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Psychological Portfolio for Retirement – It’s Not Just About the Money

By Harriet Cabelly March 10, 2020 Mindset

We’re all accustomed to hearing and reading about planning for retirement, which usually only covers the financial side of things. There’s no minimizing the importance of money to live on. We know, however, if we really think about it, that retirement entails much more than financial consideration.

Sure, we think about things we will do once we retire; bucket lists we want to tick off. But do we really give it as much thought, planning, and overall attention as we do to our financial life post-retirement?

Retirement Is a Complex Matter

There is a lot to navigate in the realm of what we call our psychological portfolio.

First of all, we must recognize and acknowledge that retirement is a major life transition. And transitions require adjustments. Adjustments involve our psychological and emotional inner landscape.

So, what are we adjusting to? We are acclimating to a whole new phase of life that entails a lot of change. Routines and structure are gone, and change is overall scary. Everything we’re used to – even if we complained a lot – is gone.

Transitions are difficult. We need to be kind to ourselves during this time.

There’s actually much loss involved in retirement. We usually think and connect the idea of loss to death. But loss entails more than death; it is anything we have felt connected to – that we value, that has meaning and significance to us – that is gone and leaves a void in our lives. Hence, retirement.

Let’s look at the various types of specific losses that are a natural part of retiring.

Loss of Our Identity

With retirement we lose our professional identity. For some people this has been their entire persona. Their sense of self is greatly tied in with their professional/work lives. Who they are is what they’ve been doing for all their working years.

“I’ve been an accountant for 40 years, now who am I?” When we don’t have that descriptive ‘work’ word after the “I am a,” how do we fill in that blank? Who are we now without our work?

Loss of Social Connections

During our work years our colleagues play a big part in our lives. We spend most of our daytime hours with them. Water cooler talk, lunch talk, work complaint chatter, and drama all connect us socially even if our colleagues don’t become ‘real’ friends outside of work.

Loss of Purpose

Work provides us with a reason d’etre, something to get up and go to, even if we didn’t like the work itself. Now what are we waking up to? What is our focal point?

Purpose provides us with that big circle of life; what we connect to, what we’re doing with our lives. We now have to re-purpose our lives and connect ourselves in a new direction and find that guiding light.

Loss of Accomplishment and Productivity

There could be a sense of emptiness and a void. We’re used to feeling like we’ve done something (hopefully) useful. At the end of the day, we have something to show for our effort and work. We now have to figure out how to get that sense of satisfaction outside the workplace.

Loss of Structure and Routine

We don’t have the 9–5 any longer. Now what?? We’re creatures of habit and routine. Now there’s this open and clean slate. For many this openness and possible void can feel quite disconcerting.

Grieve Your Loss

We need to recognize and allow ourselves to feel the loss of a lifetime of work and all that it entails. It’s normal and natural to feel sad, to grieve. We must give ourselves permission to be in this state of flux for awhile and tend to ourselves in a kind and gentle way.

Our old carpet has been taken out from under us, but a new one will surely be put down after we go through our shedding stage and decide which new color and quality of carpet we’d like. Or we may decide on wood flooring instead. Either way, it will come, with time and understanding that this is all good.

Find the Steps You Need to Take

Eventually, the various emotions that come with entering a new phase of life introduce steps that help us to figure out this next chapter.

Here are a few suggestions for step-taking along this new path.

Create a List of Favorite Activities

Think about and write down a list of interests and things you enjoy; those you’ve put on the back burner for a while and those things you continue to engage in that bring you joy. Include new things you’d like to learn.

Embrace New Possibilities

Seek out new opportunities. See it as an adventure. The world is our oyster, waiting to be peeked into with open eyes. Seek, learn, be curious, take risks. Be open to possibility.

Seek the Things You Value

Think about what’s important to you, what you value, what’s meaningful and begin to incorporate things/ideas that truly matter to you.

Look for Ways to Socialize

Stay connected; don’t isolate. Try out new social networks. Make new friends, connect with the old ones who may have been neglected along the way.

Mindset and Attitude Are Key

The saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is an old myth. We’re primed to keep learning as long as we believe that we Can.

This new life phase will require some stepping out of your comfort zone. Getting comfortable with some discomfort is growth. There’s a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered now that you have more time and flexibility to connect with You, your interests, and pursuits. Curiosity and a love of learning can take us far.

So think these 3 Rs when planning for the big R:

  • Re-imagine
  • Re-invent
  • Re-build

And connect with these 3 Es:

  • Energized
  • Enthusiastic
  • Exercise

Motion (Exercise) and Emotion are similar, as are their Latin roots. When we keep moving, as we can, and our emotions will move within us as well. Our initial sadness will move to hope and excitement as we uncover and rediscover our selves in our new and next phase of life.

What does your retirement portfolio look like? What have you thought about besides financial preparation? What will you miss the most from your work? Do you have a specific plan of action or will you see how things unfold and evolve? Please share in the comments below.

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The Author

Harriet Cabelly is a clinical social worker and positive psychology coach. She is passionate about helping people cope and grow through their critical life-changing circumstances, guiding them towards rebuilding their lives with renewed meaning and purpose. Visit her website, and sign up to get free chapters from her book, Living Well Despite Adversity.

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