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Moving from Retirement Perceptions to Retirement Realities: 3 Tips for an Easier Journey

By Marcia Smalley August 21, 2022 Mindset

We’ve seen the brochures. You know the ones – smiling, gray-haired couples are playing tennis, having dinner on a patio, toasting during a midnight sail. Celebrating The Perfect Retirement. 

But is the entire retired world lounging at the golf course 24/7? Is that everyone’s reality?

My vote is “not so much.” Some images and perceptions aren’t valid for everyone. We aren’t all going to be pictured on those brochures. And even those of us who could be may not be up for a never-ending vacation.

I’m a big fan of leisure, but the conversations around retirement are changing. In 2022, everyone’s retirement looks different. That’s not only okay, it’s liberating. 

As we step away from some long-held perceptions about retirement, we move toward some new realities. We open up to possibilities that are specific to each individual.

It can feel exhilarating and a little daunting, going out there to forge a new path without a brochure. It helps to be grounded in a few truths.

You Can’t Move Forward Until You Let Go

One of the most common issues facing new retirees is how to leave their work identity behind. Releasing the role you had is a retirement reality that can’t be avoided. 

The somewhat sudden inability to explain who you are within the context of your job can leave you feeling at a loss. But it’s that time between who you were and who you are becoming where you’ll find your footing and mine for gold

Mourn any loss you feel. Accept that this “time between” is a little scary. And lean into letting go.

Everything in Its Own Time 

Checking off boxes on a to-do list is gratifying. But a little bit of box-checking goes a long way. We won’t spend our entire retired life getting things done (remember leisure??).

Another retirement reality is that it can be hard to figure out what to do with your time. A retired life can last for decades. How do we continue growing? Where do we want to put our energy? How do we figure that out?

Take a few deep breaths and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your retired life won’t take shape in a day either. You actually create it one decision, one choice at a time.

Take that time; trust that time. Find the Joy in that time!

Don’t Tell Yourself Scary Stories

Bette Davis famously said that “old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Let’s face it, aging presents us with challenges we’ve never dealt with.

An undeniable retirement reality is that we have a new set of concerns, including finances, health, and staying connected to other people. But here’s the good news: if you’re reading this, you must be up for the task… because you’re still here! 

As we craft our individual, unique retired lives, we address our individual, unique retirement challenges using our particular gifts and skills. We draw upon our resilience, our experience, and our support systems. Whatever it is, we can and will figure it out.

But it’s hard not to become doubtful, worried, or even frightened.

So, as you move forward on your retirement journey, it helps to take things one step, one moment at a time. Notice if you’re heading toward catastrophic thinking, and save any scary stories for when (or if) they actually happen. Or for sitting around the campfire during a leisurely vacation.

Retired life is yours to design. If you could create your own brochure or bumper sticker or billboard, what would it say? How many versions would there be? More good news: you get to decide.

What are some retirement realities you’re facing? How are you dealing with them? How are you creating your unique retired life?

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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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