Dealing with setbacks in retirement

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant

This article was first published by the Over 60 website [Link: www.oversixty.com.au]

You’ve done everything right in planning for retirement. You have saved, seen a financial planner, and have a good sense of how you are going to spend your days. You intend to spend more time with the grandchildren, perhaps making up for the time you were not able to spend with your own children. And then you receive the phone call. Your daughter-in-law has been offered a fantastic opportunity in Germany and the family will be relocating for the next five years.

Or perhaps you had fabulous plans for a nomadic lifestyle – to spend the summers at home and the winters up north on the Queensland beaches. And then your partner receives a major health scare and you have no idea what that will mean for your travel plans.

You retirement plans are suddenly thrown into a tailspin and you have no idea what to do.

A common response to tough circumstances is to blame others “if he hadn’t insisted on work so hard, this never would have happened” or “she is only doing this because she doesn’t trust us with the grandchildren”. The blame response, however, is not helpful and can have a negative impact on the people closest to us.

Before you panic, however, recognise that setbacks happen to everyone no matter how successful, kind or giving they are. Think JK Rowling who went from depending on welfare to becomingone of the most successful authors and richest and generous women in the world, or Winston Churchill who was defeated in every public office election he nominated for until becoming Prime Minister at age 62.

“Breakdowns can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.” – Unknown.

Things do not always go to plan in retirement or in life more broadly, and so before you make any rash decisions, take a moment to reflect and think about the advice that you would give to someone in your shoes. So often we are able to offer other people wonderful advice but struggle to hear it ourselves.

What are some of those words of wisdom?

1. Give yourself time to process what has happened.

Reflect not only how you are feeling, the true emotions you are experiencing, rather than insisting on remaining stoic, and what support or information do you need in order to make an informed decision?

2. Avoid panic.

Do not respond immediately if you don’t have to. The worst thing you can do is say something that you regret, for example blaming your daughter-in-law for ‘taking’ your grandchildren away. Wait until you are ready to have a rational, strength-based conversation

3. Control the controllables.

Focus your energy only on the things you can control and let the rest slide. It is exhausting when you are constantly battling the things that can’t be. Rather than, e.g. becoming resentful because a health scare may not allow you to take that extensive trip, focus on what is possible such as short weekends away, or modifying the trip to fly rather than drive

4. Step out of your comfort zone.

Confront your setback and recognise that this is the reality that you face right now. Rather than become a victim of circumstance, take action to overcome it or adapt positively to a different reality.

Most importantly and if possible, take the time to proactively plan for potential setbacks in retirement.  Rather that sweeping your fears under the rug and hoping that they won’t eventuate, discuss them with your significant other(s), however unpleasant, and then create a contingency plan. They may include events such as the loss of your spouse, unexpected financial hardship or a family member requiring significant care. The power of having a contingency plan in place is that should be worst case scenario occur, you have a plan in place and you will not need to make difficult decisions during an emotional time. Instead you can focus your energy on the most important tasks at hand and take positive steps forward.

If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read The Right Attitude is Key to a Happy Retirement and It's Not Just About the Super, It's About Having a Super Life.

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