How to plan for the emotional transition to retirement

Published on: October 3rd, 2019

Retirement is often talked about as the golden years, a time when we reap the rewards for our hard work and, in the lead up, it’s common to feel excited by the prospect. Many of us dream of how we will spend our time without the burden of work, only to find that, when the time comes, it doesn’t live up to expectations.

Often, this is because we get so caught up in our financial plans, we neglect to think about the emotional transition; yet it’s every bit as important. We might not realise when we are in the thick of it, but what we do for a living plays a part in our lives that goes well beyond income.

Work gives us a sense of purpose, motivates us to achieve goals, and builds social connections. It provides us with a clearly defined role and identity and keeps us physically and mentally active. When we retire, we leave all of this behind, which can lead to a sense of purposelessness and isolation.

In the workplace, you had a place in the ecosystem – a role and responsibilities that gave you a certain status. You might not be conscious of it, but we all seek out status, and feeling low levels of it has been linked to depression, chronic anxiety, and even cardiovascular disease.

Retirement is more than a lifestyle change; it’s an identity shift too. It’s important to prepare yourself for the emotional side of retirement, and it can be helpful to start planning for this transition three to five years out.

Here are our top tips for planning the emotional transition to retirement.

Explore transition to retirement strategies

A transition to retirement (TTR) strategy is a plan to decrease the amount of work you do over time. It typically involves moving from full-time work to part-time, contract or temp work rather than entering retirement in a single step.

It’s intended as a financial strategy, but it can also be a great emotional one, allowing you to increase your amount of free time incrementally and slowly transition to your new lifestyle.

Consider the everyday

Ask yourself what you want to do in retirement and you’ll probably find yourself thinking about the big plans; travel, lifestyle, and property, but what about the everyday?

Work doesn’t just consist of the time we are in the office. For most of us, our working lives run on a structured schedule; from the time you wake up in the morning and get ready until you get home and unwind, it’s likely you are playing out a routine, whether you are conscious of it or not.

Retiring takes all of this away and can leave you with many hours to fill. Understanding how you will fill these hours is important, and a good way to do this can be through locking in planned activities.

Think about how you can turn some of your hobbies into a structured activity, for example, if you enjoy tennis, join a social club or book in a weekly lesson or if reading is more your thing, find a book club that meets regularly. That way, you will still maintain some structure to your week. It will also give you an opportunity to build new social connections, as your weekly structure and available time is now different to your friends and family members who are still in the workforce.

Identify your retirement goals

Many think their goal-setting days retired with their employment, but it’s never more important than now to set goals. Sure, you want to spend some time relaxing and enjoying a slower pace of life, but for most, this isn’t going to be fulfilling in the longer-term.

You probably won’t play golf every day, so start thinking about other things you might like to do and set some goals around them. It might be learning a language or taking an art class; we all have those things we put on the ‘one day’ list, only now you have a chance to make them a reality.

It can help to make a physical list of the things you would like to do, focusing on the smaller, everyday things as well as your grand plans. It could be as small as reading a book you haven’t had time for, right up to your bucket list travel adventures; a list will help you to maintain a structure. Think of it as your retirement to-do list.

The key is to think about retirement not as the end of work but as the start of a late-career transition. In your career, you probably wouldn’t have changed jobs without putting considerable thought into the everyday lifestyle implications, yet many of us go into retirement this way. If you are ready to stop thinking and start planning, take a look at how Apt Wealth Partners can help you with all the aspects of planning for your retirement.

General Advice Disclaimer

The information in this blog is provided by Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) and is of a general nature only. It may not be relevant to your personal needs, objectives or financial circumstances. The circumstances of each investor are different and you should seek advice from a financial planner who can consider if the strategies and products are right for you.