Don’t Let Emotions Make Retirement Stressful

By 8  pm on

It may seem like an end of the rainbow: finally slowing down and enjoying day after day of leisure. Freedom from having to go into work. No more having to answer to the boss, or play office politics. But retirement involves being not only financially ready, but emotionally prepared. It can be a major factor in relationships with spouses, family and friends.

Some people are more ready than others. While the prospect of retirement can seem exciting, too much leisure can be monotonous for those who miss the routine and purposefulness of working. This could even result in a loss of identity, or even bring on stress…now that there is no one to report to, no office friends to have lunch with or value one’s contributions to the company/organization.   In one study, those employees who retired from a Fortune 500 company at age 55 had a greater risk of dying than those who retired at age 60. They felt like they were not needed as much as when employed.

A good recommendation for deciding whether or when to retire: visualize your ideal retirement. Think of ways you can complete your bucket list, socialize with your spouse or others, and the hobbies or interests you would like to pursue. Create a blog or Pinterest board of what you would like to do most when you retire.

Discuss your visions with your spouse, including where you will travel…where/if you may relocate (to be closer to family) and what activities you wish to do by yourself (i.e. yoga, cooking classes in France).

Plan an ideal retirement day, week and month. What will you be doing, and how many hours will you be active, travel, volunteer, do chores around the house and just spend time together with your spouse. Gradually work up to retirement by testing the waters with new hobbies or other interests.

There are typically several emotional stages that a person goes through, starting with excitement to do things like take trips and accomplish long-awaited goals or completion of projects. Next there is often a sense of loss, such as of identity and self-worth. By not thinking of retirement as a finality, but as the next chapter of their life or their next career, people can better adjust.

Instead of thinking every day is a day of rest, this is the time to do things like take classes, join a book club, take up a new hobby, or volunteer. Making a checklist of things to do for personal enrichment can regain self-worth because it is essentially like making a list of business goals in the work world.

Another emotional hurdle is adjusting to spending time with a spouse. Suddenly the two of you are together all the time, when before each was off at work or doing other activities. There can be the tendency for the husband or wife to get frustrated with their spouse about household matters or how they spend their day. It can seem like that new-found independence is compromised. The number of “gray” divorces is rising, partly because of situations like these. Spending time during the day apart from one another can be beneficial, so each can have their own space.

Retirement is not for everybody. But planning for the possibility, weighing the emotional (as well as financial) pros and cons and allowing some flexibility with your retirement date/goals can make the golden years more satisfying.


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