Mastering the Transition into Retirement

by freelance writer Riley Herder

Retirement is a time met with all kinds of emotions. But in general, it is a needed and well-deserved time of rest and discovery. Embrace retirement for all the very best things it has to offer, including side jobs!

Basketball legend Abe Lemons once quipped: “The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off.” If you plan for retirement accordingly, and understand what to expect, this can be really good news.

Retirement is a time met with all kinds of emotions. But in general, it can be a needed and well-deserved time of rest and discovery. Retirement parties exist because it is broadly accepted as a joyful experience. But still, the end of one’s work can cause many to worry. It is a big change, and it’s hard to know exactly what to expect. Experts report that some of the major hurdles people face when entering retirement are loneliness, boredom, and identity crisis. In this article, we’ll consider some ways that you can triumph over these and embrace retirement for all the very best things it has to offer.

The first thing to consider is that retirement is more of a gradual process than a singular event. Understanding how that process works can help prevent disappointment and provide peace of mind as you adjust to your new life.


Know the Stages of Retirement

It has been said that there are five general stages that everybody experiences in retirement. It takes time to adjust to the big changes that come with it. The most common stages are planning, excitement, honeymoon, disenchantment, and reorientation.

1. Planning

As you begin to think of your upcoming retirement, it is important to make plans. During this stage, soon to be retirees ponder big questions surrounding what they want to do during their golden years. What kinds of things have you always wanted to do, but have been unable due to demanding work schedules and full calendars?

Spend time hammering out the logistics of your retirement. How to manage finances, how much to save, where you’ll live. But also prepare yourself emotionally. It is a big change, and the more you seek to manage expectations, the readier you’ll be to enter smoothly into retirement.

2. Excitement

With plans of how to spend your time, or what places to go, will inevitably come excitement. Even if you don’t have grand plans of how to spend your time, it is exciting just to imagine no longer carrying the many burdens and responsibilities you may have held for so long at your job.

3. Honeymoon period

When retirement has begun, you may immediately find yourself enjoying the freedom and slower pace of your new life. There will suddenly be time for all the things you’ve wanted to do. It is common for this thrill to last for quite some time, but you may find yourself wondering after a while if you’re truly getting the most out of your retirement. This is perfectly normal, and ushers in the next stage.

4. Disenchantment

As with any transition in life, the “honeymoon period” simply doesn’t last forever. All the new activities you may have found yourself enjoying can emotionally wear you out and give you a kind of sensory overload, in the same way that a child who enjoys far too many sweets at once gets a stomach ache. What comes next is typically a sobering good hard look at how you have been utilizing your newfound time, and what you’d like to do differently.

While this may sound a bit gloomy, it can actually be a wonderful turning point. It can be a time of clarity during which you may discover the things that are most important to you, and you can forge new plans that focus on what matters most. Talk to the people closest to you about how you feel during this time, and don’t be ashamed to get help. It’s not uncommon to experience depression during this time of change, and it is important to seek help processing these changes.

5. Reorientation

Over time you will start to have a stronger sense of what things you want to be doing, and which things you can live without. After you have experienced the ups and downs of the previous stages, now you can breathe and step into a steady rhythm of life that best suits you.

Take baby steps

Now that you have an understanding of how the stages of retirement will likely progress, it’s time to make some goals, and take small steps toward them. It is okay to be a little over ambitious, because as you saw above, plans can change throughout the different stages. But still, strive to be fairly realistic when mapping out your retirement priorities and goals.

Think about what kinds of hobbies you’d like to cultivate. Places you’d like to travel. Skills you’d like to learn. Books you’d like to read. People whose lives you’d like to impact. Ways you’d still like to serve the world around you.

If you feel a loss of purpose—which is perfectly common after retiring from a long-held position of work—consider volunteering time for a cause you are passionate about or even taking up a part-time job, e.g. as a tutor, babysitter or pet sitter.

Get to know yourself better during this time. Rediscover old passions, and forge new ones. If you don’t already, now is a great time to begin journaling—or better yet, blogging!

Establish a social network

Because retirement is a major shift that sometimes results in feelings of loneliness, it is important to be intentional in setting up a network of social engagement. Stay in touch with former colleagues and friends, but don’t be afraid to seek new relationships as well. Retirement is a journey you shouldn’t have to go on by yourself! Enroll in a class based on your interests, for instance. This is a great way not only to hone new skills but also to get to know other people with similar interests.

Your golden years are called golden for a reason. Retirement is a gift that, if embraced, can offer years and years of joy and fulfillment. Plan well, understand what to expect, and you’ll be ready to master the transition into this exciting new chapter of your life.

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