Will you be Psychologically Ready to Retire?

John Wierenga |

For anyone approaching retirement you probably have a checklist for your countdown to the big day.

  • Do I have enough saved for a long, financially secure retirement? Check.
  • Did I file the right paperwork at the office? Check.
  • Is my professional exit strategy in place and ready? Check.
  • Is my estate plan prepared so that I don’t have to worry about my legacy once I stop working? Check.

Seems like a good checklist. What is missing?

Am I ready for the psychological impact of retirement? Maybe…

This is a tough question for anyone to answer, as most of us have never retired before. Jobs or business interests may come and go, but for most people the working years are largely spent doing just that; working. Practicing retirement is something few of us ever get to do, so the changes in lifestyle and mental state that accompany suddenly ceasing to get up and go to work every day can be profound and unexpected.

What does retirement mean to me?

Some people approach retirement with a strong sense of engagement outside the office and use it as an opportunity to express their values. Strong ties to nearby family groups, churches, or other community organizations make it readily apparent that the end of paid work isn’t the end of meaningful contributions. These are the kind of retirees who talk about being busier than ever once they retire. Of course, this has its challenges, as jumping straight from the “rat race” of paid employment into the management of a local non-profit or the board of a charitable endowment isn’t the most relaxing idea for most of us.

Others retire and find themselves with only loose ties to the community and little structure outside of the workplace. This has the immediate appeal of days spent pursuing leisure and enjoying the fruits of a long career. Unfortunately, this also has the potential to bring feelings of loneliness and can be a bit of a letdown for those used to a high degree of influence in the working world.

Is retirement even right for me?

Either way, one thing is clear: more and more often pre-retirees are defying stereotypes and embarking upon a “second act” in their working lives.

Retiring from a job or business interest is still a common goal, but it seems that increasing numbers of pre-retirees and recent retirees are open to the idea of continuing to work as a consultant for their old company or as a mentor for younger workers.

Others are using retirement as a chance to evaluate their lifestyle and find meaning in new business pursuits. Putting a lifetime of accumulated skill to work in new and exciting areas that mix business and leisure can be exciting and fulfilling, whether it’s opening a business or developing a piece of trophy real estate.

A decision worth talking about

There is no single approach to psychological retirement readiness. People today are living longer and healthier than ever, and as such, planning for financial success alone isn’t enough. The best financial plans for retirement also take into account the prospect of spending decades without being compelled to work - an exhilarating opportunity that should be discussed with a professional familiar with the challenges of planning for a “second act”.

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