Retirement can be a dream come true or a nightmare, depending on the retiree. While some count the days until they are hitting the links, the garden or the beach, others dread the prospect of no longer working.
A recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, concludes that the more we value a work role and function effectively in it, the more self worth we derive. The prospect of not having the job, the role and the sense of belonging and accomplishment that comes from working can be daunting for some.
The study’s author, Mo Wang of Portland University, Department of Psychology, observes that retirement is a transition from our work and career roles to stronger family and community member roles. Yet, the losses experienced due to retirement can cause people to feel anxious and depressed.
However, retirement is a transition that most will encounter and enhancing one’s well-being in retirement is important. This can be easier, of course, for workers who hate their job or have other outlets for achievement and positive self identity. Workers who perform physical labour may also find retirement a relief and a happy time.
So how do you prepare for a happy retirement? Wang’s study of 2,060 people between the ages of 51 and 61, conducted over an eight year period, offers seven tips:
- Keep Working
Continuing to work a bit past retirement helps ease retirees into their new status. If we let ourselves get used to a change, it’s less drastic, since we’re maintaining some of our lifestyle patterns after retirement. Hence, staying involved with family, friends, the community and familiar activities is important. Cutting back to a day or two a week, taking on enjoyable projects, consulting or somehow keeping one’s hand in work can ease the transition.
- Engage in Retirement Planning
Many believe that retirement planning is only about financial security. That’s just part of the picture. Wang’s research underscores the need to broaden our understanding of retirement planning. A plan that includes incorporating work into one’s post-employment life is important. So is thinking about activities one may enjoy or wish to try out, or what relationships one might want to nurture. What places might you like to see now that you have more time? What might you like to learn or do during this period? Developing a retirement plan that both accounts for one’s financial security and takes lifestyle and interests into consideration enhances the chances of well-being in retirement.
- Retire With Someone
If you are married at retirement, it is ideal to retire at the same time so each can work a little and follow their retirement plan. However, Wang notes that if one spouse continues to work fulltime, people can still enjoy their retirement.
- Have A Happy Marriage
Retirees with marital problems tend to experience more stress upon retirement because they don’t have a positive home life to return to. During one’s working life, the workplace may be a place of refuge if there are problems at home and the employee may stay longer there as a result. So, once the option to work long hours is removed, retirees are no longer able to avoid their spouse. If you dread retirement because you don’t get along with your spouse, consider getting marital counseling before you retire. Make changing your relationship with your spouse part of your pre-retirement plan. Well-being upon retirement can be augmented by working towards ensuring your home life is a happy one.
- Retire From A Stressful Job
If you have a stressful job or an unsatisfying job, you may feel relief upon retirement. Leaving a negative or difficult work environment to find more pleasurable pursuits can be a motivation for early retirement. When people stay in a job due to the promise of a pension, fear they lack skills to find other more satisfying work or have put so many years into the job they can’t leave, they feel trapped. This is especially true if the job is stressful or the work environment is emotionally toxic. In this situation, the employee may count down the days to when they have no colleagues or supervisors to answer to. Those who work in physically demanding jobs also may look forward to retirement. Heavy work can take its toll on workers over time and the idea of not lifting, straining or working in inclement weather may be enticing.
- Be Physically and Financially Healthy
Those who look after themselves, eat right and exercise, can often look forward to a healthy retirement. It’s never too late to start a wellness regimen that targets healthy weight, lifestyle choices (cessation of smoking) and exercise. Even when there are health concerns, ensuring that these are attended to regularly and diligently can make all the difference. Being healthy in retirement contributes greatly to a sense of well-being post-employment.
Look into how much income you will need upon retirement. A sound financial plank in your retirement plan will ensure a happy retirement. People adjust over time to the amount of money they have when they leave work and taking a later retirement can help augment your retirement income, if need be. Downsizing can help too. Retirees often find accommodation more suited to their needs upon retirement, which can free-up capital.
- Retire On Time
Retire on time if you can. Those who retire early or late, sometimes feel that they have not met expectations and may find this impedes their retirement well-being at first. However, according to Wang, we adjust to our circumstances over time and retirement timing that feels “out of sync” will soon be less distressing. For example, if a later retirement augments your income, it will feel like a good decision once you begin to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Or, leaving a stressful job for early retirement may feel like a risk at first, but in the longer run, ending unsatisfactory employment can be a relief.
While these seven tips comprise the best way to ensure a pleasurable retirement, the researcher notes that, in the end no matter what the circumstances people retire from or into, they’ll adapt.
So, even if your finances aren’t exactly where you want them, your health could be better, you retired too early or your spouse still works, you can have a happy retirement. That’s because we tend to adjust to our circumstances and find something positive in our lives when we have a chance to adjust. And retirement, if nothing else, can provide time to adjust.
Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. They can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org