Early Retirement Adjustment: 3 Successful Strategies to Keep your Health, Self Esteem and Relationships

Festus Otasowie

early retirement adjustment

Why The Need For Early Retirement Adjustment?

Early retirement comes to many people as a shock. This is what creates the need for Early retirement adjustment, especially where this comes as totally unplanned.

Now, even if it was something you may have been expecting or even requested you will still need to adjust to a life of retirement.

So, whatever the case –planned or unplanned starting a life of early retirement needn’t be a death sentence…Well unless of course, you let it become so.

Retirement adjustment issues can be dealt with and managed proactively if you know how to.

If anything, on the positive side, you are getting a chance at a new shot at life while you still have all your energy and zest to pursue many of the interesting things that you had missed out in your full time working career days.

Do you remember such luxuries as “quality time with family” which you couldn’t afford all these years?

What about the planned vacations that never held? We are all too familiar with the many stories we had to invent to calm the kids and our disappointed spouses.

This post highlights some of the key strategies you need to know to properly manage Early Retirement Adjustment

Emotionally Afraid To Retire

Come to think of it, every employee lives with one fear of another.

The fear that peers could be better than you. The fear that you may not be good enough. The fear that at some point your boss may not like you and perhaps for no fault of yours…

If you are a minority, you could be afraid of marginalization or worse still you could be afraid of discrimination on the basis of gender.

That is the reality that generally confronts many people in the modern workplace.

But of all the fears that often talked about in the workplace, the fear of losing your job is probably the most common. 

Now there are many reasons one can lose a job, restructuring is again one of the most common. Restructuring could be as a result of Mergers and Acquisition or due to changes in the industry that your organization would have to respond to.

As you would expect, every restructuring does always have a cost objective, and once there is a cost objective, management’s first recourse is staff reduction.

And here comes the big issue: once staff reduction talk starts..it is the older employees that create the biggest “opportunity” for the largest savings.

So enters early retirement.

So it is little wonder that if you are aged 45 above there is always a feeling of trepidation once the talk of restructuring muted.

The bottom line is we are emotionally afraid to retire. We therefore would need to devise some early retirement adjustment techniques to overcome that fear. 

There are three emotional fear factors related to retirement: the loss of professional status that’s closely bound to self-image, change, and concern over how to spend the extra time.

It is no news that many people build their lives and identity around work.

In the words of the psychologist Louis Primavera of Touro College in New York City, who cowrote the 2012 book The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire, “We plan around work. It is part of our identity”.

In fact, besides our names the question of where we work is probably the next most asked questions in social gatherings.

And unless for a few professions like medicine where the title of “Dr” goes with you, for many others, there is usually almost a fear of losing our personality when we lose our job positions.

Now, what about dealing with change?

People dread change and would avoid it if they can at all costs. Retirement is no exception to this.

Nancy Schlossberg, a professor emerita of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, and now of Sarasota, Fla., where she is a consultant and public speaker on life transitions; Describes retirement as “a series of transitions,”

So whether you call it to transition it is essentially change and people’s first reaction to change is fear.  

In her book “No Fear Retirement: How to Enjoy A Fun-filled and Fulfilling Life When You Retire” Pamela Houghton creatively lists Ten top fears of retirement using the acronym “R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T”. She describes the first “E” as “Expectation –What can I expect during my transition from work to retirement”.

So whatever the fear you have of retirement, there are always recommended ways to manage them as you would discover as you read on.

7 Stages of Retirement

Many people have difficulties adjusting to life of retirement because they don’t know what to expect. Like we have already discussed in the foregoing, many of them have fears that are still lingering and have not yet been resolved.

So let’s get to understand the different phases of retirement.

According to Robert Atchley, professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology and former director of Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center, in his book “The Sociology of Retirement (1976)”,  there are 7 stages of retirement which are described briefly below:

  1. Pre-retirement phase: Which he describes as the phase before the actual retirement event involving financial planning and is characterized by the development of leisure skills and the development of expectations, fantasies or fears.
  2. Honeymoon: A phase where you enjoy your new-found freedom doing what you didn’t have time to do before you retired
  3. Rest & Relaxation: This is where people who were very busy during their working years decide to do very little during their early retirement years
  4. Disenchantment: A phase where some may experience a letdown or sometimes depression as they adjust to retirement.
  5. Reorientation: A phase where you now develop a more realistic expectation of life in retirement and exploring more fulfilling activities and establishing a satisfying routine
  6. Stability: A phase where you have mastered the role of retirement and know your choices and are doing what satisfies you
  7. Termination: Here the retirement role is ended either by sickness or disability, death as a result of old age. It could also be due to loss of financial independence or return to full-time work.

Some people may ask: Why do people still struggle with adjusting to retirement when these retirement phases (and their characteristics) are well documented?

As always it is simple. Not many people know this.  And when you have been hit with early retirement, the chances are that you have had little time to prepare.

No wonder, therefore, people are anxious are the talk of retirement. For many it is like preparing for an exam, you never really feel you have prepared enough.

Adjusting To Retirement Depression

As we saw in the fourth phase of retirement “Disenchantment”, people may sometimes fall into depression during retirement, especially when it comes early.

In fact, A 2012 study done by Elizabeth Mokyr Horner, a health services and policy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, found that male retirees experience high levels of satisfaction directly after retirement, but then it falls sharply a few years later.

This study, therefore, corroborates Robert Atchley’s “Disenchantment” phase of retirement.

While it is not inconceivable that retirement and depression could have some psychological connection, “The relationship between retirement and depression is not straightforward,” According to Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, clinical director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She further says “We lack a lot of good empirical evidence on the impact of retirement.”

But then, according to a study by the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, the likelihood that someone will suffer from clinical depression actually goes up by about 40% after retiring which seems to provide the empirical evidence that Dr Lehmann talked about.

So how then do we deal with retirement-related depression?

Many studies also suggest meaningful engagement as a cure for post-retirement depression. Apart from keeping retirees healthy and busy, studies also support meaningful activities aiding longevity.

The good thing about the kind of engagement referred to here does not have to be the same type of preretirement stressful work.

This could be study, volunteer work or participation in community activities.

The objective is to keep one mentally and physically engaged and prevent boredom.

This is one sure way to adjust to retirement depression.

Adjusting to Retirement Relationships

Just like in many other aspects of the changes expected in retirement, relationships are not often spared.

Still referencing Pamela Houghton’s book where she lists the top ten fears using the R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T”,  the second “R” is “Relationships –How will my relationships change?”. Indeed one of the first challenges people have to face is early retirement adjustment in their relationships.

For example, there is generally an expectation from spouses and other closed relatives to be more involved and available to them. Children may expect you to spend some of your time with grandkids.

So failure to meet these expectations may create a strain in your relationships with the requesting parties.

Spouses may also expect that since you have more time, you should also contribute to doing domestic chores, or to participate in other activities of their choosing. Again while these may not be bad in themselves, unmet expectations create strain in relationships.  

If most of your acquaintances were work colleagues, you may feel awkward going to the same places you all used to hang out since you are no longer colleagues. Unfortunately, very few people have friends that are outside their work environment especial;y if you have spent a considerably long time there.

What about the impact of changes in lifestyle on the relationships?

For one, the impact of the financial aspect of early retirement adjustment cannot be trivialized.

As if often the case, retirees may find themselves having to live with as much as 30% reduction to their preretirement incomes. If this was not properly discussed beforehand, it could become a very big issue between spouses.             

Secondly, many families build their lives around work and children. What then happens is that in many cases, once the children grow up and live their homes and one now person retires he or she may soon find out that there is nothing they have in common with their spouses anymore and as such may opt to find a more meaningful and satisfying relationship elsewhere.

Sometimes it may just be the presence of the retired spouse is now causing a “{space invasion” which the other spouse cannot manage and so leads to conflict and if not resolved separation.

So how do you manage the impact of retirement on your relationships?

Here are three suggestions that can help in adjusting to retirement relationships:

  1. Spend time planning: be clear on how you want to spend your time during retirement. Make sure you share your plans with loved ones especially with people who could potentially be impacted.
  2. Have conversations around managing the expectations of those close to you. Pay particular attention to those who may want you to play babysitting roles whereas you are planning to spend lots of time traveling or pursuing new interests
  3. Integrate your loved yours in your planning. Expectations that you would be more available after retirement is not out of place. So take care of this expectation by also accommodating them in your planning.

Retirement Coping Strategies

To successfully make early retirement adjustments it is essential to learn how to manage the changes created by retirement both in your life and that of the people close to you.

We must develop essential retirement coping strategies.

If you take this simple approach then you won’t be struggling with retirement when the time or retirement arrives.

As in all changes, the first thing to know about successfully managing it is understanding it as much as you can.

That is what this post is about. Helping you make sense of some of the issues and challenges you may not be aware of as far as adjusting to early retirement is concerned.

So in addition to many of the suggestions already made here are more strategies for coping with life after retirement and making the necessary adjustments for a fulfilling retirement.

  1. Get Busy: Many experts agree that getting busy during retirement not only positively affects your health but also could prolong your life and keep you from depression. Look for interest groups where you can serve or else look for less engaging work to do perhaps just a few hours a week. This need not be paid work if you are predisposed. But by all means, the aim is to avoid being bored doing nothing.
  2. Look after your health: Healthcare costs are one of the highest costs incurred by retirees. Healthy eating and regular exercises could go a long way to keeping you living a fulfilling retired life. The exercise does not need to be strenuous especially if you have existing health conditions. A simple walk around the block could be all you need to keep you in good shape.
  3. Keep your mind engaged: Many people volunteer to share their knowledge as mentors on a voluntary basis. Others may devote their time to put down their knowledge by writing a book. Whatever you choose to do make sure you are engaging your mind and keeping it stimulated.

These strategies are by no means exhaustive. So if you are ever wondering how to survive retirement, then following the suggestions above is a good place to start.

If you are a retiree and would explore some activities to generate online passive income Click HERE.

It couldn’t be any easier as we have provided some simple steps to get you started.

You may also be interested in our Retirees’ Guide to Starting Email Marketing or our guide on eCommerce. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) On Early Retirement Adjustment

1. What are the major areas people are afraid of when it comes to early retirement adjustment?

There are three emotional fear factors related to retirement: the loss of professional status which impacts self-image, managing the change and over how to fully utilize the extra time

2. How can I avoid boredom during retirement?

Many people avoid boredom by finding other engaging activities during retirement. Some people volunteer while others may engage in other activities such as learning new skills

3. How can I manage my relationships post-retirement?

Relationship issues arise from self-esteem issues and unmet expectations. Understanding the many phases of retirement and its potential impact on you is one way to manage to ensure your relationships are not negatively impacted. Involving loved ones during the planning of your retirement also ensures that everyone’s expectation is properly managed.

4. When do I start planning for retirement?

It is never too late to plan for retirement even when you are not near retirement age. Experience shows that the people who benefit the most during retirement are those that start planning early
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