Though saving and investment strategies often dominate the retirement planning conversation, the transition from working life to golden years is ultimately about so much more than simply shoring up your personal finances and determining at which age to begin collecting Social Security: There is an emotional component as well—one which retirees ignore at their own peril.
In fact, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, one out of 10 retirees describe their retirement as “not at all satisfying.” And another 40% find it only “moderately” satisfying.
Those numbers are troubling, but not shocking. After all, retirement is an enormous life change. You may be leaving behind a lifestyle you’ve lived for four decades or more. It not only represents a redefinition of what you do, but, in many ways, who you are. Acknowledging that reality is the first step to addressing it in a real and productive way.
Working through your own unique, personal answers to the following four questions can help you make the adjustment in a healthier, happier way.
How will you identify yourself?
If you’ve been working for much of your adult life, there’s a good chance you’ve become accustomed to classifying yourself a certain way—as a lawyer, say, or a business owner. Will retirement leave you feeling as if you’re losing a piece of what made you…well, you? Or have you made peace with the next step and are ready to move on?
To do: Consider the aspects of yourself you can bring to the fore now that your profession is now settling into the back seat. Are you writing the Great American Novel? Practicing tai chi? Do you cook a mean chili? Hike mountains in your much-expanded free time? Clear your mind and practice the way you’ll introduce yourself to others going forward—you might be surprised what you learn about how you really, truly see yourself.
How will you spend your time?
Once you leave the working world behind, you’re going to gain back a huge chunk of your time. This sounds wonderful. And, of course, it can be. But without a plan, boredom in retirement can turn to discontent.
To do: Consider whether there are volunteer opportunities that would fulfill you—a quarter of retirees—or hobbies you’ve always wanted to pursue. You might even want to think about a slower transition out of work—going part-time first, for instance—instead of quitting outright, so you can ease into all your free time.
Are you ready to hang out more with your spouse?
Sure, you love your partner. But are you prepared to be in the house with him or her full time? Are they ready to be with you? Retirement can create a great deal of togetherness in a hurry, and it can cause tension between partners who are used to having their personal space during the day.
To do: Have a frank discussion with your significant other about what retirement will mean for the two of you and how you’ll handle it. If you thrive on independent activities during the day, make plans to get your “me” time in another way.
Do you have other social outlets?
For many people, work provides much of their daily face time with others. You see colleagues in the hallway, during meetings or at the desk next to you. Maybe you socialize with other employees after work on occasion. Have you considered how you’ll fill that social void once you’re no longer frequenting the office? Eleven percent of retirees report feeling isolated and lonely, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
To do: Want to maintain a thriving social life after retirement? Start cultivating connections before the big day. Join a book club or an alumni association. Look into a volunteer opportunity. Find a new haunt. Just don’t wait for it to come to you; put yourself out there and you’ll be surprised how much there can be to do and experience.
Are you prepared for your retirement income?
Although this question is money related, it has an emotional twist. As a working adult, there’s always the choice to stay at your job another year to build more financial security or delay taking Social Security for a bit longer. Once you retire full-time, you’ve essentially surrendered the opportunity to earn more money unless you pick up some part time work or stand to inherit a large sum. It can feel a little limiting without a plan.
To do: Sit down with your financial professional and talk about the resources you have to work with and how you plan to parcel it out over your retirement years. Knowing you have a solid financial plan to maintain a secure and comfortable lifestyle before you hand in your resignation letter can do wonders for your peace of mind.