have 126 billion hours of free time this year, according to "Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List," the latest study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave.

That may sound like heaven for people who are still tied to endless commutes, two-hour conference calls and 40-hour workweeks. But how do you make the transition from a full-time job (and a reliable paycheck) one week to throwing away the alarm clock and sleeping in the next? For suggestions, we reached out to Cynthia Hutchins, director of Financial Gerontology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She offers the following five tips.

Shed your professional identity. Many people introduce themselves by their job title. But only around 1 in 10 retirees still see work as the key to who they are. "This is your opportunity to redefine yourself and find a new sense of purpose," says Hutchins. "You may want to do volunteer work or consider taking a part-time job in another field."

Speaking of part-time jobs… According to the study, retirees want to work—but not necessarily full-time. "Cycling between work and leisure is a great way to have fulfilling experiences while still getting all of the benefits of working," Hutchins says. Those benefits include a paycheck to help bolster your retirement income. If you decide to take a position, negotiate. "Today's employers are coming around to the idea of hiring older workers and giving them opportunities to be flexible."

Don't know how to start your day without that alarm clock? Set it to watch the sun rise. Missing the commute? Plan a cross-country trip.

Network to find new friends. According to the study, retirees prize friendship more than any other age group—and they value intergenerational friendships more than others do. But meeting people is harder when you stop working. "Don't spend all of your time doing projects around the house," says Hutchins. "Get out socially. That could be as simple as joining a club to meet people who share a mutual interest. One way to connect with younger people is to mentor others in your former profession."

Don't plan in a bubble. "Your life isn't the only one changing—your partner and children will experience a lifestyle change as well," Hutchins points out. And your spouse may not be ready to retire when you are. "Talking about what you hope to do with your free time, as well as the financial aspects of retirement, is an important part of the process. Your financial advisor can help you work through all of your choices as a family."

Stay flexible and enjoy. "The beauty of this new phase of life is that you're no longer tied to a predetermined schedule and (almost) anything is possible," says Hutchins. Don't know how to start your day without that alarm clock? Set it to watch the sun rise. Missing the commute? Plan a cross-country trip. Your share of those 126 billion hours is a clean slate waiting for you to write on it.

VISIT ML.COM/RETIREMENT STUDY to explore "Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List"

3 Questions to Ask Your Advisor

  1. Will I need to work in retirement in order to maintain our current lifestyle?
  2. What adjustments do I need to make if I start a new business in retirement?
  3. Can you help my spouse and me design a retirement plan that works for us both?

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