It’s fairly common for discussions of retirement planning to focus solely on the financial aspects of securing a comfortable retirement. However, few individuals take the time to consider the nonfinancial concerns. Indeed, when retirees report being dissatisfied with their retirement experience, the disappointment is often focused on lifestyle changes and diminishing self-esteem created by a lack of direction and a loss of feeling productive.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
One possible solution for dealing with these realities is to phase into retirement slowly. Many individuals who are about to retire welcome the idea of continuing to engage in some form of work, whether consulting, job-sharing, mentoring, or, for business owners, providing back-up management. A phased-in retirement can help provide an “anchor” that allows you to explore new activities while continuing to maintain a meaningful role.
From a psychological standpoint, some individuals may find that separating from their job, profession, or business is a more emotionally wrenching experience than they ever expected. For hard-working ex-business owners, executives, and professionals, it could take as long as five years to detach from the heavy personal investment they had in their work.
Past, Present, and Future
Perspective is really the key to enjoying your later years. While “retirement” suggests the end of your working life, a more positive viewpoint can allow you to see retirement as the beginning of a new phase of life—a phase in which you can do all the things you never seemed to find the time for while you were working. For instance, volunteer work can enhance your sense of making a contribution, while taking courses in areas of interest can challenge your intellectual curiosity.
During your working years, it is common to take your lifestyle for granted. After retirement, with more time available for contemplation, it is both appropriate and wise to look carefully at how you have been living, and to consider the importance of your various activities. Depending on individual circumstances, you may wish to reorder your priorities. You may find that you just don’t need to be doing some of the things that seemed so important when you were working.
If you view retirement as an opportunity for exploration and new challenges, you can make this transition an exciting and enjoyable process. Your horizons are limited only by the bounds of your imagination. You’ve earned this opportunity—enjoy the journey!