After spending 17 -- or, in some cases, 40 -- years living with your children, it can present quite an adjustment for you when they become independent adults (the kind that don't live in your home.)
Gone are the days of grocery shopping for an extra mouth, racing between recitals and school sporting events, and shuttling kids to and from the pool, the mall or their friends' homes.
And while the house may seem bizarrely quiet and your life suddenly much less hectic (and maybe even less interesting), you'll also notice your calendar has a little more empty space on it.
However, just because your kids are grown doesn't mean extra time and money is here to stay. If you don't make bold moves, life will find a way of occupying your time and using your money. Luckily, there are many good opportunities that you can seize -- and fast -- that will bring change and positive results into your life.
Keep reading to learn about some exciting opportunities after the kids are grown. Do it quickly, before they decide they want to come back.
Start a Business
Perhaps in years past, you've thought about running your own business but couldn't because of your obligations as a parent. Maybe with a kid (or kids) under your roof, you couldn't take the financial risk by giving up a stable job to work for yourself.
Now that your children are grown, you may have a little extra time and money on your hands. This provides a good opportunity to pursue some of your deferred entrepreneurial dreams.
Your local government or community college may have resources available (or be able to point you toward those resources) that are designed to help would-be entrepreneurs. Go online to find the appropriate department and start a discussion about their services with an e-mail or phone call.
Resources may include classes designed specifically for entrepreneurs. Local colleges or nonprofits may also provide workshops for developing a business plan. You can improve your public-speaking abilities by attending local Toastmasters meetings, giving you more confidence to present your business plan to a lender or to market yourself or your future business.
One advantage of getting a later start in entrepreneurship is having a lifetime's worth of contacts to reach out to for free advice. Not only that, but you may realize you have a potential business partner in an associate who is also adjusting to a new life with grown kids.
On their path to adulthood, your kids did their best to wreck your finances. Next, we'll talk about how you can change that.
Get Out of Debt
Throughout your kids' childhood, you probably had to pony up pretty often: clothes, food, car, medical expenses (including insurance), school -- and the list goes on.
In doing so, you might have paid some of those expenses with a credit card. Now that your children are adults, you have an opportunity to rid yourself of debt once and for all.
There are several things an older adult can do to begin getting out of debt. Here are a few:
- Stop buying on credit. This step is a big one, and it deserves to be at the top of the list. The longer you charge expenses on credit, the bigger the hole you'll dig for yourself.
- Devote more money to debt payment. The quicker you pay down your outstanding balances on credit cards and loans (tip: always pay more than the "minimum payment"), the less money you'll have to pay in interest overall.
- Consider downsizing your home. Now that your children are grown, you may find you don't need the square footage you did when raising a family. Downsizing will save money in both the mortgage and utilities.
- Make it count when you go out.Cut out unnecessary expenses like eating fast food or picking up drinks every day at the gas station. Buy in bulk, dine in and save your money for experiences worth paying for.
Next: School's back in session.
Go Back to School
For years, you drove your kids to school, helped with homework, attended school functions or paid for schooling. Now that it's over and your children are adults, it may be your time to pursue educational opportunities.
You may have never gone to college, or maybe you now want a different degree or an advanced degree. Perhaps you want to learn a new skill for the workplace, desire advanced job training or even want formal schooling in the arts, such as creative writing, painting or music.
Regardless of your goals, one good approach is to try out a single class and see how it goes from there. That way, you won't risk jumping in over your head and getting overwhelmed.
Your local community college likely has an array of adult education or continuing education classes. One advantage of going back to school as an adult is that your preexisting school records won't matter as much, which is good news for those of us who may not have been straight-A students.
Some community centers offer classes that don't count toward college credit, but do teach you practical skills, such as working with specific computer programs.
If you frequently travel -- or just enjoy the luxury of working from home -- you can even take online classes. Then, as you're studying at the kitchen table, you'll really appreciate having grown children who live on their own.
Next: Reclaim your space.
Remodel Your Home
As homey as your house became when your children still lived in it, it may have gotten that relaxed, slightly bombed-out look by default, and not by design. Chipped molding, holes in the drywall and the broken sink that nobody under your care would ever fess up to breaking aren't exactly the kinds of reminders you need of time spent raising your family.
With your children grown, there may be less of a need for the den or family rec room. In its place, you could create a home gym, a hobby room or a music room. Perhaps the formal dining room you always wanted could finally come to fruition.
As many memories as you have of raising your children, there's no need to maintain a shrine to that era. Once you get past your now-grown children's mock protests, you can turn their unused bedrooms into well-appointed guest rooms, storage areas or a home office space.
Perhaps you always wanted a sleeker living room or a more chic kitchen. This period in your life allows you to customize the blend of fashion and function in your home design to your liking.
You can take classes to learn various remodeling skills at community centers or even home-improvement stores. Of course, books and vast online resources will also help you get the job done. Best yet, those adult kids of yours are perfect sources of free labor.
We'll discuss an opportunity you'll want to seize immediately, next.
Get in Shape
Having adult children opens up many opportunities, but none may be as important as the opportunity to improve your health.
Looking over old family photos, it can be fun to see how much your kids have grown, but it's much less fun to see how much worse for wear you are for having raised them.
Now that your kids are adults, you may find getting in shape to be an excellent use of your time. And if not now, when? The return to a schedule that centers on your own life isn't complete without some built-in time for getting shape.
Though all that extra time you thought you'd have when your chicks left the roost soon evaporates, preserving some of it for exercise is important.
Although any exercise at all is better than none, you should try to exercise for 30 minutes every day and do strength training at least twice a week [source: Laskowski]. Keep it interesting by mixing up your routines -- mix in some outdoor hiking or swimming, or join a local running or walking club.
Without spending free time chasing children, you now have the opportunity to get in good enough shape to hypothetically catch them. Regardless, improving your health is always time well spent.
For lots more information on new opportunities after the kids are grown, see the next page.
The kids are grown -- now what? Visit Discovery Fit & Health to learn how to have fun after the kids are grown.
- Better Homes and Gardens. "Home Improvement." (May 10, 2011)http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/
- Fisher, Anne. "Launch a business after 50." CNNMoney. Oct. 12, 2006. (May 10, 2011)http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/11/smbusiness/biz.after.50.fortune/?postversion=2006101207
- Hoak, Amy. "Adults in session." MarketWatch. July 23, 2007. (May 10, 2011)http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-adults-heading-back-to-school-can-balance-life-work-family
- Laskowski, Edward R., M.D. "How much should the average adult exercise every day?" Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Feb. 17, 2011. (May 10, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01713
- Lending Tree. "As an older adult, now is the time to get out of debt." 1998. (May 10, 2011)http://www.lendingtree.com/smartborrower/seniors/retirement-money/older-adult-get-out-of-debt/
- Teel, Faith. "How to Transform and Remodel Your Kids Old Room When They Leave Home." Relocation.com. March 28, 2011. (May 10, 2011)http://www.relocation.com/blog/transform-your-kids-room