The challenge of transitioning into retirement
Any change causes stress. Retiring is no different. Full retirement usually means the end of your working life, which is a huge transition.
You can add to this the uncertainty of not being sure whether you’ll survive financially (a common fear). And there’s the sense that you’re now entering the last stage of life. Both these thoughts add pressure.
Bob Taibbi, in Psychology Today, reckons that thinking of change—including retirement—as a new beginning or a new chapter of life can ‘give you a sense of a fresh start’.
‘And while the particular circumstances are new, the process itself is familiar’, he says. ‘You have, after all, made transitions before—changing schools, neighbourhoods, relationships, jobs. You know the terrain, you’ve acquired experience and skills along the way. You can do this again, and this time even better’.
The good thing about retirement is that you’ll probably have more control over this transition than most of the other change points he mentions.
The positive attitude
There’s a lot to be positive about as you plan your retirement. This is your chance to take control of your life in a way not possible before. It gives you the freedom to do what you want to do.
It’s a new start. That doesn’t mean you begin with a clean sheet because we bring who we are into retirement, and our relationships, and so on. But you can take up new causes, hobbies, and routines. This can be exciting.
Be aware that you may have difficulty with your new identity. Males, particularly it seems, tend to identify themselves by their work. Having written Retirement Ready? I sensed I was ready for retirement, but I found I had to work out who my retired self was.
Even with that, I could still see the positives in retirement.
An attitude that allows you to see these positives as you plan your retirement and as you transition into it, will help you through. However, if you find it difficult to cope, seek help.
Practical ways of preparing for the retired life
This morning, I asked my mate, Robert, what he thought would help in the transition from working to the retired life. I asked Robert because, before he retired, he was a financial planner who encouraged his clients to take a whole-of-life approach to retirement.
He made two practical suggestions:
His first was to gradually cut back on working hours (or the number of days working) to ease into retirement. Of course, this will need to be negotiated with your employer. If you can pull it off, it allows you to get used to some of the extra free time retirement brings.
His second suggestion was to use the extra time from cutting back on work to experiment with what you want to do in retirement. You may discover that you don’t want to do some of the things you thought you did. That means you can enter retirement with a more realistic plan.
Even if you’re unable to cut back on work hours, it’s still a good plan to test-drive some of the things you’d like to try in retirement before you retire. It helps give you some idea of what will make your retirement something that fits you.
One more thing you can try is what Michael Finke suggests: Pretend you’re retired for a month. By that, he means, save up a month’s holiday and spend it at home as if you’re retired to see what it’s like. This could be particularly helpful if you’re a couple.
Retirement is a time when, in Taibbi’s words, ‘A new journey awaits’. Within whatever constraints are on you, you get to make that journey what you want it to be. That’s exciting.