The 6 Stages of Retirement
How to Adjust to Retirement
Retirement is a major life change. So much of your sense of self worth is tied up with career success and accomplishment. When you retire, you suddenly have to adjust to a vastly different schedule. Prepare yourself emotionally for the adjustment, accepting that you'll be sad for a little bit after retiring. Then, make some plans to keep yourself busy. This will help you with the adjustment phase. Lastly, take care of yourself. Make an effort to eat right and exercise regularly, as this can help with your emotional well-being.
Expect some sadness.It's very normal to feel sad after you retire. You should not expect to go into retirement with elation right away. There will be an adjustment period in which you grieve the loss of your job and livelihood. This is normal. Try to allow yourself to feel what you are feeling without judgment.
- If you've been settled into a career for awhile, chances are your job is more than just a job. It provides you with a sense of fulfillment each day. Your social life is likely connected to your work life. While you may not miss the schedule and demands, you may miss the social connections and sense of meaning you gained from work.
- Remind yourself that it's okay and normal to be sad. Most people who retire experience some level of sadness initially. Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling, good or bad, in the wake of retirement. Keep in mind emotions are not permanent. While you may dislike feelings of sadness you experience, do not expect them to last forever.
Mend old feuds.In retirement, you will no longer have your career as a distraction. Old emotions from your past may resurface.You may find yourself dwelling on past disagreements or feuds with family members and friends. If you have a relationship that needs mending, be proactive. Try to reach out shortly after retirement to avoid letting bitter feelings take over.
- It can be hard to reach out to someone who you have a bad history with. Try writing a letter or e-mail, as sometimes difficult conversations can be easier to get out in writing.
- Be open to seeing the other person's point of view. There may have been a way you could have behaved differently to salvage a friendship or family relationship.
- Apologize. Even if you don't feel you were in the wrong, an apology can go a long way. It shows the opposite party his or her feelings were heard and understood.
Have realistic expectations.Many people have high expectations going into retirement. You may think you will now have time to do all those things you put off due to your work schedule. However, not working can be stressful. The emotional toll of retirement may prevent you from diving into the plans you've made.
- Make a list of what you can reasonably expect to do in the weeks or months following your retirement. Try not to stack your list with too much. Even with your newfound free time, it takes awhile to get into a new project. Remind yourself you're not going to complete all your post-retirement plans within your first six months.
- Allow yourself to adjust. You may see retirement as your chance to finally readWar and Peace, but you may not feel like doing much reading right away. You may need some time to adjust emotionally before taking on new projects or pursuits.
Think about your new identity.For many, identity is tied to career. You may see yourself as independent, an achiever, and a good provider. In retirement, you may feel less connected to these roles. Try to take some time to establish a new identity.
- You're no longer bringing in a paycheck each week. You may feel less useful or fulfilled. However, retirement presents the exciting opportunity for new roles.
- You are now a caregiver. You will have more time to look out for elderly relatives and your children or grandchildren. You can also take retirement as an opportunity to get involved in your community. You can see yourself as an active community member as well.
- As with any aspect of retirement, adjusting to a new identity can take time. Do not be surprised if it takes a few months to accept your new identity in your community and family.
Prepare for changes in your relationship with your spouse.If you are married, retirement can change your relationship. Couples can become stressed when neither party has a fixed schedule. Prepare for changes in your marriage ahead of time to reduce potential tension.
- Form a mutually acceptable plan for your future. You both likely have plans you want to pursue in retirement. What plans can you do together? What plans should you pursue on your own? Decide how much time you want to spend together. While doing activities together is important, it's also important to have some alone time.
- Talk about the little things as well. You may be looking forward to sleeping in each day as long as you want. Your spouse, however, may want to keep getting up early to maintain some schedule. Find a way to compromise. Maybe you can sleep in three days a week, but agree to get up the other four.
- Avoid codependency. If your partner did not work, that person may have a social life and schedule of his or her own. Try not to infringe on your partner's time. Allow your partner to maintain his her own schedule and understand you will not always be included in plans.
Maintain social connections.Oftentimes, your social life is heavily connected to your work life. When you're retired, you may find yourself socializing less often. Humans need social connections at all ages. Work to maintain social connections after retirement.
- Make plans with friends. This can be awkward, as oftentimes work plans are spur of the moment. You may have decided to grab a drink with a co-worker after a long day. Now, you'll have to actively reach out when you want to spend time with friends. Try to talk to friends about the possibility of regularly scheduled social events, like weekly game nights.
- Get on social media. While Facebook or Twitter may seem like silly ways to stay in touch, you'd be surprised how many social events are planned via a social media platform. Simply maintaining a regular Facebook profile can help you maintain social connections after retirement.
- Reach out to non-work friends. During your career, you may have inadvertently limited your social contact to work friends. You may have lessened contact with friends from school or the community. Try to make plans with friends you neglected during your career.
Reflect on the past.Retirement provides you with an invaluable opportunity to reflect on your past. Try to look back on the trajectory of your life. Reflect on past moments. An increased understanding and appreciation for the past can help you understand yourself, making the transition into retirement smoother. You will be spending a lot of time alone with your thoughts in retirement, so being okay with yourself and your choices is important.
- Go through old photo albums or family movies to spur memories. Pause as you browse old albums and videos, trying to put yourself back in the moment and savor the memory.
- Ask yourself questions as you consider the past. Why did you make the choices you made? Are you happy with how you spent your time? If there's anything you feel you missed out on, retirement could give you an opportunity to pursue it.
- Reminisce with others. Call up an old friend or family member and talk about the past. If you have family or friends in town, make plans to get coffee or drinks and talk about the past.
Take time off initially.A lot of people go into retirement with many plans for the future. However, this is not always realistic. Making big commitments within the first months of retirement may prove stressful. Give yourself a year to simply live without working. Take some small trips and look into engaging in some small hobbies. However, hold off on your big plans and endeavors until you've had time to get accustom to not working.
Stay on a schedule.An unstructured life can be stressful. Even if you have no work obligations, try to get on some kind of schedule after retirement. You will feel better physically and emotionally if your life retains some structure after retirement.
- Stick to commitments, even small ones. For example, make a point of taking a long walk each morning. Shower every day. Make lunch for yourself every day at noon.
- Consider your sleep schedule. If you're not going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day, it can be hard to stick to other routines. While you may like the idea of being able to sleep in, consider getting up around 9 each morning anyway. A regular sleep schedule will allow you to maintain a regular exercise, eating, and social schedule as well.
Make some goals for retirement.As stated, give yourself a year or so to adjust. However, during this time you should write down some goals for yourself. Going into retirement with a plan can help prevent stagnancy.
- Think about what you want to do now that you're retired. When you were working, there were likely many things you simply did not have time for. Maybe you want to volunteer with your community more. Maybe you want to spend more time with your grandkids. Maybe there's some reading you want to finally get done.
- Also, consider travel plans. If you never took that trip to California, maybe you can do so now if you have the time and money.
- Try to think of a realistic time table for retirement goals. You're not going to check everything off your bucket list in a year. However, maybe you can hope to have accomplished some of your post-retirement goals in 2 to 3 years.
Consider post-retirement work.After retirement, many people pursue work. You may want to try a new career or look into part-time employment. Even when working is not financially necessary, many people derive a sense of purpose through having a job. Consider looking for work after retirement if you like the idea of having some schedule and guidance even when you're technically retired.
- It can be difficult to find employment, especially in a new field, after retiring. However, there may be organizations in your area dedicated to helping people starting second careers late in life. Browse the yellow pages or look online to see if there are any organizations in your community.
- You could also consider part-time, less demanding work. Substitute teaching, for example, has a fairly easy certification process in most states. You would not have a regular, demanding schedule, but you would have some structure in your life.
- There are a lot of benefits to post-retirement work. Studies show it lessens depression associated with retirement and may stave off cognitive decay that comes with age. If you feel lost without a career as guidance, post-retirement work is worth considering.
Get involved in your community.For many, retirement is a chance to get involved. Consider joining an organization or volunteering in retirement. There may be organizations in your town specifically made for the recently retired.
- Consider what you always wanted to do, but never had time for when you were working. Maybe you always wanted to be on the local theater board, but simply could not fit the meetings into your schedule.
- Keep your personality type in mind. You may not enjoy all activities and events catered to the recently retired. It's okay to pass on certain opportunities and social events. You should seek to find post-retirement involvement that suits your specific needs.
Reconnect with old friends.Work takes up a lot of your time and social life. There are probably friends from outside the office you have not seen in years. Consider calling an old friend and inviting him or her out to lunch or dinner.
- Relationships often fall to the wayside when you're busy with work commitments. Your college roommate, who you thought you'd be close to for life, may have disappeared from your life over time. However, strong friendships tend to rekindle easily, even if a lot of time has passed. Call up a friend you have no seen in years.
- Consider visiting old friends. If you still know a lot of people in your hometown, make a trip to visit. If you've been promising your friend Matt from grad school you would come visit him Seattle one of these days, do so in retirement.
Consider a memoir writing class.Memoir writing can be a fun, creative way to help you adjust to retirement. It can also allow you to examine your past, enhancing your understanding of yourself and your life.
- See if any local community centers or colleges offer memoir writing classes. Some universities allowed retired people to audit courses or take them for a small fee.
- You can also look into online courses. A wide variety of universities offer coursework online.
Caring for Yourself
Eat right.Make sure to take care of yourself in retirement. Without the schedule provided by work, basic habits like eating can fall to the wayside. As you get older, certain health problems like high blood pressure become more likely. A low-fat diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, can help stave off age-related illnesses.
- Talk to your doctor about your diet. If you're older, you may be at risk for age-related health conditions. Have a full physical shortly after retirement and talk to your doctor about what your diet should ideally look like.
- Try to eat regularly. Oftentimes, mealtimes are dictated by breaks in work. For example, you may have stopped at 2 for lunch in the office each day. Now that you are retired, make an effort to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at roughly the same times each day.
Track your medications.If you're older, you likely have medications that you need to take each day. It may be difficult to keep track of your medication regiment. If you have a lot of medication, try writing a list of which meds you need to take which days.
- You can also buy a pill container at the supermarket which is divided into sections marked by the days of the week. You can place the pills you need to take each week in the container. This can be a helpful tool for tracking medications.
Stay physically active.You should strive to stay physically active in retirement. Exercise is also often tied in with your work schedule. You may, for example, hit the gym 3 days a week after work. Now that you're retired, work on staying active. Even something small, like a short walk each day, can help prevent age-related medical problems.
- As you get older, certain activities may be difficult. Look for exercise groups for the elderly, like water aerobics, to keep active later in life.
Keep an eye on your mental health.Retirement can be associated with an increased risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety. If you notice a change in your mood, consider talking to a mental health professional. You can find a therapist through your insurance or ask your regular doctor for a referral. Many people struggle with mental health issues with retirement. Talking out these issues with a therapist can help.
QuestionI signed up for social security, but had no idea I would only be able to earn ,400 a month. If I earn one dollar more, I have to send my entire SS check back. Any advice?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should talk to the Social Security Department about getting another arrangement so that you can still work part time.Thanks!
- You may look at the early months of retirement as the "honeymoon" phase when you want to do all the things you ever dreamed of doing. This phase soon passes. Expect to feel a little letdown after you get used to being retired.
Video: There is Life After Retirement
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