Tradition dictates that at some point in our lives we will retire. For some, retirement will follow an orderly progression, and at age 65 with a sufficient retirement nest egg saved they will take the plunge. Others will be forced to deal with the harsh reality of difficult times and may find themselves without a job before they are ready to retire. And some people will transition from one career into another, preferring to stay active rather than withdraw from the working world. Whichever path you end up on, moving into retired life can be challenging.
Those who are forced to retire before they are ready to face uncertainty on many fronts:
Feelings of isolation. It is not uncommon to feel alone in retirement, even though many retirees share the same experience each day. Retirement often cuts you off from your social connections at work, and it can be overwhelming to suddenly feel alone and adrift in the world. It’s a good idea to cultivate new relationships outside the workplace in the years leading up to retirement.
Financial worries. Without sufficient savings, how will I pay the bills? When you don’t have financial security, retirement can feel like a struggle just to survive day to day. People in this situation often need to find ways to generate new income.
Anger. It can be frustrating to be pushed out of a job you worked hard at for many years. And the resentment will build if you have difficulty finding a new position. Just because you are getting older does not mean you are no longer qualified to do your job
Self-doubt. After repeated rejections, some older job seekers may start to doubt their skills. Years of experience can seem to mean little when compared to younger and cheaper employees. Try not to take rejections personally.
Lack of direction. In the midst of our career we knew pretty much what to do each day. There was a plan. Now you have to fill your own calendar with activities.
Resignation. There are so many younger prospective employees to compete with. And in many cases the boss will be half your age. Sometimes job seekers eventually give up on finding new work and settle into retirement.
Even those fortunate enough to voluntarily transition into retired life are not guaranteed a smooth ride:
Empty nest. Helping our children to become independent adults is the goal of all parents. However, when the person we have loved and supported all these years heads out the door to live their life they can leave behind a big void. At a time in our life already filled with change and uncertainty, that departing young adult may only add to the struggle.
Planning for meaningful activity. Once retired, we leave the working world behind, and the days become ours to do with as we want. But without meaningful activities to pursue we lack the richness and feeling of accomplishment that makes living worthwhile. Keeping busy for the sake of killing time is a recipe for disaster. And just accepting life instead of striving to get the most out of each moment is a waste. We need to fill our retirement years with something worth our effort. Try to experiment with what you might like to do in retirement ahead of time so that you will be prepared for a fulfilling second act.
What do I really want to do with the rest of my life? If you retire at age 65, you could have 20 or 30 more years ahead of you. And you get to choose how to fill that time. You need to figure out what you are most passionate about, what inspires you, and what gets you excited about being alive. Unless you discover what will give meaning to your retirement years, you risk letting valuable days and positive opportunities pass you by.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.