We recently heard from a friend of AgingOptions who lives here in the Pacific Northwest where we have our headquarters. The Puget Sound area had recently experienced a somewhat rare snowstorm that closed many roads, schools and businesses for a few days, leaving this man (and virtually everyone else) more or less house-bound. After 48 hours or so of this, the man (who is approaching retirement age) began to realize how cranky and out-of-sorts he was beginning to feel over the loss of his daily routine. Then he had a sudden realization: if that’s how I’m reacting after two days without my customary weekday rituals, what on earth is retirement going to be like?
Emotional Adjustment to Retirement is Part of a Holistic Approach
At AgingOptions, we focus primarily on retirement planning, and as we counsel clients and interact with seminar guests and radio listeners, we always caution them to take a holistic approach. Many people still seem to feel that financial planning is the be-all and end-all of preparing for retirement, but that’s simply not true. It’s extremely important, even vital, that people getting ready to retire consider the enormous emotional and psychological affects – many positive but some less so – that this new phase of life will bring. If you’re not at least somewhat prepared for the emotional adjustments of retirement, you’ll be caught off-guard, and the transition to life after full-time work may be harder than you anticipated.
We did a little digging on this topic and came across this undated article on the Zack’s financial website, written by Shelley Frost. “Retirement planning primarily focuses on the financial aspect,” she writes, “omitting the potential emotional and psychological issues that arise in those leaving their careers. Once the excitement of retirement wears off, some people find themselves feeling lost and unmotivated. The lack of affirmation from the work world sometimes leaves retirees lacking a sense of self-worth. Whether you’re already a retiree needing motivation or you’re preparing to leave the workforce, the way you approach your retirement strategy is key in staying happy.”
Emotional Adjustment to Retirement Includes Establishing New Routines
Frost goes on to give some good, common sense suggestions on how to prepare for and cope with the changes that retirement will bring. For example, it’s important for retirees to set goals and objectives, since they’ll no longer have those workplace goals to drive them. She advises retirees to list activities and classes that interest them and use this list to help them remain active and engaged. Other sensible recommendations that are hard to argue with: make sure you and your spouse practice open, honest communication; exercise to stay fit; and if you feel the tug of the workplace is just too strong, consider going back to work part-time.
But one of the suggestions Frost makes in her Zack’s article involves the need to create a new pattern for daily living after retirement. “Establish a regular routine for your retirement days,” she recommends. “Part of the luxury of retirement is you don’t have a set schedule, but without some sort of routine you might feel aimless and unfulfilled. You may find the days passing by quickly without anything getting accomplished.” This was the experience of our snow-bound friend, and it sounds like a common need among most retirees.
Emotional Adjustment to Retirement Can Be Difficult to Navigate
This need for some daily structure is echoed in other articles we found, including this one from the website VeryWell Mind, published in mid-2019. Writer Amy Morin, describing retirement, says, “This new phase of your life can be a little difficult to navigate at first.” One of her recommendations, like the ones in the Zack’s article, is to adopt some structure. “Pre-retirement, you had your routine down pat,” she writes: “Alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, pack a lunch, head out the door. There was probably a similar structure to the end of your days that began when you walked back over the threshold of your home.” Come retirement and those routines disappear, and even for people who don’t think of themselves as especially sequential or schedule-bound, the experience can be disorienting.
“Experiment with various activities and time slots to see how it makes you feel,” Morin suggests. “While your days don’t need to be rigid, having a set wake-up time and routine can help you feel more normalcy now that you aren’t going to work.” Of course, when planning your day, include plenty of time for activities you enjoy – those should be a big part of your retirement as well, after all.
Our final voice on this topic comes from writer Rob Pascale who penned this very recent column in Forbes on what he calls the Value of Continuity. “In retirement,” he writes, “it may be difficult or even impossible to find enough activities that provide the same types and amounts of benefits as one’s career does. And for retirees whose social life is completely tied to work or whose interests outside of work are especially limited, they can feel a drastic loss in continuity, making the adjustment to retirement especially difficult.” This difficulty, Pascale says, helps explain the growing appeal of “bridge jobs” that feature shorter working hours and more self-direction. These jobs “can smooth the transition into retirement by providing a sense of purpose and productivity, but still allow retirees to consider themselves retired.” (We might add that the benefit of extra income is a definite bonus.)
The Best Way to Adjust to Retirement is to Plan Comprehensively
As we said at the outset, the only way to plan properly for retirement is to take a holistic, comprehensive approach. Guarding your money with a good financial plan is extremely important, but unless your financial affairs mesh well with other key aspects of retirement living such as housing plans, medical coverage (both immediate and long-term), legal protection, and family communication, your plan is incomplete and inadequate. Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions knows a better way – a retirement planning strategy called LifePlanning, in which all the parts fit together like pieces in a well-crafted puzzle.
We encourage you to invest a few hours of your time and join Rajiv for a free informational session – a LifePlanning Seminar – in which many of your questions will be answered (even questions it never occurred to you to ask!). There’s absolutely no obligation. Rajiv conducts these popular seminars each month in locations throughout the Puget Sound region, and you’ll find the most current calendar here on our Live Events page. Once you’ve selected your preferred date and time, you can register online or call us during the week.
Retirement is an adjustment, that’s true. But the best way we know of to be well-prepared is to be armed with a LifePlan from AgingOptions. Age on!