3 ways to live like a retiree—before you retire

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Have you ever uttered these words: "When I retire, I'm going to … " Maybe you've finished that sentence with "take a trip around the world," or "finally have time to work in my garden." For many people, retirement is the time they imagine they will do all of the things they haven't had time for while working. But why wait? Pursuing some of those dreams now might actually help you enjoy a richer retirement later.

  1. Take a Trip
    Whether it's touring vineyards in Sonoma or hiking the Appalachians, everyone seems to have travel plans for their retirement. But some trips may be more enjoyable before you retire. Destinations with lots of stairs or extreme weather, for example, may prove to be too demanding when you're older. "What we are physically capable of doing has a good chance of changing as we age," says Dave Bernard, author of I Want to Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. "Now is the time to take that trip to Machu Picchu—you can get on that cruise ship later. Take advantage of the health you have now."
  2. Plan a Staycation
    Staying at home may not sound as exciting as traveling, but it can give you a glimpse of what life will look like after you give up the 9-to-5 grind. Jan Cullinane, author of The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement, recommends planning a two-week staycation. "You may find that some of your roles change if you're part of a couple," says Cullinane. "You'll also get a sense of what it's like being in charge of the full 168 hours in a week." Most importantly, staycations help shift your mind-set to what you're retiring to, not from.
  3. Start Volunteering
    Volunteering and giving back to your community can be an extremely fulfilling way to spend your time. Trying out different volunteer roles now can help you find both the organization and the work that will suit you best when you're retired. "When you're not getting paid for your work it's especially important that you find the right environment—and that you're doing work where you really feel like you're adding value," says Nancy Collamer, author of Second-Act Careers. You may even find that volunteering inspires you to start a second career. Get started now by volunteering one day a week at a community organization or nonprofit.