When people contemplate and plan for retirement, the natural tendency is to focus first on the financial part — staying informed about policies, retirement plans, pensions, and expert advice. After that, people think about it as a permanent vacation or simply may not think about it at all.
Preparing emotionally and psychologically is just as important as being financially ready. Even though retirement may look like “living the good life,” some retirees experience depression and anxiety while acclimating to this new lifestyle. Each experience may be tied to own perspectives and ways of seeing life among other factors. But having a plan or at least a visualization of the bigger picture can be helpful when preparing for the big step.
Factors such as financial status, health status and proximity to loved ones are important to keep track of since they change with time and could have a significant impact on retirement. Having a realistic idea of how the future may look can help people adapt better by knowing what to expect when they retire and also start making more informed and healthier decisions.
Over time some people realize that retiring is more than just not working anymore, and this concept may not seem as exciting as before or you may just want something different.
For example, if work life involves a lot of mental stimulation, the switch to a much slower pace may seem boring, even to those who were looking forward to retirement. Other unexpected life-changing events like a medical diagnosis or the loss of a loved one — such as a partner — may cause us to reevaluate and adapt to new conditions.
What to Expect
Riley Moynes is a retired educator and author of the book “The Four Phases of Retirement: What to Expect When You're Retiring.” For him it all starts during the vacation phase — also known as the honeymoon phase — where people who have just retired can basically do whatever they want, from resting to waking up late, or traveling. In general, people perceive it to be the ideal concept of feeling freedom from a work routine and life as we know it. This stage will vary depending on the person, but it typically lasts a year or so. When the second and hardest phase appears — a need for structure and getting back into a routine that arises from the feeling of boredom — there will also be a sense of disconnection and a loss of direction.
According to Moynes, there is no way to avoid this phase. He advises to be prepared to feel fear, anxiety, and even some level of depression. The length of this phase is undefined, in some cases, after months or years the overwhelming mix of emotions can lead to taking action and moving to the next phase, but for others, this may turn into a permanent state.
Although getting to phase three may already feel like an accomplishment in itself, it doesn’t mean it’s much easier. Seeking meaning and purpose and reconnecting with the world will not only take time but also lots of trial and error that could end in disappointment. This is why phase two is so important and unavoidable because that’s when the need to reconnect with yourself, ask where to go, and get in motion toward change will first appear and serve as motivation later.
Finally, after all the ups and downs and the readjustments to the new normal, phase four comes in as a reward. The lost sense of purpose reappears and, in most cases according to Moynes’ experience, bringing service to others becomes one of the most meaningful activities rewarding us with the feeling of accomplishment. “Those who break through phase four are the happiest people.” Maynes said.
Retiring from work is not retiring from life
Former COH employee Robert Mohrman retired from the Houston Fire Department at age 62. He enjoys his retirement by painting, fishing and doing woodwork. The best advice he has for future retirees is to be prepared: “Before retiring you need a plan — not a written plan, but a course of action to take such as a hobby, something that will occupy your time and energy.” he said.
To those who have a spouse or a partner, Mohrman’s advice is to be ready to grow back together and readjust, especially if the other person is also retiring since you will be spending a lot more time together.
And for those currently struggling with retirement — or find themselves in phase two – his recommendation is to keep going.
“Live your life, be productive, embrace a hobby, and if you don't have one try different things just don't become stagnant,” Mohrman said.
Photo courtesy of Robert Mohrman