6 Tips to Prepare Psychologically for Retirement

Prepare Psychologically For Retirement

Baby Boomers approaching retirement typically focus primarily on financial planning for this important rite of passage, often forgetting to prepare emotionally for the transition they are about to undertake. While it is understandable that getting your financial house in order is crucial for a satisfying lifestyle during your golden years, ignoring the emotional implications of retirement is a big mistake that can lead to depression and other serious emotional setbacks.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that over 70 million baby boomers will be exiting the workforce during the next decade. Expected longer lifespans and the baby boomer generation’s penchant for doing things differently means retirement is likely to be redefined significantly over the next decade.

Below are some tips to consider for easing smoothly into retirement life.

1. Discuss retirement plans with your spouse and family members.

It is no secret that people often have very specific ideas about how they want to spend their newly won freedom. That’s why it makes sense to begin discussing where you want to live and how you want to spend your time. It is not uncommon for spouses to have very different plans. By discussing these ideas early, long before your last day of work, couples have a chance to carefully consider compromises that work for both parties.

Pay special attention to the big decisions about travel and where you want to live. Many retirees find they must compromise to accommodate the dreams of both parties. It is common for many women to place a focus on living near grandchildren and other family members, while some seniors are more interested in spending their remaining years in popular retirement destinations where the weather is warm all year round.

2. Assess your social network and support system outside of the workplace.

Men and women who have a history of spending most of their time at work may find that they have few friends outside of the office. While some friendships will survive your retirement, many colleagues won’t be interested in a continued friendship once you leave the premises for the last time. This can be a shocking setback for retirees who rely heavily on their friends at work as their primary source of camaraderie.

Researching outside sources for friendship prior to retiring is an excellent idea. Joining a tennis team, regular poker night in the neighborhood or a book group are a few examples of ways to fortify your social network.

3. Do some soul searching to establish your new life’s purpose.

After thirty or forty years of going to work to earn an income for you and your family, it is crucial to replace that main purpose in life with something meaningful. Everybody needs to have a reason to get up in the morning.

Before retirement, think about the different interests you’ve had and examine which of those interests is worth your while. Many seniors turn to volunteer work or a part-time job that fulfills them. The good news is that there are many ways to stay busy and feel good about what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day. The hardest choice is often which ideas to eliminate.

4. Consider trying out retirement by consulting or taking a sabbatical.

An excellent strategy for mentally preparing for full retirement is to consider cutting back your hours or taking a few months off before actually cutting the cord completely. Testing the waters with fewer hours or substantial time off will provide you with more information about how you’ll feel later on when you decide to retire.

It’s quite common for seniors to fantasize about the joys of retirement, only to find out later that they prefer working over having so much free time on their hands. Many boomers work into their 70s and 80s because they enjoy what they do for a living. Every individual situation is different.

5. Establish retirement routines to provide some structure to your days.

Routines provide comfort for most people. Much like that first cup of coffee that so many retirees enjoy each morning throughout life, the simple pleasures make us feel safe and stable. While it is nice to not have to set an alarm to wake us up each morning, that doesn’t mean it is healthy to completely forego some sort of routine.

Consider working out or walking at the same time each day, followed by a shower and a nice meal to wind down your day. Having coffee with a neighbor or spouse in the morning while watching the birds is another ritual that can start off your day in a pleasant way. Being in nature for a few hours each week has been proven to lift your spirits.

Routine activities like a weekly bowling night or dinner and a movie on Saturdays offer excursions that you can look forward to with the pleasure of knowing you’ll see familiar faces and be able to socialize.

6. Keep a journal.

Therapists have consistently recommended journaling for people going through major life changes. The simple act of writing down your feelings reduces stress and improves mental clarity. Starting a journal before retirement can be a very useful tool for problem-solving purposes.

By putting pen to paper, it is likely that some of your worries about retirement will surface so that you can deal with them before you take the plunge. The more mentally prepared boomers are before retirement, the easier the transition will be.

Alice Goldstein
A Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Coach for over 25 years, Alice has written on a wide range of topics, touching on issues that matter most to seniors. Check out her article “Tips for Successful Marriages for Couples over 70” - a popular post on Marriage.com where Alice is an “Expert” author. Learn more about Alice Goldstein