Retirement can be a shock to the system. It marks a significant change in lifestyle and will, at first, feel unfamiliar. Of course it will; gone is the dependable workplace routine, gone is the daily contact with colleagues, and gone is the financial security of a workplace salary. Suddenly, you’ve got new challenges to worry about, like living off a smaller income, having less human contact, and wondering what on earth to do with all the extra time.
Feelings such as loneliness, boredom and worthlessness may work their way into a new retiree’s thoughts. And the first thing to note is that it’s totally normal – you’re going through a significant and potentially unsettling change. The second thing to note is that it’s well within your means to live a happy and fulfilled retirement without letting those feelings overwhelm you. You simply need to prepare for retirement emotionally. This is what this article sets out to help you achieve.
Acknowledge that things will change
Change can be unsettling, particularly when you’re so used to living a certain way for so long – like spending the whole of your adult life working 9-5. The first step towards dealing with change is to acknowledge it and to accept that it will happen. Your life will change.
Acknowledging change is important because it grounds you in reality. Change isn’t good or bad in and of itself. It just is. If you’re a naturally anxious person, you may find that spending time actively acknowledging and accepting that your life will change after retirement prevents you from unrealistically idealising how great retirement will be, or fearing how terrible it will be.
Here are a few things to think about ahead of time:
You might feel a sense of loneliness
Most of us spend the majority of our adult waking hours at work. And we often end up knowing more about the lives of our colleagues than we do our friends! So suddenly finding ourselves without them is likely to be a lonely experience.
It’s unlikely that you’ll avoid this feeling altogether – recreating an office environment in your home isn’t particularly practical – but you can do a few things to help fill the void:
- Ask for their numbers or connect on social media before you leave so you can stay in touch.
- Arrange coffee dates with old colleagues every now and again so you can laugh and catch up on office gossip.
- Arrange outings or phone calls with friends or family who are available during weekdays.
- Join new communities with other retired people so you can make new friends who are available during the hours you are.
You might experience moments of boredom
Whether you had an office job or a vocational job, you probably spent your days focused on a particular task (or two). Things had to be done well, and they had to be done now. That pressure causes you to focus, and when you’re focused, time flies! Unless you really hated your job, chances are you were almost never bored.
But back at home, with no pressure to do much at all unless you want to, time tends not to move quite as fast. If you haven’t much going on to distract your mind, time can feel very slow indeed. And it’s in those moments that boredom can set in.
Feeling bored is totally normal – it’s hard to be busy all the time. Thankfully, this feeling is likely to dissipate as you become used to a less busy lifestyle. Remember, it will take time to adjust from working to retirement.
As always, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re not bored too often:
- Stay social
- Take up a hobby
- Learn a new skill
- Get into a routine
- Do the things you love at a slower pace
- Don’t fear down-time (it’s perfectly acceptable to just ‘be’)
You could feel a sense of worthlessness
Jobs give us a purpose. There’s a reason we’re there, and without us the organisation wouldn’t be quite as effective. Often, people rely on us – whether they’re colleagues or customers – and if we do a good job, we might often receive praise.
Being a valued member of an organisation can elevate our mood and self-esteem. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that stepping away from that responsibility and the praise that comes with doing a good job could cause us to feel less valued. That’s natural.
So how do we regain a sense of self worth? There are a many ways:
- Start a journal. Regularly write down three reasons the world is better for having you on it.
- Play an active role in your family – whether that’s looking after the grandkids or spending more time with your extended family.
- Take up charity work and give back to a community or cause you care about.
- Create something, whether it’s a painting, music, writing, or a new flower arrangement.
Plan ahead to calm the mind
When it comes to your mental health, planning ahead can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. It also makes you more likely to succeed at the task in hand! The earlier you consider the following points, the better you’ll be prepared for retirement and the less worried you’ll be about it.
Prepare your finances
One of the biggest shifts when reaching retirement is the change of income. Instead of working for a salary, you’ll receive income from your workplace or personal pension. And unless you’ve decided to retire early, you’ll likely be able to receive the State Pension too.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much income will I earn from my pension/s?
- Will I be eligible for the State Pension, and how much will I receive?
- Will I have any other sources of income?
- How much will my monthly outgoings be?
- Will I have enough income to cover my outgoings?
Once you understand how your finances will be affected, you can decide how best to manage your money. For example, you might want to increase your pension contributions while you’re still working, or adjust your expectations about the retirement lifestyle you’re realistically able to afford.
Think about your personal goals
There’s only one thing you shouldn’t do in retirement, and that’s nothing. Everything else is up for grabs! So write down all the things you’d love to do using the following method to find out which are most attainable (we’ve included some examples):
- Goal: Learn spanish
- Method: Sign up to weekly online classes
- Cost: £20 a session
- Timeframe: Once a week for 2 years
- Reward: A trip to Barcelona!
- Goal: Redecorate the house
- Method: DIY
- Cost: ~£3,000
- Timeframe: Daily for 3 months
- Reward: A dinner party with friends!
Interaction with other people is an important and rewarding part of life. And if you’re used to speaking with people at work everyday, you’ll really notice when they’re not around. So consider joining some communities well before you retire, so that by the time you do, you have a strong network of friends you can continue to talk to and do things with.
Communities might include:
- Local community groups
- Special interest groups
- Religious communities
- Book/film clubs
- Sports clubs
Ease yourself into retirement
Retirement doesn’t have to happen suddenly. You don’t have to leave your 9-5 job on a Friday and begin your retired life on the Monday. Instead, you can ease yourself into it!
Flexible retirement is when you gradually reduce your hours or days before permanently retiring from work. For example, you might go from a full-time role to spending a couple of years working part-time. Or you could spend a year working 9-2.
This method can reduce the shock of suddenly finding yourself without a job, and it also allows you to enjoy the final years of your working career with slightly less pressure.
You’ll want to consider how your finances will be affected by this method, but if you’re over 55, you could even supplement your income with your pension.
Combine your pensions
Finally, after all these years, your pension gets its chance to shine! But wait, how many pensions do you have again?
The average person works at 11 jobs by the time they retire, which means they could have picked up almost a dozen pensions along the way.