In the years preceding retirement, you may anticipate stopping work as a happy occasion, a positive change. However, some people may find themselves experiencing a range of negative emotions. How do you prepare yourself emotionally for your transition from a busy career to a fulfilling retirement?
Imagine a well-paid marketing manager at an agency whose personal identity is closely tied to his job. His best friends are all at work. He retires, and suddenly his friends and sense of purpose are absent. He finds that he has no compelling reason to leave the house, nothing to look forward to when he gets up in the morning. Guess what? He hates being retired.
Isolation and boredom are key factors in depression. We’re not doctors; we’re not diagnosing clinical depression. But often new retirees find that the transition is one that leaves them feeling sad and empty.
On the other hand, if our marketing manager prepares in advance of his farewell party by exploring an encore career, new activities, or volunteering, he can retire with something promising ahead of him. If he broadens the scope of his social life so that it doesn’t revolve exclusively around work buddies, he’ll have more friends to see regularly.
Loss of identity
Sheri was a partner in a law firm. She put herself through law school, worked long, hard hours to move up the corporate ladder, and acted as a mentor to younger female lawyers. So when she decided to retire, she found herself feeling unmoored. She didn’t know who she was without her job and title.
For many, their career is one of the most central aspects of their sense of self – sometimes the most important one. This is especially true with people who have worked to the exclusion of developing other passions, hobbies, or relationships outside of their jobs. The loss of identity can trigger a type of grief.
Sheri quickly gained her footing. She started volunteering as legal council for a local charity, and soon developed friendships there. She took up indoor rock climbing and found a welcoming community of enthusiasts. For retirees, stopping work doesn’t mean just stopping. It’s a shift, and sense of identity shifts with it.
Practically all retirees have some fear about their finances. You see it in people who have $60,000 saved for retirement; you see it in couples who have $6 million saved for retirement. Their retirement strategies are about to be tested, in real time. All that careful planning is ready to come to fruition, but there are always unknowns.
Some retirees are afraid to spend. They fear spending too much too soon. While no retiree wants to squander money, all retirees should realize that their retirement savings were accumulated to be spent. With help from their financial advisor, they can thoughtfully plan a sustainable withdrawal rate. Being miserly with retirement money contradicts its purpose.
The average 65-year-old who retires in 2017 will have a retirement lasting approximately 20 years, by the estimation of the Social Security Administration. Broadly speaking, our spending declines as we age. The average U.S. household headed by an 80-year-old spends 43% less money than one headed by a 50-year-old. So why not spend some money now and enjoy retired life? Retirees who have planned with care and professional guidance needn’t fear financial insecurity.
Marianne and Harry were in good shape for retirement; both had had good jobs and had saved prudently. They’re kids were through school and on their own, and both Marianne and Harry happily made arrangements to leave work.
But as soon as official retirement began, conflict began. The two hadn’t spent so much time together in decades! For Marianne, who had worked from home, Harry’s now-constant presence was intrusive. Meanwhile Harry felt like he wasn’t welcome in his own house.
Fortunately the two confided in friends, and each other, and were able to make changes that shifted their dynamic. They took up individual hobbies and volunteer work that gave them meaningful time apart, and out of the house. And they began tennis lessons together, giving them a shared activity.
When people leave behind their working lives, it changes how they spend their days. That can cause conflict with spouses, children and friends. It may take a bit of time to adjust.
Retirement is not about packing a box and leaving the office. Retirement is a process and a transition, one with significant emotional effects.