Adjusting to Retirement: 8 Helpful Tips
Many Retirees Find This New Phase of Life More Challenging Than They Bargained For
Many new retirees are shocked to find that, though they have dreamed for decades about how they would enjoy their golden years, adjusting to retirement is actually quite difficult at first. On the surface, it would seem like leaving the stress and busyness of work behind and embracing a daily schedule of leisure would be ideal, but many retirees find it hard to navigate this “new normal.” That’s because retirement can often mean a loss of identity, and most people don’t prepare for this psychological challenge. Whether you identified as a lawyer, banker, chef, teacher, or small business owner, it’s easy to begin to question who you are now that you’ve retired.
Other issues can trip up new retirees, as well. While you may have more time for hobbies and the people you love, you may also have less money and feel less purpose in life. This can lead to anxiety and depression and, in fact, a study in the Journal of Population Aging recently found that retirees are twice as likely as working people to suffer from these mental health issues.
So, what is a new retiree to do? Below we’ll discuss eight helpful tips for adjusting to retirement that will help you navigate the challenges you may not have been expecting.
Tip #1: Expect to Experience an Emotional Rollercoaster
Any new chapter of life is going to bring some emotional turmoil with it, and retirement is no different. At first, it’s likely to feel freeing and exciting – after all, you’ve been looking forward to this for years! Soon, though, the novelty will wear off and you may begin to feel some less pleasant emotions. Some retirees begin to think, “Oh, no! What did I do? I wasn’t ready for this!” If your mind goes there, then you may feel regret and anxiety. You could also begin to feel boredom creep in, which leads some people to experience depression.
If you find yourself fighting a flurry of emotions, the key is to let them come. Allow yourself to experience each one, and don’t try to suppress them. It’s healthy and normal to go through these stages of emotion, though you’ll want to find positive coping strategies to deal with them. For some people, this means diving further into hobbies like reading, writing, crafting or volunteering. Other retirees find that getting exercise is helpful, while others discover that more social interaction is the key to coping. Of course, you should avoid negative coping strategies like increased alcohol consumption.
Tip #2: Keep a Structured Schedule
When you were working, you probably had a routine you followed each day. Your alarm rang at a certain time, you ate breakfast and lunch at the same time each day, and you probably had a structure to your day once you arrived home again, too. If you enjoyed having a schedule, retirement may be particularly challenging unless you create new routines for yourself.
Now, creating your ideal retirement schedule can be a bit of trial and error, so don’t abandon your efforts if you don’t get it right the first time. You’re looking to strike an ideal balance between keeping your days structured, but without the stress or busyness that probably came with your working life. Use a calendar – either a phone app like one of these or a traditional day planner – and pencil in meals and activities each day. Get specific – if you like to linger over coffee and your newspaper in the morning, write it in! You don’t need to create a rigid schedule, just one that helps your days feel more structured and less aimless.
Tip #3: Set Goals (Start Small!)
For many retirees, their prior work lives were measured by meeting milestones like making deadlines or getting promotions. In retirement, you should create goals to strive for, as well. They don’t need to be large, overwhelming goals, though. It’s best to start small so that you can feel purposeful and achieve a sense of accomplishment with each goal you meet.
Start first by laying out a few milestones you’d like to hit in your first six months of retirement. Do you want to exercise a little bit every day? Are you planning to learn a new hobby, like knitting? Would you like to plan a trip to visit family out of town? Whatever your personal goals are, write them down and make a plan to achieve them.
Tip #4: Invest in Relationships
One of the scariest aspects of retirement for many people is feeling isolated. This is a very real risk after spending thirty years with a built-in social network through your job, where it was easy to meet friends and colleagues for lunch and holiday parties were always scheduled for you. Now, you may have to work a bit harder to keep up with the people you hold dear.
One of the best ways to mitigate this risk is to use the schedule mentioned above to pencil in lunch with a friend at least once a week, or even a phone call if you don’t live near one another. Can you join a neighborhood walking group? Great! Pencil that in, too. The key here is that, as you review your weekly schedule, you’re making sure to plan time for social interactions.
Tip #5: Consider a “Second Act”
Also known as an “encore” job, many retirees thrive by trying out a less stressful job after retirement. Many choose to work part-time in a brand-new industry, while others might opt to consult or mentor in their long-time field of expertise. Many retirees find that they feel happier and healthier if they continue working a few hours a week or more, and this study from the University of Oregon actually showed that those who continue working after age 65 often live longer than retirees who stop working altogether.
Tip #6: Revise Your Budget
Retirement isn’t just a big life change – it’s a big financial change, too. Even if you’ve very carefully planned and saved for this phase of life, chances are your budget will require a bit of tinkering when you leave the working world. Start by reviewing your monthly bills. What are the things you need versus those you don’t need? Are you spending money on things that no longer make sense for your new lifestyle? For instance, have you been paying a personal trainer to come to your home because you never had time to go to the gym? Now that you’re retired and have a more flexible schedule, you can probably save money by canceling the personal trainer and simply purchasing a gym membership instead.
It’s likely that you’ll want to begin spending more on entertainment and experiences, too. After all, you’ve always dreamed of a retirement where you have the freedom to do things like travel and enjoy your hobbies, right? If this is the case, you may have a financial need to get an encore job, too.
Tip #7: Volunteer for a Cause You Believe In
Maybe you don’t want to go back to the grind of a job, and you don’t need the money either. In this case, you may be able to reap the same psychological rewards of purpose, social interaction, and feeling needed by scheduling regular volunteer shifts for an organization that is meaningful to you. Volunteering is great for your mental and emotional health in these ways, but getting out of the house could end up improving your physical health, too, because you’ll be less sedentary.
Tip #8: Be Kind to Yourself
Retirement is nothing short of a huge transition period in your life, so allow yourself the flexibility to “figure it out” over time. Try out new hobbies, structure your days in different ways, get creative about how you spend your time, and truly learn what makes you feel the happiest and most fulfilled. Many retirees don’t get it right on the first try, so give yourself some grace to experiment during this transitional time until you find the right balance.
Final Thoughts on Adjusting to Retirement
Retirement can be an incredibly joyful and rewarding time, but that doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re feeling somewhat lost, know that you aren’t alone. Life transitions are difficult, but the above eight tips can help you adjust to retirement and fully enjoy this new chapter of your life.