Retirement can be an exciting, but challenging, time. Many Americans who retire face depression and anxiety. They feel a sense of purposelessness that’s tough to navigate. This is why it’s so important to not just retire from your old career. Instead, imagine retiring to something that’s fulfilling and exciting.
The Psychology of Retirement
The American Psychological Association says that if you’re thinking about retirement, you need to start thinking about your psychological portfolio – not just your finances! The truth is that many people “skip” planning for mental health during retirement, but it’s key to both long-term health and fulfillment.
Our lives are made up of many different puzzle pieces. When you retire, several of these puzzle pieces change dramatically – completely shifting the landscape of your life. You’ve spent decades pursuing career growth, and other personal goals. Even if you’re relieved to finally be able to walk away from your job, and start living a more relaxing lifestyle, you might not realize how much weight you’ve given different aspects of your job. It provides you with:
- Day-to-day structure
- A schedule to follow (and, if you’re like most people, you thrive with a routine!)
- Clear goals to pursue
- Benchmarks for success
- Opportunities for growth and improvement
- Personal satisfaction or self-worth
Whether you love your career or not, all of these things are a lot to give up when you retire. That’s why, according to a Michigan State University psychology professor, Norman Abeles, PhD, most retirees are happiest and successful when they’re participating in a wide range of activities. These different activities can help fill the void that your career provided prior to retirement.
Activities you might want to consider pursuing are:
- Time with family
- Time with friends
- Volunteer work
- Community involvement
- Continuing education
Creating a “Time Budget”
You’ve probably already created a budget for retirement. You’ve figured out where your retirement income is coming from, what your recurring expenses are, and how much surplus you’ll have for your lifestyle goals – like travel, visiting with grandkids, etc. But have you thought about creating a budget for your time?
It’s easy for a pre-retiree to get caught up in planning the big moments of retirement. You might think about the month-long multi-country vacation to Europe you’ve always dreamed about. Or maybe you sit down with friends or a sibling to plan a week-long wine tasting tour the first summer you retire. Many pre-retirees think about these big, once-in-a-lifetime goals that they’re excited to achieve once they retire. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with once-in-a-lifetime goals. You guessed it – they only happen once.
Spending a month in Europe will be amazing. Taking a week every summer with friends and family to go wine tasting will be incredible. But those short-term events aren’t going to help you determine how you want to spend a Thursday morning when you wake up without a schedule. For a while, this flexible lifestyle may be appealing. After all, you’ve worked hard for a long time, and you deserve to live each day the way you want to. However, over time you may find that you crave some sort of a routine. Here’s where a time budget comes in.
Start by brainstorming a list of all the big once-in-a-lifetime goals you have for yourself and your partner or spouse during retirement. How long will they each take? Then, think about other activities you might like to pursue. If you’re stumped, you might start by thinking through the list of values you have during retirement. You might decide you want to:
- Be more involved with your family’s lives
- Engage in your local community in a more meaningful way
- Pursue a hobby you’ve always been interested in, but never had the time to tackle
Do you want to start volunteering at your grandchildren’s elementary school? Does working part-time at a local community center make sense? Maybe you decide to enroll in a course either online or at a local community college during the summer to continue your education and sharpen a new skill?
When you budget your time in retirement in a way that covers your big, once-in-a-lifetime goals, but still plans for how you’ll fill your hours during the day-to-day, you’re more likely to live in a way that aligns with your values. This will lead to a much more fulfilling retirement.
When you retire to something, not just from something, you’re more likely to feel happy and fulfilled with your life as a retiree. Although this transition is a big one, it’s not impossible! When you build a comprehensive retirement plan that focuses on your values, and how you want to spend your time, you’re able to leverage your wealth in a way to put you on track to achieve those goals.
Not sure where to start? I’d love to talk with you. You can request a call with me by clicking here. Together, we can start to work through what your ideal retirement lifestyle looks like, and how your finances can support that dream.
Also, if you’re interested in reading more on this topic, check out the book Active Retirement for Affluent Workaholics. Written in 2001, it’s a few years old, but there are some good ideas to help you plan for the transition from full-time work to a fulfilling retirement. A friend recommended this book to me several years ago, and I’ve since recommended it to many folks as they approach retirement. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too.