Preparing emotionally for retirement
Retiring is a major life event change, and for many of us, we have not thought about the non-financial side of our retirement let alone done any planning for it.
Retirement is in the top 10 life event stressors that you will experience during your life. (1) If you do not manage this situation correctly, the impact on your psychological and physical health during your retirement may last for many years.
Many of us, when planning for our retirement only focus on the financial planning side of our retirement and ignore developing a strategy for the inevitable emotional and psychological changes which we all will experience once we retire.
This lack of overall planning is one of the key reasons that many retirees often find that their retirement is not the enjoyable experience they believed it was going to be.
Many of us have this unrealistic view of retirement as the media portrayals that retirement is going to be fantastic, a time of pleasure and enjoyment on some tropical beach or cruise ship.
Transitioning from work to retirement, having no specific plans or a daily routine you must follow, especially early in your retirement, is satisfying – until you become bored, restless and feeling dissatisfied and possibly depressed with life.
But once we enter retirement, it often isn’t the dream that we were expecting. Initially, it is wonderful, very satisfying, going for a long walk when you want, sitting back reading or watching TV, Netflix or getting absorbed into Facebook or online games whenever you want. After 1 – 3 months or the “honeymoon period” (and this varies between individuals) we mutter the question “is this it! Is this what I have reduced my life too!
This is the moment we realise that we have lost our identity and purpose in life.
Many retirees waste many of their retirement years feeling unhappy, dissatisfied, grappling with a range of emotional issues often with no perceived purpose in their lives. The range of feelings many retirees often report experiencing include,
- loneliness, (2)
- anxiety, and
- for a percentage, depression.
What is your purpose in Retirement?
Two of the important questions I ask any retiree is –
Your reason to get out of bed each day. Many new retirees have difficulty in answering these two questions.
A happy retirement is much more than just money, you need to discover what is going to give you satisfaction and a feeling of fulfilment in this new phase of your life that we call retirement! For some retirees, what they want to do in their retirement is clear to them but for most of us, we need to take time to think about this and adjust our ideas and expectations once we start living our retired lifestyle.
For many retirees, what will bring them a sense of purpose is associated with the standard activities many retirees undertake such as;
- spending time with family,
- undertaking volunteer work,
- enrolling to do some educational courses,
- pursuing further spiritual goals,
- seeking out fresh adventures to embark upon,
- travelling or living overseas,
- learning to master a new hobby, or activity that you have always wanted to do or
- rediscovering something you enjoyed doing but for whatever reason, you had to stop it because of family and/or work commitments at the time!
You do not have to commit to doing only one or two things forever, but you need to start exploring several activities or pursuits that you would be happy doing. These should afford you a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment. These are the activities when you are doing them in which time just seems to “fly by” as you become so absorbed in doing them.
Two areas often neglected in retirement planning
What most people fail to do when planning for their retirement is spend time considering what it will involve them doing each day when they are no longer spending 40 to 50 hours a week working.
Two areas that many people overlook when they are planning their non-financial side of their retirement is staying mentally and physically active and developing a realistic plan on how they can establish a way to achieve the goals they have set. The lack of sufficient non-financial retirement planning is the principal reason many people utter the phrase,
As they cannot envisage any purpose in their life besides work. If you are happy working or can still work and that gives you satisfaction and the feeling of fulfilment congratulations, keep going.
However, millions of people worldwide cannot wait to retire as they don’t want to continue with the daily routine of going to work, the endless non-productive meetings, dealing with workplace politics, angry customers or egotistical bosses. Their employment does not provide them with a sense of enjoyment or purpose and is only a means to an end.
Today, retirement is the opportunity to move into another stage of life. It is a chance for you to pursue different goals and time to reinvent yourself. It should be something you want to embrace with passion, not an end.
Staying physical and mentally active
Various studies support the fact that remaining both mentally challenged and physically active helps to prevent or lowers a wide range of life-threatening risks and illnesses during the later years of your life like; (4)
- stroke or heart failure
- various psychological issues such as anxiety and depression
- deterioration of memory, concentration and dementia (3)
- range of physical ailments and illnesses
Therefore, the next great tip to cope with the emotional challenges of retirement is to ensure you incorporate some type of physical activity or exercise into your weekly schedule. This can include anything ranging from:
- Weight training
- Playing golf, etc
In addition, make sure you challenge yourself mentally each day by doing a range of tasks that require you to challenge your memory recall and your cognitive skills, like
- Doing Crosswords or sudoku
- Learning another language, or
- Learning to play a musical instrument, etc.
- various studies have found these activities have been a benefit to individuals.
How to start living with a purpose in retirement?
You have so much free time once you retire, so what are you going to fill it with?
One of the most practical tips I have for you to find your purpose in your retirement life is to live life to its fullest. To begin with, I suggest you set some goals or milestones and create an action plan or break them down to simple and easy attainable “things to do” to achieve regularly.
Even though you have just exited from a daily work schedule, research has shown that retirees with scheduled activities are happier than those who didn’t have any. So, write them down for yourself to refer to later.
If you are like me and “To-Do Lists” just don’t work try putting your “things to do “as notes or calendar events into your phone. For example, schedule your physical activities as a priority on a daily or weekly basis and before you schedule any other activity on your calendar. By doing this, it will act as:
- a reminder to motivate you to do the task, and
- help you prioritize your time,
- as well as increase your self-esteem because
- once you have completed your priority activity, such as going to the gym or swimming
The accomplishment of the activity will provide you with a sense of achievement for the rest of the day. Go on give it a try.
This one simple tip will help you on the path to living your retirement life to the fullest with a stronger sense of purpose and a feeling of satisfaction with life
Socializing Will Change dramatically in Retirement
Your retirement lifestyle of today differs greatly from what it was in our Parents’ Day. For example,
- we are much healthier,
- more active,
- wanting to have a range of travel experiences,
- embarking on new life adventures,
- wanting to start up small businesses,
- explore new hobbies, or
- spend more time with family or friends.
Our view of what we can do in retirement and as we are ageing has changed from previous generations. Without planning for the non-financial or the mental and emotional side of your retirement, you only wish for a happy retirement. That is like hoping you will win the lottery but not buy a ticket!
What many retirees fail to think about is once you stop working your daily social interactions will probably cease to exist. Your social circle of friends will also dramatically shrink.
Once you are not going to work, you will not have all those individual daily social interactions that you once had with fellow workmates. You may stay in touch with some of your past work colleagues and receive invitations to some work events for a while if you are lucky then they will stop.
As the years’ progress once common work-related topics of conversations and the shared interests fade away and everyone will become busy getting on with their own lives. You need to consider how you will develop a new social network. Research has found that social interactions have many positive effects on our mental and physical health during retirement.
Therefore, you need to actively seek out new friends and acquaintances. You need to spend time –
- discovering new groups or various clubs that you can join,
- sign up for new activities/classes or hobbies that you are interested in,
- set prearranged coffee dates with neighbours or friends,
- consider volunteering for a cause that interests you in your local community.
One of your priorities during your retirement years should be avoiding the feeling of loneliness and becoming isolated. As this will have a dramatic impact on your psychological well-being and physical health. You may not always be successful initially in your attempts to meet people, but don’t become disheartened and give up?
Persistence will be rewarded once you find your group of friends that want you for you and not for some other agenda or self-interest.
What is your reason to live once retired?
So much of my time and focus before retiring was spent on either working or thinking about different aspects of it. I remember being reminded frequently by my family that I did not have any hobbies or activities outside of work.It was not until I was in the early stages of my retirement that I thought about what I am going to be doing now with all of this excess time I now had during the day not working or travelling.
Sure, I had written a list of things I wanted to do but it was not until after about 10 weeks into retirement that I suddenly came to the self-realization that I had ticked off as completed many of the projects I was planning to do over the next few years!
I never thought about the non-financial side of my retirement planning besides the cursory list of activities I would like to do such as travel overseas, dine out three times a fortnight, finish remodelling the garden etc. but failed to consider in-depth what new things I could find to do once I retired. My focus was only on the financial side of my retirement planning to achieve that dollar value in my superannuation that would enable me to retire supposedly “happy”.
What I now realise was, I incorrectly believed something would easily preoccupy me doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I want once I was living the retired lifestyle, especially on a daily basis.
What this meant was I had to find new hobbies or activities that I wanted to try in the hope I found something that got me engaged and I felt passionate about – I needed to discover a purpose in my life. This was what was missing!
Finding your purpose in retirement is limited by your thinking
The reason you may be stuck in finding your purpose in the retirement stage of your life is because of how you perceive what retirement is.
When someone asks about what you do, your answer shouldn’t be, “I’m retired.” There is much more to this next phase of your life. Retirement is that stage when you transition or reallocate the 40 plus hours you spent working into something else during your later life.
The challenge that many of us have when attempting to adjust to this next stage of our lives is if we are not working, we automatically label ourselves as being “Retired”. This type of thinking or “mindset” causes you to become mentally stuck, and it hinders your progress in moving forward to reinventing yourself and having a new identity other than the one we associated ourselves with when we were working.
As the term “retired” has a negative connotation often associated with it – that we have outlived our usefulness, that we are redundant and ready for the scrap heap. This should never be our pre-ordained reality. We still have many more years to contribute and enjoy life to its fullest.
I believe we need to live our life with a purpose whatever stage of life we are living in and retirement should be no different. Therefore, this is the time we can reinvent ourselves and discover a new purpose. It is going to be much more than the reality you may resign yourself to by wasting away our days watching TV or drinking by ourselves feeling unmotivated, lost, unfilled, bored, and even depressed.
You need to discover your purpose. I agree that for some people spending time with their grandchildren, playing golf, travelling or sipping cocktails on a beach with other grey-haired retirees though this is a stereotypical image – It’s not everyone’s ideal view of retirement.
The decision is yours you either live each day as if you have been put out into pasture waiting to die or change and reframe your mindset and live each day with a new focus, working on becoming your future self, whatever you envision yourself doing.
- T.H.Holmes and T.H. Rahe. “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 11:213, 1967 (The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, The American Institute of Stress)
- Is Australia Experiencing an Epidemic of Loneliness? Working Paper, September 2018 Relationships Australia
- Loneliness and Risk of Dementia, Angelina R Sutin, PhD, Yannick Stephan, PhD, Martina Luchetti, PhD, Antonio Terracciano, PhD The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 75, Issue 7, September 2020, Pages 1414–1422, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gby112
- Lee, I.-M. et al. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet 380219–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61031-9 (2012).
Frequently Asked Questions
How you mentally prepare for retirement?
Retirement is a major life event; few emotionally prepare for leaving many retirees with no purpose in their lives to have a happy and fulfilled retirement life
1. Preparing emotionally for retirement
2. What is your Purpose in Retirement?
3. Two Areas often neglected in Retirement Planning
– Staying mentally and physically active
– How to start living with a purpose in retirement?
4. Socializing Will Change dramatically in Retirement
5. What is your reason to live once retired?
– Finding your purpose in retirement is limited by your thinking
What are the five stages of retirement?
The 5 stages of retirement are stages of emotional adjustment you will experience once retired, so learn what to expect, how to deal with each stage successfully.
STAGE 1 – PRE-RETIREMENT: “DAYDREAMING AND THINKING” Anticipation: 10 – 5 years prior to retirement)
STAGE 2 – THE HONEYMOON PERIOD: “FAREWELL, I’M FREE” (Liberation period including your retirement day: 1 – 3 months after retiring)
STAGE 3 – EARLY RETIREMENT – DISENCHANTMENT: “SO, THIS IS IT!” (Disillusionment or: 1 month – 12months)
STAGE 4 – MID RETIREMENT – REORIENTATION: “THIS IS ME NOW, MY NEW IDENTITY” (Stability –: 2 – 15 years after retirement)
STAGE 5 – LATE RETIREMENT – RECONCILIATION: “MOVING ON” (Termination Phase – routine: 15+ years from Retirement)
Go to ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE 5 STAGES OF RETIREMENT to read about this further
What should you do to prepare for retirement?
Thinking of Retiring, discover 15 important non-financial retirement essentials you need to know about at no cost to you so you can plan before it’s too late!
1. Learn what they don’t tell you about retiring
2. Retirement is a big deal
3. Considering your health in retirement
4. Complication of retirement plans
5. The need to be mentally prepared for retirement
To discover more insights, go to RETIRING 15 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT