What do you think of when you imagine your retirement?
Many would say it’s the ultimate payoff for all those years of work. Maybe you dream about it when you’re having a particularly long day. You picture sitting on the beach or spending more time with grandchildren. Maybe you want to travel in the off-season or just enjoy some unstructured time.
While these are all perks of retirement, your visions may not consider how you will fill your days and find purpose.
When you have worked for many years, you may not appreciate how that schedule structures your day. Like it or not, work has the tendency to define how you view your place in the world and provides fulfillment. When your work comes to an abrupt stop—even a welcome one—you may quickly find yourself at loose ends.
The neverending vacation is a retirement myth. Time off is rejuvenating when it falls between two work weeks. But a successful retirement needs some structure.
With some planning, you can look forward to and embrace retirement with confidence about what to expect.
When to retire?
While you probably have a best-case scenario in mind for retirement, the timing isn’t always our decision.
Many decide to leave earlier because of burn out, a toxic workplace, or a health issue. Some are forced to retire because their skillset has been replaced. While the timing may not be controlled, you can mitigate stress by having a plan in place that considers different circumstances.
What will you do in retirement?
Considering how you will spend your retirement years in advance can also ease the transition. If you plan to make a big change (move to Ecuador!), you should visit the place and do a test run with some of your vacation time.
Even if you plan to move within the country to be closer to family, have you considered how you will meet people and what resources are available in the area?
Retired life can be a big adjustment, even if you aren’t jet-setting. You probably know someone who has experienced “retirement failure” and returned to work in some capacity. And many who think they will miss work … don’t. They keep a strong social network, become involved in groups, and revel in their new freedoms.
Preventing retirement whiplash
To protect your health and happiness, you need to be aware of some common and preventable pitfalls that can blindside retirees.
These are the Five D’s that can occur after the novelty of retirement wears off.
When the slower pace of retirement sets in, you may realize this is not what you expected. Feelings of dejection, disappointment, and hopelessness can arise, especially if work was a large part of your social life. You may fear you won’t be able to find purpose again.
Without a built-in schedule and daily interaction at work, you may become withdrawn and rely on others to organize your meals and activities.
Divorce is becoming more common in people over 50 as retirees are living longer. Suddenly you’re spending more time together than you ever have. You no longer have the distraction of kids in the house and your family dynamic has shifted. Some find they no longer feel a connection with their spouse. If one spouse is retiring and the other has not been working, it can be even more isolating for the spouse newly home trying to fit into their partner’s already established routine.
While health issues could be part of the reason you chose an early retirement, many retirees face disability at some point. This is especially true if your stressful job eclipsed your healthy habits before retirement. Retirement is a great time to begin to improve your lifestyle, but care must be taken to avoid injury, and years of neglect may take some time to reverse.
Wine culture is pervasive in non-work social gatherings. If you replace your work time with drinking lunches and bridge games, this can escalate into a lifestyle. Or you may innocently start having a beer and watching tv in the afternoons to combat the long hours, which then turns into habit forming and isolating.
In addition to the Five D’s, is the BIG B, Boredom. It takes more preparation to fill your days during retirement. Boredom tends to exacerbate the Five D’s, but it’s the one factor you can best manage.
The Keys to Retirement Happiness Are Within Your Reach
You could wait and see what happens. Not preparing is easy, but leaves your health and happiness to chance. When you are working, you have structure, accountability, and encouragement as you complete tasks toward a goal. While the structure may feel restrictive at times, progress and wins propel you forward and fuel your sense of accomplishment.
Retirement time is no different. You don’t have to have an hourly itinerary, but even on vacation, you don’t usually leave everything to chance.
You can mitigate and avoid the Five D’s with a little direction and planning. There is a reason people look forward to retirement … it can live up to the hype!
Find out how you can get the most out of retirement with help from our team. Start by taking the 3-Minute Retirement Readiness Quiz to see how prepared you are to face retirement head on.
Then let’s take your results and have a conversation to help you prepare for a satisfying retirement you can get excited about.