Try to work out if you really are the retiring type
The difference between a good retirement and a challenging one can be advance planning
In general, people who retire because they want to have little difficulty in adapting themselves to their new status
Sometimes, when my brain has nothing better to do, I wonder who or what I would be if I retired. Would I be among the happy ones who go around annoying their still-working former colleagues by declaring that I didn’t know where I got the time to work or would I be one of those who struggle with creating their postwork life and identity?
I suspect the latter.
I don’t expect to find out the answer to the question, though. If I want to keep up my opulent lifestyle I’ve got to keep on working and I feel quite okay about that. I’m lucky enough to be in lines of work in which continuing is feasible.
In his massive tome Psychology, the Science of Mind and Behaviour, Richard Gross outlines phases of retirement as described by American psychologists.
The phases might not, in my opinion, apply to everyone (except for the last, which you can guess) but knowing about them could help if you’re relaxing by the pool this summer in the knowledge that you will have retired by next summer.
In general, people who retire because they want to have little difficulty in adapting themselves to their new status. Those who retire because of poor health form the least satisfied group though Gross notes that health often improves after retirement.
Retirement can also be challenging for people forced to stop working unexpectedly, perhaps because the employment shuts down suddenly and their age prevents them from getting another job. In such a case, the person also has to deal with the sudden loss of the familiar world of the workplace and perhaps with a sense of having been rejected.
For many people, the first phase of retirement is the “honeymoon” phase. The person has a sense of freedom they might not have experienced for many years and they can be quite busy, perhaps with moving house and making financial arrangements.
If you didn’t prepare for retirement, this is the phase in which you can easily feel lost
The next phase is one to watch out for and maybe to do some planning around. This is the “disenchantment” phase. Things begin to slow down, you have less money, and maybe the activities you looked forward to have lost their appeal. You might have dreamt of playing golf every day but even Tiger Woods probably gets fed up with that. And you might miss the sense of belonging you used to get from your colleagues. If you didn’t prepare for retirement, this is the phase in which you can easily feel lost.
The good news is that next come the “reorientation” and “stability” phases when you figure out what you can realistically do and how you can live your life in a satisfying and meaningful way. In other words, you master the role of being retired and quite possibly form a new psychological identity. The latter might include being a grandparent, a gardener, a walker, a volunteer, or even something disreputable like using your free travel pass to smuggle cheap cider across the Border after Brexit, or becoming the oldest swinger in town.
Whatever it is, try to enjoy it because next, say the psychologists, with delightful sensitivity, comes the “termination” phase. Some people just keep going in fairly good health until one day quite suddenly they, as a cousin of mine puts it, “fall off the perch”. My mother managed this and I hope to emulate her. Other people go through a period of dependency and ill-health. Because of the human trait of habituation, which basically means we can get used to anything, that could be an easier experience than you might think.
Anyway, no need to focus on the termination phase as you order another poolside pina colada. But what all of the above adds up to, I think, is a case for doing a bit of planning about retirement and in that regard you could do worse than look at the website of the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland. I suggest you scroll down to the “guidance” link and take it from there.
– Padraig O’Morain (@PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email. His latest book is Kindfulness (email@example.com).