Planning for retirement can feel like a daunting job. Fortunately, whether you’re starting at age 20 or age 50, you can take steps to get your financial plan set for the new phase of life that you’ll enter when your working years are over. It’s a big achievement to get your investments in order and plan monetarily for retirement. If you’re there, pat yourself on the back – but don’t get too comfortable yet. Perhaps just as important as financially planning is preparing for retirement emotionally.
Many adults look forward to their retirement years eagerly, without making any emotional preparation. When that first day of retirement hits, it’s exciting! However, often just a few days, weeks, or months later, retirees are hit with the new challenge of emotionally coping with no longer working full time. Many have a hard time adjusting to the freedom, flexibility, and plentiful amount of spare time that their new life brings.
The good news is that you don’t have to be unprepared for this next chapter. Making an emotional plan will allow you to relish the different stages of life and fully embrace your retirement years.
Common Feelings Regarding Retirement
The daily grind is over. No more clocking in each morning and driving home drained at the end of the workday. No more eating lunch at a desk or having to take your work clothes to the dry cleaner each week.
The future is bright. Travel, new hobbies, more memories with family members, and extra time await you.
Most people look forward to their retirement years enthusiastically, internally planning all of the things they can do when there are no time constraints. There’s a major sense of freedom that comes with this new chapter of no longer having to answer to a boss or commute to work each morning.
For those without an emotional plan, though, the honeymoon phase often comes to a halt quickly. Many are unprepared for the significant changes that this new reality brings. After the excitement of having so much free time has sunk in, a large percentage of retirees find themselves looking for a new sense of purpose – a reason to look forward to getting out of bed each day.
Knowing what to do with so much time can be challenging, especially when you’re already feeling defeated, lonely, or depressed.
Fortunately, with a plan in place, these years don’t have to be discouraging. Many retirees find new purpose and passions as they navigate through this major change. The honeymoon period doesn’t have to end for those prepare emotionally for retirement.
Challenges of Retirement
While having extra time is often the root of the challenges that retirement can bring, there are other difficulties that retirees experience as well.
A Lack of Purpose and Meaning
Even for those who wouldn’t say they enjoy their job, having a task to do each day is what gives humans a sense of purpose. Everyone needs to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a project or even at the end of a normal work day.
The happiest retirees are those who have a project or a task to complete. Whether it be growing a community garden, holding a part-time job, challenging yourself with physical exercise goals, or serving the community, having a sense of purpose will greatly impact your mental state.
In addition, people who have spent decades in one field of work may find themselves facing an identity crisis when they leave the office for the last time. Whether you’re a doctor, plumber, marketing director, or office administrator, you’ve likely found a sense of identity in the value you provide to your work colleagues or customers each day. Even the idea of no longer getting a paycheck is enough to make many people question their new identity.
When it comes to identity crisis, first of all, it’s important to remember your other interests, skills, and relationships outside of your job. Instead of longing for your working life, consider retirement an opportunity to explore different areas of interest and create a new, fulfilling daily routine.
While mental health is an important consideration, it’s also valuable to prepare to keep up your physical health in the midst of this major life change. For people with stressful careers, leaving the work place can mean lower blood pressure, better sleep, and less overall stress.
On the other hand, depending on your career, the workplace may be a time when you expend physical energy and get your body moving. Without a reason to get going each day and the built-in workout that the work day may bring, some retirees suddenly find themselves in a much more sedentary lifestyle that can result in serious health issues.
It’s important to stay physically active, eat healthy foods, and create goals for yourself during your retirement years. You might consider finding a walking buddy, getting a dog, taking up a new sport (like swimming, golf, or pickle ball), joining a dance class, entering a 5K, or finding another new hobby that gets you moving.
Thinking through the health benefits and concerns of retirement and preparing beforehand can greatly reduce your risk of experiencing unnecessary negative health effects in your golden years.
Steps for Emotionally Preparing for Retirement
So, what else can you do to prepare for a happy retirement? Here are some of the top ways we advise our clients to get ready emotionally for their later years in order to enjoy them fully.
Make Sure Your Financial Plan is in Order
Although this is the step that most people think about first, we can’t stress its importance enough. Without a sufficient nest egg, retirement can be incredibly stressful. A lack of financial security causes many retirees to experience personal strain, and it can cause marital tension as well.
Not sure how much money you need to be investing for retirement? We’re here to help you create a plan that will give you peace of mind for your approaching retirement years, whether they’re close at hand or decades away.
Start Planning Early
One study showed that 29% of adults feel that retirement is “too far away to think about”. Whether its feelings of emotional overwhelm or simply having other priorities, a lot of people suddenly find that retirement is closer than they thought. We recommend taking stock of your financial situation as early as possible. It’s never to soon to begin allocating resources in order to be able to fund your retirement years. In fact, the sooner you start, the more time your money has to grow, and the better off you’ll find yourself when retirement hits.
Decide How You Will Fill Your Time
Deciding how you want to spend your retirement years goes hand in hand with financial planning. After all, the amount of money you’ll need in retirement can vary massively depending on what you plan to do. Will you be traveling the world? Doing voluntary work in the community? Spending lots of time with the grandkids? Start thinking now about the lifestyle you plan to have.
Thinking about how you want to spend time in your retirement years is one of the best steps to take when it comes to having a happy retired life. While the first year of retirement is often filled with excitement, after awhile, you may feel that each day is full of empty hours.
Take control of your extra hours by filling the days with purposeful work, hobbies, and meaningful connections. Make your friends and family a priority. Set goals for yourself. Stay active. Join community groups and make new friends. Volunteer with an organization that you’re passionate about.
Many retirees choose to get a fulfilling, part-time job or even start a new career.
If you’re not retired yet, it’s a good idea to start prioritizing your hobbies and relationships now. This way, you can make a gradual transition from expending so much time and energy on your career to finding new ways to fill your time. Don’t let retirement sneak up on you and only then wonder what other interests you may want to pursue. Remember, no matter what your age, work isn’t everything.
Invest in Your Relationships
It’s easy to take our relationships for granted. But don’t neglect the people you love! It’s always the right time to invest in your relationships – whether they be with family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors.
The retirement years are an extra special time to focus your energy on your loved ones. Using this time to especially pour into your spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends is a gift both to them and to you.
Whether its a weekly phone call with your daughter, monthly get togethers with fellow retirees, daily walks with your neighbor, morning coffee with your spouse, lunch dates with local friends, or random offers to babysit your grandkids, building relationships in your daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms is a great way to make sure you don’t neglect prioritizing relationships.
Don’t Neglect Your Health
Lastly, keeping up your physical health is one of the best ways to avoid depression and enjoy your retirement years. Adequate sleep, a healthy diet, engaging activity, and daily structure will keep you feeling your best. Even simple measures like keeping up with household chores are a good way to promote physical activity and add purpose to each day.
It’s Never to Early to Think Through Your Retirement Plan
At Milestone, we’ve been privileged to walk with dozens of people to create a retirement plan that not only gives you financial security, but also emotional fulfillment. We understand the potential negative affects that retirement can have on mental and emotional health. Fortunately, after “going through” retirement with dozens of clients and friends, we also know that with some planning and forethought, successful, fulfilling retirement is not hard to achieve.
We’d love to come alongside you to help you reach your financial milestones and think through how you can achieve the retirement you want. We look forward to sitting down with you to hear about your goals and dreams for your future. Contact us today!
This material is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney, or accountant. Consultation with the appropriate professional should be done before any financial commitments regarding the issues related to the situations above are made.