Retirement Health Series, Part 3: Emotional Health While Preparing For Retirement

By:  Michael Townshend

Published:  October 19, 2018

If we Google “Retirement”, over 80% of the references will discuss financial preparations and post-retirement spending.   Another 10 to 15% will address issues of physical health management allowing for an active and enjoyable time in our later years.  Certainly, these are necessary topics to plan well and enjoy a retirement with minimal worry, assured that we will be able to afford a comfortable life in the best health for our age.  Still, a Retirement from a career and life to which we have become accustomed represents a huge change in so many ways and from the moment that we make the firm decision to leave our job, most of us experience anxiety that can be subtle but is very real.  We will experience mood swings that we cannot explain and wonder why a time in our lives that is so filled with promise frightens us.

I have good news.  Many folks with whom I have worked have profited from emotional and psychological preparations.   Here are the most effective:

  1. Acknowledgement:  It is best if we look at the fear of change squarely and talk openly with our spouse/partner and family about how the coming change makes us feel – usually, mixed with the promise of good times ahead, there will be uncertainties.  We and our loved ones will profit from talking through both the future activities and joys, as well as the very natural fears – fears of the unknown. And remember, no matter how clever our visioning of retirement has been, the reality may be different.  Be ready and talk to each other about how this feels.
  2.  Have a clear PLAN, a plan for activities such as travel, hobbies, time relaxing, and for a day-to-day agenda that includes our own enjoyable interests, but also those of our partner with an eye to supportive consideration for use of time – It’s “our” time, not just “my” time.  HINT: If we make decisions and create a vision for how our plans will unfold, let’s do that before the Retirement Day – this is filled with less anxiety and more likely to succeed.
  3. Remember that a key joy in our lives up to now has been that we have lived with a PURPOSE. Please consider carefully how to replace the built-in purpose of our career with activity that fulfills us.  Many, for example, find creative ways to volunteer their time, energy, and knowledge for the benefit of others.

Mike Townshend is a social psychologist, certified mediator and retirement coach.  He has over 20 years of experience as a coach, senior trainer, and facilitator to both major corporations as well as government agencies.