I’m heading towards retirement and unsure how to prepare for this
Retirement. It’s quite a powerful word, often portrayed with images of an elderly white-haired couple walking hand in hand down a sandy beach at sunset without a care in the world.
The reality can be quite different.
The most obvious difference is that you might not be part of a couple. You may be alone through choice, or you might have lost your partner, through death or divorce. You might not have grey hair – I intend to never have grey hair. You might not be elderly, or certainly, you might not feel elderly.
There is no such thing as a standard retirement age anymore. Some people never actually retire – they just work until they can no longer work. Others retire at an age when they feel they will be financially secure for the rest of their lives.
A friend of mine retired at 50 as his father died of cancer (stress-induced, he believed) at the age of 50 and, in my friend’s mind, he needed to be stress-free to avoid the same fate. Was this a good idea? He thinks so, and although he is fairly busy with some side hustles, he doesn’t seem to be happy, yet. Retiring early doesn’t guarantee happiness or good health, even if you have enough money to enjoy your free time and keep active.
What does retirement look like?
Unless you take forced retirement, normally you can plan for the years ahead so that it isn’t such a huge shock when you wake up on Monday morning without a train to catch or a meeting to attend. Retirement can look different for everyone.
And it is important that we approach this next stage of life with some tools in our back pocket.
Planning ahead can take away some of the anxiety and fear that might be felt but nothing can truly prepare you for this next phase, apart from actually being in it and living in it. But you can try and plan by adjusting how you look at life and controlling your reaction to events that ensue.
For example, how many times have we planned for a holiday of a lifetime as an attempt to sort out an issue, whatever that might be? We leave home believing that having a break from our mundane life will make everything perfect again. But, when we are actually on the holiday we realise that, even though the location may be different, we are still the same person, with the same family or friends, and the same issues remain.
For things to change and for us to truly get the best out of the holiday, we must change our mindset and perspective. Holidays can enhance our lives, relax us, and expand our minds but they cannot change us. We must do that ourselves.
Retirement is not a holiday
It is also worth remembering that retirement is not a holiday. You cannot bring the holiday mindset to retirement. Although you may be able to travel (finances permitting) and do things that you weren’t able to do whilst working full time, looking at a beautiful view, sunset or visiting an attraction every day can also get dull.
The five phases of retirement
There are apparently five phases of retirement that we should be aware of:
- Pre-retirement. The lead-up, the planning phase, the “it’s going to be so great when I don’t have to go to work every day” phase.
- Full retirement. Reality. Nowhere to go or be every day
- Disenchantment. Slight dissatisfaction, even boredom.
- Reorientation. Getting used to the emptier days. Working out what is important and what will give you joy during this period. Enjoying the newfound freedom, settling into a new routine that works for you – starting to feel fulfilled again.
- Reconciliation and stability. Life is good again. You have re-calibrated and found what makes you happy and gives you purpose. You can enjoy the last third of your life!
So, what is the trick to approaching retirement without panic and anxiety?
5 ways to approach a healthy retirement
- Think about what you need in your life to make you content. Make a list if that helps.
- Think about a time when you were happy and content and think about what you were doing then? Was it work? Was it family? Was it walking in nature? Was it being with friends? Or was it something completely different?
- Think about the things you would regret not doing? The death bed scenario – whoever said that they regretted not spending more time in the office?
- Think about what you have achieved in your life already; see them as accomplishments and feel proud of them. Make a list of these too.
- Be proactive! Talk about your hopes and fears for the future with your friends and family. Start to feel secure in what you would like your retirement to look like.
If it's the elderly couple walking hand in hand on the beach, then make that a reality. If it's taking up a new challenge, meeting new people and starting afresh, then start putting the wheels in motion to make it happen. The point is, think about it positively and try and prepare by talking about it, thinking about it and putting in some steps to help you make the transition.
If you don’t have anyone you want to discuss this with, then contact a Life Coach who can help you sort out what is important to you and to help you make a plan for the future. Retirement can be as exciting as you want it to be.