Have you ever been in a job so dull or painful that you’ve spent your days dreaming of retirement?

Me too!

I remember planning (in great detail) the adventures I’d go on, the places I’d see, the people I’d meet.

And then, almost overnight, retirement happened.  It was no dream, let me tell you, more of a nightmare.  I realize I’m an exception.  Most people have time to plan and prepare – mentally, financially, and emotionally.  Retirement was thrust on me when a doctor gave me just six months to live.  The diagnosis was thankfully wrong, but so too was my new existence.

Draining, Emotional, and Challenging

I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. That’s not really me, but it is important to put them out there so we can address and, hopefully, overcome them.  So here goes…

  1. Retirement is draining – emotionally (we’ll come onto that) and financially. The fact is that 90% of Americans will, in all likelihood, outlive their savings.  The same is true for retirees the world over.  Longevity may bring many benefits, but it does mean the money we have saved has to last longer and often starts to run out when we need it most.
  2. Retirement is a health hazard. We may live longer, but if we don’t prioritize wellness, those years may be extremely challenging – mentally, physically, and emotionally.  First, we lose our identity, then our self-esteem, next our social circles dwindle, and finally we become lonely and depressed.  The less we do, the more our bodies and minds deteriorate until there is no going back.
  3. Retirement is a challenge. Few of us can live a life of solitude, spending our days staring at a TV screen.  Nearly all of us want much more than that.  But finding purpose and fulfilment in retirement isn’t easy.  It takes courage, determination, and the ability to see failures as stepping stones, taking you towards your ultimate goal.

Anxious about retirement?  You should be…

Retirement, just like any significant life stage, breeds anxiety and trepidation – and so it should.  As I’ve just explained, it’s no vacation, not even a picnic in the park.  It’s hard, but the good news is, there are ways you can make life easier before you even set foot on the journey.

Acknowledge how you’re feeling.

Angry, sad, disappointed, grief-stricken, guilty, ashamed.  You could be feeling one or all of these.  The first step to making sense of how we’re feeling is to acknowledge our emotions.  Then, we can process.   Remember, there is no right or wrong way to feel about retirement.  And however unpleasant or painful the emotion is, it will pass.

Top Tip: Don’t try to go this alone.  Engage with people already in retirement, question them, and learn from their experiences.  Confide in colleagues and loved ones.  Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Embrace change.

Retirement isn’t something you can change.  You can’t go back, only forward.  If you accept that, the transition will be easier.   And by shifting your mindset to focus on what you will gain in retirement rather than what you will lose, you will instantly feel more positive about the experience.

Top Tip: If you are anxious about retirement, think of it as a journey rather than a destination.  An undulating path instead of a straight road. There’s less pressure to succeed that way, and if you deviate off course, you can get back on track.

Build resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in times of adversity and trauma.   It involves ‘bouncing back’ from challenges but also learning from these experiences and growing.  Being resilient doesn’t mean that you’ll sail into and through retirement, but it does mean you’ll be better equipped to cope with the challenges it brings.

Top Tip: Just like building a muscle, strengthening your resilience takes time and commitment.  It doesn’t happen overnight and requires practice, but by being healthy, content and connected, you will be best placed to develop this positive mindset.

Seize opportunities.

Retirement is the time to try new things, to find out what floats your boat and what doesn’t.  Embrace this.  If you are given the opportunity to rock climb, join a choir, travel, or volunteer, then grab it with both hands, as it may not come around again.  You will never know what you’ll love to do until you try.

Top Tip: Purpose and fulfilment are, for me, the most important things in retirement.  If you have these, you are wealthy, whatever the state of your bank balance.

Find your tribe.

The camaraderie of colleagues is one of the biggest losses to be mourned in retirement.  Little surprise then that thousands of people who retired early during the pandemic have gone back to work – not for the money, but for their mates.  This may be the answer for some, but the rest of us need to forge new friendship groups in retirement with people who have the same levels of energy and enthusiasm as we do.

Top Tip: It’s harder to make new friends in later life, but it is possible.  Join groups, volunteer, engage in hobbies and activities, especially ones you do as a group or find part-time work.  Putting yourself out there can be uncomfortable, but the pain is definitely worth the gain.

The transition into retirement isn’t always easy – or pleasant, but it’s something few of us can avoid.  I don’t wish to induce anxiety, but I do want you to be prepared for this exciting new chapter.  Embrace this new life stage and the opportunities it offers. It can be brilliant, but be warned, if you think you can coast into retirement without giving it deep thought and consideration, then you are very much mistaken.

If you’d like help transitioning from work to retirement or are anxious about retirement, why not sign up for my DARE to Discover Your Purpose online program?  You’ll find all the information you need here, including how to book.

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