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The Psychology of Retirement Is Built on These 5 Principles

By Joshua Goulding November 17, 2020 Lifestyle

The stress of working day after day, year after year takes its toll on the mind and body. Retirement is the promise of an end to the rat race. The feeling of relief from being dependent on a job to live the lifestyle you want to live is liberating.

As one gets closer to this inevitable end, however, there is a different stress that pops up – what am I actually going to do in retirement? Spending 40 or more years having a routine offers a predictability that humans gain comfort from.

Knowing where you are going, what you are doing, and feeling fulfilled from accomplishing a work product co-exists with the cumulative stress of a career.

When work disappears, so do the deadlines and the grind, but they are replaced with a different challenge: the challenge of how to fill up this newly freed up space and time. The question to ask yourself is, ‘What am I going to retire to, not from?’

The following are considerations you should take as you approach retirement:


What have you always wanted to do and never done? This is a powerful open-ended question that will lead you to places you might not expect. Since we are often so busy going to work, raising kids, and handling day to day chores, it is easy to miss the big picture.

Take your time with this question and follow it down various rabbit holes. Write out your answer in detail. If nothing comes to mind, that is okay. You still may have a passion or interest that have not yet been fully explored.


What kind of a legacy do you want to leave? I do not mean only financially, although that could be a part of your legacy. If you imagine in your mind’s eye your loved ones speaking at your funeral, as dark as that may seem, what would you hope that they say.

What lessons do you want to impart to your kids, grandkids, and society as a whole? What are your values and how have they been expressed in the world? For some, this was their life’s work, but for others it might be charitable work, family time or some creative expression.

Health and Wellness

As we get older, it is even more important to pay attention to health and wellness. This is an unavoidable part of a happy and successful retirement.

Strength, balance, and mental acuity naturally decline as we age. Incorporating yoga, stretching, and healthy eating all contribute to a more vibrant, energetic, and happy retirement. Like anything we do regularly, it becomes a habit.


It is easy to become isolated in retirement because you do not have the social connection that work provides. Also, when people retire, they often relocate, and it is easy to become disconnected from old friends.

Isolation and loneliness are two of the leading causes of depression in retirement and are common. The best way to ensure you stay connected is to ENGAGE.

Engage with your neighbors, your local community, place of faith, family, and friends. You would be amazed how many people you can connect with who share your passion and interests.


Any plan you have will surely change in retirement, but the importance of planning is critical. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, ‘’Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.”

You will face some exceedingly difficult challenges in retirement, and planning can make those challenges easier to confront. Losing a spouse and dear friends are very painful experiences that retirees go through.

It can be hard to let go as your kids move to a different part of the country and start lives of their own. Having your financial planning in order can ease the financial burden for a surviving spouse. It can also protect your kids from taking on the financial and emotional burden of ongoing long-term care costs.  

When you address all five of these topics with concerted effort, you are bound to live a more intentional, fulfilled, and peaceful life in retirement.

It might seem overwhelming to tackle all five things at once, so start with one that is the easiest for you to answer. Then build on it. Breaking it down further, take the smallest action possible towards your goal. Do it now!

Are you planning to retire in the very near future? Which of the five areas discussed above do you still need to tackle? How will you go about it? Please share your thoughts with the community.

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The Author

Joshua Goulding is co-founder of 4J Wealth Management in Alexandria, VA. He is a CFA Charterholder and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner, teaches retirement planning classes and webinars and is a contributor to U.S. News and World Report. Josh is passionate about helping people manage the multidimensional issues facing retirees – monetary and lifestyle. Josh can be contacted at

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