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Retirement’s coming – ready or not!

Three challenges and tips to overcome them…

We may be over 50, over 60 or even older when retirement looms, but one day it will arrive, whether we’re ready or not.

We might have carefully timed our retirement or retirement might be foisted upon us in an unplanned way through redundancy, retrenchment or health / family issues. The process of retiring can be a challenge, whatever the circumstances and regardless of our financial position. Here are 3 common challenges and simple ideas about how we can meet them.

Sense of loss

Retiring is not just about clearing one’s desk and walking out with a box of personal knick-knacks. On one hand we may be mentally high kicking at all that freedom, but on the other hand, retiring’s an ending, so naturally it can be accompanied by sense of loss, even grief. Feelings of loss may be triggered because we are leaving a great team, altering well established connections with colleagues, forged by sharing workplace and personal challenges and successes, life’s highs and lows.

Often there is an opportunity to mark the moment with a retirement event, ranging from a formal dinner to an informal small 10 minute get together – one that suits the person retiring. Such rites of passage help manage the emotional transition for all concerned and provide an opportunity to express mutual appreciation.

Retirement events often require a retirement speech, a word of thanks. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what and who we will miss, our achievements and changes we’ve seen in our working life. We can share some interesting anecdotes and advice gleaned from our experiences, acknowledge collective endeavours and importantly, show our appreciation for colleagues and family support.

As we retire, if we acknowledge the gifts that work has provided, it’s possible that our sense of gratefulness may temper our sense of loss.

Heydays’ Tips

  • Think about what you’ll miss about work and how you can show appreciation for it
  • Plan a retirement function to mark the occasion
  • Acknowledge those who’ve helped you through your career in person or by letter
  • Include close family and friends as you mark retirement

Identity crisis

Feelings of confusion may arise as we let go of a defined work role. We’ve had a title, we stood for something, we were known for our skills, approach and knowledge, for what we contributed. We’ve had authority, we could get things done. In social settings we’ve had a ready response when someone asks “and what do you do?” Now we’re not sure, how to reply, we may be treated differently, no one approaches us for our skills and knowledge. An identity crisis may ensue.

Belonging to a group is an important contributor to one’s psychological health and having a role within a group can provide personal clarity and a sense of security. Part of the challenge in retiring is to recast your position. In addition to family, we can consider the groups we may already be part of, or may wish to join, and possible roles we can play in those groups. It may be as simple as being a regular member of 4th grade team in the tennis completion for your local club. It could be being a lead volunteer for the local parks and wildlife association.

Alternatively, we could become known for a specific skill or knowledge base that gives us standing with a community. Whatever we choose, being part of one or more groups or contributing through a specific role, is a great way to reshape part of our identity.  And for fun, why not create a new title that suits our lifestyle? Wildlife Volunteer? Trainee Surfer? Family Poobah? Community Philosopher? The sky’s the limit.

Heydays’ Tips

  • Join a club/association or group aligned to your interests or skills
  • Take up an active role in a group
  • Offer your skills to an organisation as a volunteer or casual employee
  • Give yourself a creative title that describes your new status

Lack of purpose

When we are working we have usually have a routine, set work times that keep our days structured and predictable. Our work’s mission is usually set by leaders of our organisation and priorities are often decided by others. For many of us considering retiring, work seems known and comfortable – a lot of decisions have been made for us.

As we retire, we will be setting our own agenda and timetable (in consultation with loved ones of course!). Not just for the working week but for up to the next 30 years of our life. That’s a large blank canvas to work with so it’s nor surprising that some fear a lack of purpose and shape to their retirement.

Reaching retirement provides an opportunity for us to re-assess our priorities and reflect on what is important to us, what really matters. It allows us to shape up our time based on these things and select activities that align with our interests. It may even influence our choice of holidays and the pattern of our days. For instance, if I’m interested in landscape photography I might venture into dramatic landscapes in specific seasons and even at specific times of the day or night to get the shots I’m after.

So, by allowing ourselves some space to re-group we can decide on priorities and interests we wish to pursue and make these our part of our purpose.  This will provide us with ideas of how to shape our days, weeks and even months.

For those of us who like the SMART goal approach often used at work, there’s nothing to stop us having some SMART goals in retirement. It may seem ironic to some of us to use it in retirement but there’s nothing to say we cannot use the tools we’ve gained whilst working, to make the rest of our lives the best of our lives. It’s just that we may not sweat the deadlines as we used to!

Heydays’ Tips

  • Give yourself space to re-prioritise your activities
  • Identify some interests you wish to pursue, set yourself some goals or challenges
  • Think about the shape of your retirement week and how you want to spend your time
  • Apply the SMART principles to your retirement goals

Use your support crew

In this blog we’ve stepped through 3 of the challenges we face as we consider retiring. Whilst everyone will find their own way through these challenges, seeking support from close family and friends is a no-brainer. They know us better than we know ourselves in some cases, and will have useful insights about our preferences and style that may help us navigate our way through this exciting transition.

For more tips, download the free Heydays Roadmap to Retirement where I share my ‘must do’ preparation steps. Soon you’ll be closer to the retirement of your dreams.

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