By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant
Our first priority when we think about retirement planning is ensuring that we have our financial stock in order. Your retirement portfolio might include savings, assets, investments and perhaps a plan to draw a pension. Without a doubt, robust and informed financial planning is critical to a successful retirement in that it positions you for greatest flexibility in terms of how you live your life after work. But it is not the only piece of the retirement readiness puzzle to consider.
There is much research to show that preparing psychologically and emotionally for retirement leads to increased life satisfaction (Dennis & Fike, 2012). By that I mean the people who take control and plan proactively for life in retirement tend to feel more fulfilled, engaged and intent. Who wouldn’t want that?
Stepping into retirement means making adjustments such as; coping with the loss of career identity, replacing the support networks that work previously provided, and spending more time with your significant other. How ready are you for these changes? If the thought of these adjustments leaves you a little unnerved, fear not! With some investment in your emotional, or psychological, stock you will be ready to harness all of the opportunities that life in retirement throws at you!
How? Follow these four steps below.
Take action (and do it now!).
Appreciate that a fabulous retirement seldom falls in your lap. What are the steps that you are going to take, such as picking up a new hobby, meeting new people, or volunteering to create a retirement that lights you up? Don’t wait for someone else to invite you to their next yoga class or book club evening. Be brave (yes it may feel uncomfortable) and sign up for something new. Create something to look forward to - don’t leave it until day one of retirement to start planning.
Expect a transition period (and acknowledge that it might be a little bumpy)
Retirement is a significant life change and one that some people breeze through whilst others struggle with. On paper it should be relatively simple – you go from state A (working) to state B (not working). So why it is that the journey can look and feel so different between people?
Moving into retirement is a transition and as human beings we need to take time to let go of what we know and hold dear (colleagues, structured day, being recognised for our work) and then become comfortable with a new routine and way of doing things.
This doesn’t happen overnight and there will be some uncertainty. But the important thing to know is that if you start to feel a little lost, overwhelmed or unsure you are not alone. In fact, what you are experiencing in retirement is completely normal (to learn more read here). The important thing is to keep moving forward, knowing that with some focused action on your part, a fantastic retirement awaits.
Articulate your worries and fears.
Rather that sweep your fears under the rug and hope that they won’t eventuate, discuss them with your significant other (however unpleasant) and then create a contingency plan. What are the things that you worry about? Perhaps the loss of your spouse, unexpected financial hardship, or a family member requiring significant care. The power of getting your fears out in the open and having a contingency plan is that should that worst case scenario occur, you have a plan to set in motion and you will not need to make difficult decisions during an emotional time. Instead you will be able to focus your energy on the most important tasks at hand.
The workplace is a hot-bed of human interaction – there is always a morning tea, someone to do the coffee run with and meetings to be held, but unfortunately without work as the binding force, friendships can fall away. Further to that, retirement is when we need our support networks the most. It is almost inevitable that there will be debilitating illness, divorce, death, job loss and other major life challenges amongst your close circle of friends during this life stage. It is times like this that it is so critical to have a strong support network - people you can draw on, who will rally around you in times of need, be that comforting shoulder, and ensure that you come out the other end of those tough times.
Maintain your network by reconnecting with old friends, being curious and meeting new people, and reaching out to those around you who may be in need of companionship.
Knowledge is power so work with a trusted financial planner to optimise your financial stock. But don’t stop there. Take the time to top up your emotional stock prior and you can be confident that you are setting yourself up for a retirement you will love to live!
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read I'm Not So Sure About This...Making Sense of the Transition into Retirement and 4 People to See to Plan for Retirement.
To better understand how prepared you are for retirement, why not download the Retirement Planning Questionnaire?
It's more than just a quiz, it's an action-focused tool that will help you take action today (not wait until the day you retire!) to create a retirement that you will love to live!
Dennis, H. & Fike, K.T. (2012). Retirement planning: New context, process, language and players. The Oxford Handbook of Work and Aging (Ed. W. C. Borman & J. W. Hedge).