How To Emotionally Prepare for Retirement​

Written by: Jacqueline Osgood-Renouard – BA (Psychology)

Last updated date : December 29, 2022

People tend to focus on the financial aspect of planning retirement but fail to learn how to emotionally prepare for retirement. Adjusting to retirement is quite a challenge, especially for those who identify themselves through their career.

Over the years, you’ve learnt that your time equals money, so what happens when that’s no longer the case? It can stir up quite a few emotions, denial, anger, sadness, nostalgia, joy. All of the feelings you feel now are entirely valid, as it’s a big transition.

Eldely lady meditating on how to emotionally prepare for retirement outside her house

“Very practical suggestions” Peter

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Chapter 1:

Not Just Financial Planning

Although financial planning is an important aspect of retirement, it’s not the main emotional transition. Some people choose to retire, get themselves ready, come retirement day, they leave feeling excited to have all their time back. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Sometimes you don’t get to choose your retirement. It could be because your health required it or that you were made to leave for various reasons. There are even cases that you decided your retirement date, and when the day arrived, it felt sad.

Walking away from your income, coworkers, and the routine you enjoyed takes time to adjust to. Expect a sense of grief or overwhelming loss, as it’s normal to begin looking back at your life and wondering what the future holds.

Some people may jump into scheduling their day full of different activities in an attempt to recreate that work schedule. That, too, can be exhausting and cause a sense of frustration.

Chapter 2:

Psychological Transition to Retirement

Many people when adjusting to retirement choose to stay working or take on hobbies and activities. But sometimes, this leads to a greater sense of overwhelming emotion. So instead, look at what about your work-life gave you fulfilment. How can you gently transition those things into your new life?

Do some deep self-questioning, and consider every aspect of your life. For example, what level of social interaction is right for you? Ask yourself whether a sense of contribution and engagement is needed in your day-to-day? How can you manage your time to create joy?

Are you a problem solver or a creative? How can you bring these into a new routine? How can you communicate your needs with your family? Can they help you discover how to emotionally prepare for retirement? This is a great way to open up conversations with our loved ones on both an emotional and practical side.

Just because you are retiring doesn’t mean you don’t matter anymore. On the contrary, you have a lifetime of wisdom under your belt that you can share with others. This doesn’t mean you need to become a public speaker (although could be a fun way to find purpose), but you can share your advice with loved ones and the people you meet.

Also, look at all the different phases of your life, childhood, the twenties, thirties, mid-life. Begin to write down all the things that you loved about those segments of life. Next, write down everything that didn’t quite work. Specifically, look at how you coped with the transitions between them and what you learned from each transition.

Chapter 3:

Physical Transition to Retirement

Whether you are physically ill or perfectly well, retirement is a time to focus on your physical health. For some, that looks like medication and physical therapy. For others, it’s a time of good nutrition and exercise.

Why bother if I’m retired, something I hear a lot, and can completely understand. My answer is because you have the time to put yourself first. You also don’t need a lot of money to move your body. There are social groups that take walks or hikes, some cities also provide free classes in yoga, pilates, swim classes, Tai Chi, cycling, and loads more.

Nourishing our bodies does a wonderful thing in negating symptoms of depression and anxiety that are caused by adjusting to retirement. If anything, anyone retiring should consider at least twenty minutes of exercise a day, and it doesn’t need to be intense exercise.

As well as a mood booster, it will help keep the mind occupied, get you socialising, and strengthen your body at the same time. There’s no rush in doing everything at once, but consider one activity that you might enjoy and gets you moving.

Chapter 4:

How to Emotionally Prepare for Retirement

Learning how to emotionally prepare for retirement will depend on what you love and your individual needs. Of course, everybody has a different way of adjusting to retirement, but here are some ideas to get you started in emotional preparation. But, ultimately, it’s up to you to understand your own emotional needs at this time.
  • 5 Hours of Purpose: Losing a job can mean losing a sense of purpose. One way to regain your sense of purpose is to carve out five hours in your week to dedicate to your new purpose.
  • Remember It’s A Choice: You should leave work when it feels right for you. If you wish to keep searching for part-time or other forms of income, that’s fine. It’s completely your choice, even if coworkers disagree.
  • Emotional Support: Having a good emotional support system is great, whether that’s friends or family or even professionals in the field of retirement transitions.
  • Putting Health First: Mental and physical health is so important. If you’ve never had the time to tend to them throughout your work life, then retirement is a perfect time.
  • Do Online Courses: There are so many free online courses, we don’t believe that retirement means you should stop learning about the things you love.
  • Sense of Community: Whether that’s in volunteering or finding people who love the same things and activities you do. A sense of community can help lift our spirits and battle some of that loneliness that creeps in during retirement.
  • It’s Not The End: Many of us look at retirement as the end of our life, but you may still have another thirty years. It’s the beginning of a period where your time is your own – and you get to choose what you focus on.

Chapter 5:

Retire Part-Time

As with many things in life, adjustment is a gradual process. Jumping from full-time work to no work at all is sometimes what triggers an emotional reaction. So instead, think about how you can ease the transition by perhaps retiring part-time at first, which will help you in adjusting to retirement.

Learning how to emotionally prepare for retirement means learning to slow down gradually with work. Much like when we begin an exercise routine, we have to slowly build the muscles to lift heavier and heavier weights.

In this case, having part-time work or volunteering part-time can help the psychological process of acceptance. We become accustomed to a new routine much easier than if we jump straight into our retirement.

Chapter 6:

What Does Retirement Look Like?

The Perception

There is a perception of retirement before adjusting to retirement that we will absolutely love it. It’s what people work their whole lives to get to. We form a beautiful image of playing with grandkids, enjoying hobbies, and travelling the world. After all, it’s like one big holiday, right?

Not exactly.

The major transition is from feeling like you’re achieving something to feeling like nothing is left to achieve. No tasks are being watched over, nobody telling you what to do, nothing you need to get done.

At least that is the feeling.

The Reality

Your achievements are shifting into something more meaningful. Your life prior might of had a lot of meaning, but the main driving factor was money. Now you’re retired, while money may still be a factor for some, now it is time to focus on what brings your life true meaning.

This is a new beginning that will bring you far more fulfilment than a career ever could. Does that sound impossible? Well, it isn’t because, after the adjustment period during retirement, you begin to settle into a new routine.

You may go through phases, like the excitement of pre-retirement, challenges of adjustment, and a period of depression, but you will come out the other side. On the other side, you’ll see that your time is your own, that you can find joy in the little moments that were taken away by work.

Shaping The Life, You Want

What do you want your retirement to look like? And what is possible with what you already have? There’s a falacy that you’re not in control of your retirement, part of learning how to emotionally prepare for retirement is learning that you can shape it how you want it. For some, retirement looks calm, living in the countryside, fishing, playing golf, and seeing friends and family.

For others, adjusting to retirement looks like teaching the skills they have to younger generations, perhaps starting a small business doing something they love. It could even look like travelling the world, exploring different cultures and climates.

The possibilities for what retirement looks like are endless. It’s about planning the shape you want it to take—plan for what you want the next stage of your life to be like. Look at details like where you want to live, what you want to do, and where you want to end up when you need more physical care.

It’s a time of exciting new possibilities; although the transition is challenging, it won’t always be.

Chapter 7:

Finding Fulfilment in Your Retirement

You are still moving forward with your life with loads to look forward to in the future. Remember to plan out this next stage, transition slowly into retirement, and shape your future.

The only constant in life is change, everything is always changing, and retirement is no different. Look back at how you overcame the emotional difficulties of change in the past. Then ready yourself for this one.

Look for fulfilment and put your needs first. Take the time to take care of yourself, and try not to stress too much about the transition. Adjusting to retirement takes time, but with intentional thought behind your planning, you will soon see a shift of emotional wellbeing.

Don’t forget to seek the help of professionals who can help this transition period go smoothly. Then see which way this new path for life takes you. Enjoy the process of getting to know yourself as an individual better, and we wish you all the best! Also, check out our article on Life After Retirement: Finding Fulfilment for more tips on how to spend your time.

"Very practical suggestions" Peter

95 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount