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Finding joy in retirement

Retirement can be a wonderful phase of life; and it may last for more than 30 years. That does sound like a long time. This suggests a need for thought and planning to make your retirement great in all respects.

As I write this piece, I have in my mind that you are a person on the verge of, or recently entered into, retirement. Alternatively, you may know someone in that situation: a parent, a friend, or an acquaintance.

Many things happen in crossing the bridge from a traditional life of work into retirement.

Here is something obvious: your salary ceases (although you may continue to work part-time and earn some money). You will probably miss the salary.

But there is so much more that you can miss as you cross that bridge. I have compiled a long list of aspects of a work life that you might miss. Not all of them will apply to you, so I have made a small selection. I hope some of them ring true.

The items on the list have nothing to do with your finances or your health, rather they are connected to your feelings and emotions. Don’t be put off by those two words – feelings and emotions - because, in the end, the list is very practical in nature, as you will see.

For ease of reading, each item on the list will have a section called LOSS and one called GAIN. This will underscore how all of these ‘perceived problems’ can in fact be resolved.

Let’s look at some.

1. Friendship in the workplace

LOSS. You may miss the Monday morning banter around the coffee machine or water cooler. It’s amazing how many of my retirement coaching clients feel this so deeply. It seems to come down to a sense of communion, of sharing, both with the people and the environment at work. This leads more generally into how you can replace the friendships you made at work.

GAIN. You can make up for this loss. For example, what about renewing some old friendships? You could make an archaeological dig back to your schooldays or review your work life to find people you have fallen out of contact with. Additionally, you can join clubs, take courses, pick up a hobby, all of which can offer you the sociability of others.

2. Your identity or who you are

LOSS. What about your identity? This is a biggie, so let me explain. When you worked you could easily define what you did each day. Perhaps you had a business card, or a uniform or something else that defined you and made your job recognisable to others.

GAIN. In retirement you have the opportunity for a renewed definition of yourself. Will you be happy with what is called the 3G approach to retirement: golf, gardening and grandparenting? If so, then good for you. If not, then I doubt you’d be satisfied with the identity ‘retired person’. What then? Now we are getting to the essential help that a retirement coach can give. This concept of identity is central to my practice of retirement coaching.

3. Status and relevance

LOSS. Your work may have given you some status and relevance to others. Post-work loss of status can show up as ‘Relevance Deprivation Syndrome’ or RDS for short. You may feel that suddenly you’re not as important to others as you once were. That can hurt.

GAIN. If RDS looms as a problem, then you could think about getting involved in charitable works of some kind. By engaging in charitable work, you will be important to the people you serve as well as those people you work with. There are lots of those opportunities out there if you search for them.

4. Expertise and validation

LOSS. This is one of the more surprising aspects of what you might miss from work. Then again, it is obvious. You worked in your job because you were good at it, and because you were good at it, people sought your help, and because they sought your help (and you gave it) you felt a positive vibe of validation. Hence you felt valued.

GAIN. How can you carry this across the bridge into retirement? I would say reflect more deeply about why you were appreciated at work. It may be that fellow workers appreciated your patience or your generosity or some other emotional aspect of your personality. Once you identify this you can dream up an activity based on that emotion for your retired life.

5. Routine and structure

LOSS. Many retired people take joy in jettisoning the routine and structure that work imposed on them. I believe it’s more complex than that. Most of us crave some level of order in our lives. Would you really want to begin each of your 10,000 days of retirement in complete freedom to decide the order of the day? I don’t think so. The issue at stake here is more about how much say you have in that routine.

GAIN. Once you have established your meaning and purpose in retirement you will end up with a portfolio of activities. Certainly, that is the end point to which I lead my clients. Now you can impose a structure around those activities. Your structure, your routine. Remember you will be your own boss in retirement.

 

Dr Jon Glass is a Retirement Coach at 64PLUS.

 

6 Comments
Tony
June 22, 2024

Excellent article. Thanks.
Well, I was forced to give up work in my early fifties. There were so many interesting things to do that I just couldn't fit "work" in any more.
Actually my wife wanted to go back to earning an income and so I became the house husband. No problem: did courses, setup an SMSF and studied investing, sang in a choir, joined the local Men's Shed, cycled around Tasmania etc. Tons of interesting things out there: it just takes a bit of effort to search out ones that suit.
Social aspects: no problem. I've been on the committee of various non-profits since I was 26, so have mixed with many interesting people. The downside is finding time to keep up with them all.

Kymbal Dunne
June 21, 2024

Retirement has got to be a huge opportunity for individuals, especially as you say, it might be 30 years. Given we plan our lives so thoughtfully and when young, so haphazardly you'd think that when we mature that we'd be all over the next stage of life. Isn't that what we wanted or even aimed to achieve?
Sadly, most people are terrified and cling to work like a lifesaver. Most have no idea of how much money they actually need and convince themselves they don't have enough. Keep prodding, I'm amazed that most don't even know where to start until someone taps them on the shoulder and say we don't need you anymore. Thery hardly leave on their own terms when that happens.
You are a class act Jon. Great insights from a pro and an investment manager too. Keep up the great work.

Jeff
June 21, 2024

Lots of great insights
For Strategists - Begin with purpose with regular reviews including stress testing….avoid stress and create happiness

Action plans - across the whole portfolio of activities - (unpaid) work from volunteering to looking after your family, socialising/connecting with friends & partners, (mental & physical) health from doctor visits, gyms to nutrition, financial plans from investments, cash flows to wills and estates etc - short plans with risk mitigation strategies subject to review and if you are in a partnership with wife or family…you may not be the boss; since for resilience and happiness most lifestyles need their support …love

For some being their own boss in retirement can lead to many negative unhappy times

Then there are drifters , followers, isolationist, hallucinationalists, etc ….

john
June 21, 2024

Yep, I like that one
"dig back to your schooldays to find people you have fallen out of contact with"
I might do that cos I still hold a flame for my girlfriend who was in same school as myself (4th form).
It lasted about six months, until she suddenly broke it off.
She said “You know, boyfriends and girlfriends do more than just hold hands and cuddle”.
Apparently I wasn’t ‘forward enough’.

Graham W
June 20, 2024

Too many people make their life mostly around work including mainly work friends. It is very difficult if you are just retired or close to retirement to making life changes. Well before retirement join a few clubs , start or restart hobbies and you will not procrastinate doing something new. Friends and family move away, or you may have to move somewhere new.
No excuses, get off your butt and you will ease into the best years of your life.

David Williams
June 20, 2024

Very useful insights thanks Jon. "What will I do' is one of the longer terms steps in longevity planning. It's usefully approached with an insight into how long we may be planning for, why we may be different from the 'average' life expectancies, and identifying how we will respond. This process enables us to frame our longer term health, lifestyle, financial and estate planning goals and decisions, seeking professional advice as appropriate.

 

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