When it comes to making the transition to retirement, I’ve been luckier than most. I was able to work as a freelancer to supplement my income, while I worked on building my own business. I live in the same country as my son and his wife. Perhaps most importantly, I have – touch wood! – managed to avoid any serious illnesses.
Still, even with all of these factors working in my favor, I found the transition to retirement super challenging. Like many older adults, I struggled to get my expenses under control after my monthly income dropped. In addition, with my career ending, I had to look for new sources of meaning and social interaction in my life. Finally, refusing to accept invisibility, but no longer having to wear business casual, I fought to get in better shape and find a style that worked for me.
What is striking to me as I look back on my own transition to retirement is how little money played into the equation. Ok, let me clarify that… money was HUGELY important. Like many women, I struggled to find my financial feet after leaving my corporate job. It’s just that money wasn’t the hardest issue that I had to deal with. The softer issues – like staying social and finding new sources of meaning – were the ones that I was least prepared for.
For most of our lives, when we think about the transition to retirement, we worry most about how to manage our money. We may ask questions like, “What should I do with the money in my 401K?” “Where can I get a safe return on my money in a low interest rate environment?” or, if we didn’t save enough, “How can I make a little extra money in retirement?”
A few questions that we are less likely to ask include, “How am I going to stay social now that I no longer need to have coffees with people at the office?” “What investments should I make in my health, fitness and appearance now to make sure that I experience healthy aging?” and “What volunteer organizations, social causes or groups can I join to help me find meaning in my life after retirement?”
Looking back, I wish that someone older than me had given me some practical advice about managing the transition to retirement.
I wish someone had told me to plan on working in retirement. I wish that someone had reminded me that the toughest questions during every phase of our lives, but, especially during retirement, are the ones that have to do with finding meaning. I wish that someone had told me to get in better shape BEFORE reaching retirement age.
I’d love to get your perspective on this!
What advice would you give to a friend who is getting ready to manage the transition to retirement? Would you focus on financial advice? Would you talk about finding meaning or the need to be needed? Or, would you simply tell them to relax and enjoy the ride? Please join the conversation.