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Are You Emotionally Ready for Retirement? 5 Tips to Prepare You for Life After Work

By Marcia Smalley July 27, 2022 Mindset

“Retirement” is a hot topic.

Data shows that Baby Boomers exited their jobs in greater numbers in 2020 than in 2019 with the pandemic being a contributing factor to this exodus. Retirement is changing the face of the work force.

Our feelings about retirement are a mixed bag. Some people can’t wait to retire; others can’t imagine doing it. Some people feel retirement is a privilege; others feel it’s a well-deserved reward. Some people feel the need to come up with a different word for retirement; others don’t understand why that matters. 

Whatever our thoughts about it, we can agree that retirement is a Life Transition, a point in time where we let go of what used to be and await what comes next… and where we wander some unknown territory in between. 

And, like any life transition, retirement demands some emotional muscle building, emotional planning. If you’re embarking on a retirement journey or even thinking it might be in your future, it’s never too soon to prepare. You can start by trying these suggestions on for size…

Rely on What You Know

You’ve experienced many transitions already. You’ve navigated your way around and through a lot of change. 

Think back to a few of those changes and think back to what carried you. What qualities did you develop that helped you through uncertain times? How have they shown up in other areas of your life?

Rely on those qualities now.

Heck Yes! and No Way!

Make two lists. One list is five things you love about your life right now. Your must-haves. One list is five things that must change (even if you don’t know how to change them, exactly).

Commit to doing one thing this week to celebrate something from list #1.

Watch for opportunities to chip away at something from list #2.

Repeat as you can.

Phone a Friend

  • How do you define friendship?
  • Who are the people in your life who are there for you?
  • Who is someone you’d like to get to know better?

Answer these questions, reflect on your responses, reach out to one person and connect. When we’re faced with change, we need support.

Let Things Go

As we fly through the air with the greatest of ease, if we don’t release the trapeze bar, we can’t grab the one coming toward us. Sure, it means we free-fall for a micro-second (which can feel like eternity). But we must let go before we can move on.

Practice letting go with your closet, your garage, or your desk drawer. Release, purge, toss some of your stuff. 

Move on to other rooms, other belongings if that feels right. Have a farewell ceremony or just fill a trash bag. There’s no right way to release.

Along the way you’ll work the muscles that you’ll use when you let go of something bigger, like a job or work friends or daily office conversations.

And you’ll make space for the New. 

Dream a Little Dream

Devote some time to your imagination and let it run the show. Give your creativity a workout. Dreams are the cousins of your emotional muscles and are critical to a happy retired life… and using them is fun, too!

  • List 5 places you would love to visit. Create an itinerary for one of them.
  • You have one free afternoon and can spend it any way you wish. Write about that!
  • Plan 5 acts of kindness and carry one of them out this week.
  • Make a vision board that depicts your wishes and hopes for your retirement.

If you can’t dream it, it will never happen.

There are several ways to prepare for retirement that have little to do with financial planning but everything to do with building emotional strength.

You can prepare in advance, and you’ll probably prepare again along the path. The important thing to remember is that, whatever steps you take, it’s okay if they’re small. In fact, small steps are best.

Those small steps become the building blocks for a fulfilling retirement… whatever you choose to call it.

What are some ways you’re preparing emotionally for retirement? Have you done some “emotional planning” during other life transitions? Join the conversation!

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I was forced into early retirement and am having a difficult time focusing on the positive aspects of this new chapter. Working friends are all envious but I feel unfulfilled, no long mentally challenged, no purpose and pretty much bored. Retirement is not cracked up to what it should be for me because I don’t have children or grandchildren to occupy my time. Traveling abroad has been my outlet but being solo is not that much fun. Pros and con list didn’t help much because the cons are listed above and I’m in a quandary on how to change this low self worth or purpose in life.


Perhaps you can find volunteer opportunities near you. Volunteering is a great way to help you feel good about yourself. Finding a library, senior center, thrift shop, or museum to volunteer your time may help you find your purpose in retirement, while giving you the chance to meet people & make new connections.


Thank you all the great information you give it’s very helpful and looking forward to planning

Marcia Smalley

Thanks for reading, Tracy. Wanting to return to work is fairly common, and I encourage you to follow your instincts about this. Scheduling afternoon hours is a good suggestion. Overall, you won’t know whether part-time work feels right to you until you try it. So keep your eyes open for an opportunity that fits. Wishing you the best!

Lisa Nazarenko

Tracy, if you don’t want to lose your slow mornings, would it be possible to work only afternoons? Or only certain days each week? Part-time work can be very flexible, depending on the kind of work you want to do. Good luck!


I just finished my first year of retirement, and truly loved it. But, now as year two approaches I’m considering going back to work part time. This is partly because of the expense of travel and just living right now, but part is that I have a lot of open time. I’m not a grandma yet, so there’s that. My house and gardens are spotless, but that’s nothing new from when I was working. I get excited about being needed at work and the extra money, but I get sad thinking about losing my slow mornings. I’m in a quandary to say the least! I’m 61 years old, btw.

The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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