What to expect when you retire

20 Apr 2021

Many are looking forward to their retirement. They are excited about the prospect of new beginnings and enjoying their golden years. Fast forward a few years and they are suffering from depression or seem lost. What happened you might ask? 

Retirement, like any major life event e.g. going off to university or starting your working career, has a profound effect on a person. You go through a roller coaster of emotion and find yourself in various phases of emotional wellbeing. It is even possible to go through several phases at once or even skip a few.

This is different for everyone, but it is important to be aware of these various phases to better understand them and get through them.

Pre-retirement planning – We spend our entire working life saving for retirement, but often never give thought to what we would do when we retire. In the years leading up to retirement, we need to visualise what it would be like and what we would like to do with our time e.g. to spend more time with the grand kids or travel frequently, or perhaps create that prize winning vegetable garden you always wanted. Not having a plan in place will leave us feeling lost and without a purpose.

D-Day: Golden handshake and parties – A stage of euphoria similar to a wedding. Lots of celebrations and praise and presents.

Freedom and the honeymoon – Life is great. This honeymoon phase varies in length according to how much you want to accomplish. It normally includes the bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to do. Travel the world, start those hobbies, visit family etc.

Is this it? Disenchantment – once this extended vacation phase is over, you find yourself falling into depression. After the highs of a great honeymoon phase, you realise that life goes on and you need to get back to reality. This often develops into a nosedive of emotion and disillusionment. Is this my life going forward? What now? Your colleagues are still working, and you have all this free time on your hands. Quite often loneliness and isolation set in if you don’t have a plan. 

Finding the new you: identity crisis – This is probably the most difficult emotional phase to get through and requires some effort. This is the phase after the let-down, when you navigate your new surroundings and settle into new routines. You question your identity and purpose and even usefulness. Unfortunately, some may never get passed this stage.

Through a bit of effort, you find a new normal and settle into it. Schedule your daily activities and get a plan in place. For example, your new hobbies, daily routines of laundry and cooking, part time job, grocery store runs, dog walking, fetching grandkids from school or even volunteering a few days a week. 

This plan of action should give you a sense of normalcy and purpose. The ideal situation is to expect and plan for this stage before you retire. By being aware of it, you can deal with it

Finding your flow: new routines – After battling through an identity crisis, you fall into your new daily routines. It becomes familiar and your anxiety settles. This phase sees you through the rest of your retirement years. You have found a new purpose and zest for life. *