by Denis Wuestman
This year we started a series of seminars on the non-financial aspects of retirement with groups of people preparing for this transition as well as those in their early years of retirement.
Since everyone’s experience is different, it was insightful to see how people felt about this new part of their lives, sharing their principles, fears and successes. We asked them what their most important concerns are when thinking about the non-financial aspects of a retirement transition.
Here are the Top 5 with some tips on how to deal with them:
- Fear of Loneliness. This was a concern especially among those who may have lost a spouse or in cases where one’s immediate family may live far away. Very often it occurs once one leaves their job as their social connections have changed. To counter this, the importance of community and having strong friendships was important. Continuing to actively pursue relationships with people of all ages, moving to a retirement community, continuing to work or volunteer are all possible counteractions to loneliness.
- Uncertainty about Health. This was not surprising as people age. However, when discussing how to take better care of one’s self, they highlighted the importance of intellectual stimulation, having strong relationships both with family and friends and the importance of becoming more spiritual and/or closer to nature. While there are things about health that are beyond one’s control in some respects – one could opt for a healthy lifestyle and maintain a positive attitude towards life and change.
- What to Do with Time. While many enjoyed the freedom of retirement, they recognized that the concept of time changes. It is no longer defined by a workday. Some will enjoy the freedom of leisure or treating every day as a Saturday, while others felt it was important to find new passions and a reason to get up in the morning. Few expressed being satisfied with having nothing to do with their time. To counter this, having a plan for your newfound free time, discussing with your spouse (if applicable) and saying yes to some things were all important to help explore and discover the right answer for you. HINT: Don’t be reluctant to make changes if the plan is not working out for you.
- An Expectation of Oneself. Conduct an inward reflection of what is most important as that can help form principles on how this next part of life will unfold. While clearly a deeper introspection, the linkage between personal vision, values and mindset surfaced as important elements in the retirement equation. How does one do this? Attending a seminar such as the one this group attended, reading books, talking with others and working with a retirement coach were all areas mentioned where one could gain a deeper awareness of their personal needs to help with this journey.
- Missing Elements About Work. While looking forward to the freedom of not working it was clear that work provided non-financial benefits. First, was the benefit of providing structure and organization in one’s daily life (my personal favorite). Becoming accustomed to a loss of structure took time and a few found it a very difficult adjustment. In addition, having one’s identity wrapped into their work required another adjustment and going cold turkey when it comes to understanding the impact of this identity shift was not recommended. Finally, work was identified as important to socialization, providing purpose, and providing an avenue for continued growth and learning. Options to consider included clearly understanding the areas where there are voids and then exploring how to replace them. For example, if how to structure your day in retirement is important, then experiment with creating different approaches and routines. Try it for a few months and see how it feels, then adjust as needed.
Connections between Concerns
What became evident was how these concerns could be interconnected and addressing one could have an impact on the others. In short:
- Stay connected with friends, family and make efforts to meet new people of all ages.
- Recognize the importance of taking care of one’s body, mind and spirit.
- Plan for how you will spend your TIME and how to structure your day in retirement before you retire.
- Understanding what work provided you. There is a connection to social relationships, overall health in the form of intellectual stimulation, and providing purpose in one’s life. How does one adjust to life without work if they simply haven’t thought about it?
Perhaps most important was understanding what you really expect from yourself in retirement. How do you do this? It starts with getting a good grasp on what’s important to you and what you value most in this part of your life. Understanding your core values can greatly help focus on where to put your life energies in retirement.