A recently released book, The Retirement Maze, identifies the following five keys to increasing your success and happiness moving into retirement. These apply whether it is a planned retirement or whether your company accelerated your retirement timeline.
First and foremost, ensure you implement some structure in your life now that you have or will have extra time available. If you have a partner, include him or her in your pondering’s about how you will use your newly available time. Be proactive around filling the white space rather than waiting for life to happen. By filling the space, you may consciously choose to leave time available for doing nothing in particular although you will likely not want to replace all of your former work time with doing nothing. Define goals, short and longer term ones and create the supporting plans to implement them as well. Bounce ideas off family and friends and reach out to other people who have retired and ask how they transitioned. What worked and what they would do differently.
Manage your expectations around what retirement will actually be for you. It is different for everyone. Spend time visualising how you will fill your days, evenings and weekends. How will they be different from when you were working? What might you need to start doing now in preparation? Are there habits to begin challenging now to ease the transition? How will your partner adjust to you being around so much more than before? How would your partner like to have the transition occur? If you have a choice, perhaps easing in by reducing to a four or three day workweek for a while might be helpful. Or consider doing a part time contract or volunteer position to help both of you adjust.
This introduces another important factor and that is socialisation. Consider how social you are at work. How much time did you spend interacting with others whether in the lunch room, meetings, grabbing a coffee or stopping in the hallway or on the job site to say a quick hello. The more social you are in the workplace, the more important it is for you to seriously consider how you will replace those ‘human contact’ opportunities since you will miss them. For retirees who forget to factor in the importance of socialisation, they often quickly find themselves spiralling into states of loneliness and depression. Again, what changes can you begin implementing now, before you retire, to build your post retirement social network?
Money is necessary for retirement and so too is financial planning. It’s never too early to have you and all family members take a good hard look at where and how money is being used. Determine what you are willing to change and what you require in terms of lifestyle when you retire. Learn how to live on the reduced cashflow earlier, if possible, so when the time actually occurs you have already adjusted your spending behaviours to the reduced income level.
The fifth key message of the book is to be persistent about creating a successful retirement for you. Be open to experimenting and willing to accept that something you initially thought would be ideal might actually turn out to be not quite the right fit for you. It’s important to be patient and gentle with yourself as you try out activities and social circles and figure out what will best meet your needs. This may take a few years or a few months. It varies for everyone. Often, people who traditionally have ‘lived for work only’ need to get creative with how they will define themselves when the work stops.
Transitions like retirement, divorce, death of a partner and marriage are all significant changes for the people involved. And, they all bring emotional stress to the individuals undergoing the change. Psychologists are trained to support people preparing for or already undergoing change. To speak with a psychologist about your transition, contact the Centre for Human Potential.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).