The Empty-Nester’s Checklist

Dropping off your last freshman at college can bring mixed emotions. You might beam with pride for your kid’s achievement, but underneath, you might also feel a sense of sadness at the big change. Maybe you’ll even experience some excitement about having a little more time to yourself or one-on-one adventures with your spouse or partner. After all, the milestone moment marks a new era in your life just as it does for your kiddo. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, run through our checklist.

Reassess your finances

Take a close look at your budget and where your money has been going. With your child away at school, you’ll likely have different spending habits, such as a smaller grocery or gas bill. Or maybe you no longer need cable if you just hung onto it for the kids. Look for ways to free up cash that you might want to put toward something else like a dream vacation, a kitchen remodel or an earlier-than-planned retirement. Even if you’re still providing some financial support to your child over the next four years, you may see opportunities for a more flexible budget and find ways to treat yourself.

Make space

A full household can quickly accumulate stuff that gets stashed away and forgotten or cause a room to lose its functionality or potential. Take time to go through your closets, cabinets, attic and other storage spaces and look for ways to reduce possessions. Maybe you’ve held onto a bike or other outdated sporting equipment that no one’s using. Look at each room with new eyes, and free up kid-designated hangout spaces for indulging in your own hobbies. If you’ve kept a study nook for your children, for example, perhaps it would now make a great yoga or meditation spot. Alternatively, you may find that with your children out in the world, you’d like to downsize your living space for something that’s more manageable to maintain with a payment that frees up resources.

Find yourself

Raising kids sometimes involves sacrificing personal needs and wants. Now’s the time to re-examine who you are. Likely you’ve changed in the last 18-plus years. What interests you? Have you always wanted to train for a marathon but never had the time? Can you foster a creative hobby? Go ahead and explore.

Take stock of your relationships

As parents, we focus on nurturing and bonding with our kids, and the bonds we have with others can loosen over time. If you’ve been missing connections with old pals or buddies, plan a few get togethers or a weekend away. If you’re coupled up, find fresh ways to infuse fun into the relationship. Take a culinary or wine class together or try a new activity. If you’re single and have been putting off dating, join local meetup groups. Likewise, you might have relationships with others you’d like to let go of. If you’ve maintained a friendship with a fellow parent just because your teen was pals with that person’s kid, you may find that with empty nests you naturally grow apart. Don’t be afraid to let friendships fizzle if they’re sapping your energy rather than refreshing you. Embrace and enjoy this new phase of your life!