5 things to do to help you transition into retirement

Happy middle aged man reclining by poolside

Image: Nosnibor137/Bigstock.com

Retirement can be one of the most difficult of life’s transitions because it’s a step back (or down) compared to other transitions. The change from school to work, from single to married, even job changes can mean more responsibilities.

In contrast, retirement is a letting go. Moving on from your work-a-day week brings huge changes as you gain several hours a day to do with as you like.

The transition may be difficult, but there are ways to minimise the issues.

1. Remember the advantages

Retirement is an opportunity. It gives you freedom to make it your own. You are the king or queen of this space. What is it that you want to do with it?

It’s worth making a list of possibilities. All the possibilities you can imagine. Even Everest. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in retirement. Become a cartoonist? Grow the biggest pumpkin? Write a best-seller? Dream big!

You’ll probably have to face realities and scale back on your list, but what you’ve done through this process is added value to your retirement. This can be an exciting time of life.

On Everest, your legs may not get you to the peak, but they could get you to the base camp.

2. Recognise the losses

Robert Laura, in an excellent article, writes of the possible grief and mourning at the loss of an individual’s work life. He lists the losses as:

  • Loss of identity and sense of purpose
  • Changes to their daily routine
  • Decrease in social interaction
  • Less mental stimulus and physical activity
  • Loss of a paycheque

‘Retirement is a major life transition that comes with endings as well as new beginnings,’ he says. ‘It means losing some things while gaining others and recognising that the many thoughts and feelings you will experience during this time are not only normal, but all part of the process.’

‘While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are plenty of healthy ways to cope with it. The key is finding and accepting support.’

As is looking ahead to the advantages of your retirement years.

3. Learn from others

You’ll probably know people living a full and satisfying retirement. How did they do it? That’s not a rhetorical question, but one you should ask them. And it can be particularly helpful if they’ve been in the same industry workspace.

As you can imagine, I’ve talked to a whole bunch of retirees and I can’t remember meeting any who weren’t happy to talk about their retirement. Not all have transitioned as well as they would have liked, but the majority are in a happy space.

As they tell you their story you’re likely to discover it helps you plan your retirement. And helps you know what to expect as you transition into your next life stage.

4. ‘Prepare, prepare, prepare.’

That’s the advice of psychologist Susan Krausse Whitbourne. She argues that ‘getting things in order before a planned major transition is one of the best ways to guarantee that all will work out when the time comes’.

‘It’s known in the retirement literature that planning ahead, preferably for at least two years, will allow you to get through that significant life change without being devastated by loss of your work role.’

Preparation also helps to put your mind into your retirement space.

5. Stay positive

Retirement has a lot to offer. You’ll probably find more freedom than you’ve had for several decades. In retirement, you are in control of what you do.

You set your agenda. You set your pace. You set your routine. That’s positive.

There’s the opportunity to follow and develop your interests, support your passions and try new things. That’s positive.

Will there be negatives? Of course! But that’s life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be positive. Being positive is a choice.

Whitbourne puts it this way: ‘Life events are as stressful, or not, as you make them. It’s all in the mindset you apply.’

Bruce Manners, author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire.

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Category: Attitude, Planning

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