Most people are excited and look forward to retirement and eventually leaving the workforce. They plan their finances to save and have enough to live comfortably. They may pay off their homes, check their investments, and liquidate some of their assets. They want to take care of all of the necessities so that they will be free to enjoy life. Some may have an idea of at least a few things they hope to do after retirement, such as spending more time with grandchildren, spending more time on household projects, or travel. But for most, the planning stops after these short-term goals. After the honeymoon period of feeling free from the daily grind has passed, it is common for retirees to find other stressors arise they had not planned. After putting so much hope into that period of life, many retirees find themselves disillusioned with their new lifestyle. Psychologist Nancy Schlossberg, in her book Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life, says, “The biggest mistake people make is not realizing there’s a psychological component to retirement.”
1.) Changes in relationships- Although most couples plan to enjoy their new life together free of the burden of careers, many find that spending all day, each day together brings a whole new set of challenges. Mary B., a recent retiree in Atlanta, shared that so much time with her husband was not what either of them expected. “He had the idea that we would spend ALL of our time together. I found him following me around the house and wanting to go along every time I left the house. Even though I usually enjoy his company, I felt smothered. I had hoped to have time together, but I found I had a great need of time alone.” She looked a little embarrassed, smiled, and added, “I even found myself sneaking out of the house just to be able to go to the grocery store or lunch with friends without him.” It is important for each partner to discuss their expectations, and to negotiate the time in their days. It may take some give and take, but an honest discussion can help to redefine what each partner needs.
2.) Loss of personal identity- For awhile after retirement, the feeling of having all of your time free can be great. But after doing some of the initial things you had planned, retirees may begin to feel they have lost a big part of their personal identity when they are no longer identified by their career. Encel and Studencki in their study, Retirement: a Survey, found that “levels of satisfaction declined after the first years of retirement due to expectations of these years not being met, or to diminished health and social networks.” Bob, a retired high school teacher, explained it this way. “I wanted to be a teacher as long as I can remember, and I loved it. I thought I was really good at it. I liked the satisfaction I got from working with students and helping them to learn. Even though I always looked forward to retiring, after being retired for awhile, I felt lost. Who was I if I wasn’t a teacher anymore? I really missed the feeling of making a difference, of being important in the lives of others. Just doing my wood-working projects wasn’t doing it for me.” Some retirees find themselves going back to feeling productive by volunteering or taking up a new hobby, but for some, it takes a redefinition of what makes them feel that self-satisfaction. This is especially true of someone who has always been goal oriented, and feels lost without having defined goals.
3.) Challenges with family relationships- Bill and Martha, a retired couple in Seattle, said they had always planned on spending more time with their children and grandchildren after retirement and had even discussed selling their home and moving nearer to them. But their being too close to the activities of their children’s families on a day to day basis began to cause their children to feel like it was an intrusion. “Mom and Dad were dropping by all during the day, inviting themselves along on family activities we had planned. I love them, and so do the kids, but I did begin to feel resentful of never having time for my husband and me to spend with the children alone. We had to work out a plan to have time with all of us together, time for us alone with the children, and time that they would babysit and allow us to have a night out together as a couple. Initially there were some hurt feelings, but we love each other and we were able to work through it in a way that made everyone happier. Discuss your hopes for your life after retirement with all the people who will be involved, so everyone can be happy with the arrangement.
Planning for retirement is something we all look forward to, but planning has to go beyond planning our financial future. Couples must have an honest conversation about their expectations of day to day life after retirement. How much time do they want to spend with others, socializing or with family? How much time will they spend apart pursuing their own interests? What hobbies or interests does each partner want to get more involved with? Is each person willing to be honest when the plan is not working? Your retirement plan has to include these areas in order for you to really enjoy that anticipated time of your life. Allow yourself to change your mind or change your course. Challenge yourself to try new things, to do things a different way. Begin to look at how you could feel happy with yourself and your life. Talk to your spouse or partner about their expectations. Retirement can be one of the best times of your life, but like all of life, it is what you make it.
Schlossberg, Nancy. Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life
Encel, S. & Studencki, H. (1996), Retirement: A Survey, Consultative Committee on Aging, NSW
Other Articles by this Author:
Expired Drugs- Are They Safe
Tips to Sell Your Home Quickly