At TAAG, we’re fortunate to spend our workdays helping individuals and families shape their finances to ensure they reach their most important life goals. Retirement, or being financially free enough to no longer need to earn an income, is often chief among these goals.
Most of us spend our adult lives in accumulation mode. We work hard and save what we can. If we’ve been successful in planning for life after career, we’ve used some of that accumulated wealth to establish a portfolio that, when combined with Social Security and other resources, will provide sufficient means to sustain and perhaps even enhance our current lifestyle.
Life is often described as a series of chapters. These chapters can take on all shapes and sizes as some follow what might be called a traditional path while others follow something out of the ordinary. In either case, this transition to the retirement chapter takes more of an adjustment than people might expect. No matter how rosy the financial picture, the post-career transition is often difficult for many.
Beyond just learning to rely on the assets you’ve accumulated to provide for your well-being, which is an exercise in trust in and of itself, we see many clients go through a series of self-exploration exercises as they learn to deal with new definitions of time, space and what it means to be themselves.
Everyone’s experience is different, but there are some general themes that are worth mentioning about the transition to retirement beyond the financial.
Be okay with not being okay
While seen as a major milestone and accomplishment, retirement is, in a sense, a loss. A shift to a new chapter, sure, but a major disruption to whatever our current normal has been. There are bound to be an onslaught of mixed emotions that will, at best, cause unsettled feelings. Recognize this for what it is, completely normal. Keep a journal or other method of acknowledging what brings about these emotions and know that admitting challenges exist doesn’t make us ungrateful or indicate that we’re failing at our next stage in life.
Try, fail, try again
It’s almost impossible to get things perfect the first time around. Coming off a career where we had the beats down pat and expecting to suddenly be an expert at living a new kind of life without career in the foreground is really pretty silly when given any thought.
Many times, the things we think are going to occupy most of our time in retirement leave us unsatisfied or not as fulfilled as we hope. That’s ok. We have to give ourselves permission to leave room for new activities and to try things we may not be good at or know anything about.
Focus on health – physical and mental
Moving on from a career is a great opportunity to fortify existing good routines or create new ones as it relates to mental and physical health. Building in an improved workout plan, mindfulness regimen or other such course to a schedule that suddenly has some gaps allows us to build healthy habits into our lives before less optimal habits creep in.
Here again, allow room to try new things. Yoga may not be your thing, but pilates is a perfect fit. You may prefer to workout solo versus in a group or at a gym versus at home. Try out various services, apps (Calm is a favorite of mine for mindfulness) as most programs, in-person and digital based, will offer some kind of free trial. See what works for you and go for it!
This is far from a comprehensive list of challenges and solutions that people face when heading into retirement or any new phase of life. The important thing is to increase awareness of how we’re feeling and accept that something that is “supposed” to be a celebratory time will still come with challenges. Talk to friends, family or other trusted people in your life. You’re almost certain to learn that you’re not alone.