← Back to Blog

Managing the Emotions That Come With Retirement

A senior woman sits at home looking at her laptop and smart phone

In our culture, retirement is pinned as something to look forward to, filled with a sense of joy and adventure. So, it may feel weird if you find adjusting to retirement brings up other feelings. The reality is there are a wide range of emotional effects of retirement, all of which are perfectly normal. Most major life-changing events — like marriage or divorce — involve an ongoing process of emotional adjustment, and retirement is no exception. While research on the stages of retirement has barely begun, it’s clear that the psychological process of retirement follows a similar emotional pattern to other phases of life.

Stages Of Retirement

Pre-retirement: forming a plan
This stage can last 5 to 15 or more years before your actual retirement date and involves imagining your new life and planning for it. As you shift your focus from building your career to the financial planning aspect of retirement, you need to consider what will make you feel happy and fulfilled. Doing so can help you have a much smoother transition.

For many, this stage is full of excitement and anticipation, but it can also be a time of worry and doubt, especially in the year or two before retirement. Anxiety tends to set in when people worry that they won’t have enough money saved for when they retire.

The big day: the end of an era
It’s typically only one day, but it marks a big change comparable to getting married or welcoming a newborn. It’s a day when you know things won’t be the same and is usually marked by a dinner, party, or other celebration.

Honeymoon phase: freedom!
After you retire you get to do all the things that you wanted to do once you stopped working, such as travel, indulge in hobbies and visit relatives. This phase comes with feelings of excitement, relief and freedom from the stress and responsibilities of your career. How long it lasts depends on how much honeymoon activity you have planned.

Disenchantment: is this it?
After looking forward to retirement for so long, many retirees must deal with a feeling of letdown. It can bring feelings of loneliness, boredom, uselessness, disillusionment and even depression.

Reorientation: who am I now?
This is easily the most difficult stage in the retirement process and takes both time and conscious effort. Once you can gain a sense of closure about your working days, you’re more able to enjoy your retirement. To avoid falling into a rut and depression, it’s important you find a sense of purpose by pursuing a passion, volunteering, adding new fun retirement hobbies or other activities to your daily routine.

Routine: moving on
In this stage, retirees are settled into a fun and rewarding retirement lifestyle by doing things that make them feel fulfilled. They sometimes prioritize simplifying their lives by moving to a Life Plan Community like Freedom Village at Brandywine. Senior living can allow you to age in a place while also providing access to health care, amenities, activities and friends.

Dealing With The Emotional Effects of Retirement

Like any big moment in your life, there are things you can do to help you adjust to your new normal by borrowing from what you used to do. Those include:

Structuring your days
When you worked, you had a daily routine: alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, pack a lunch, head out the door and drive to work. Establishing a retirement routine could help you adjust but it can be more relaxed than your working days. Start with various activities and time slots to see how it makes you feel.

Setting small goals
While work revolved around making deadlines, finishing projects, or getting a promotion, you can still focus on retirement goals. Working towards a goal can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishing new things can give you a sense of achievement.

Growing your friendships
After decades of meeting friends through work and seeing them every day, once you retire there’s a significant risk of becoming isolated. As part of restructuring your daily routine, schedule time to see your friends. Ask a friend to meet you for lunch every Monday. Go for a walk with another on Wednesdays. Meet a friend for coffee on Friday afternoons. You can also check out programs offered at your church or a local community center or find a group of like-minded people who share your interests or hobbies.

Considering an “encore” job
If you want, you could also take a part-time job. It can help you meet new people, give you a sense of purpose and help your budget.

Creating a new budget
Even the best savers might have to make some spending adjustments after retirement. To start, figure out what you need in your new post-career life and what you don’t. Establishing a budget will help you see how much money you have for entertainment or fun.

Whether you choose to help at your local library or decide you’d like to volunteer at the hospital, look for ways to get involved in your community. Studies show that seniors who incorporate a low to medium level of volunteering in their lives report more satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression.

Being flexible
It will likely take a fair amount of experimenting to help you find just the right balance of how you want to spend your time. You can always increase social activities later or develop new hobbies if you want to stay busier. The joy of retirement is that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experiment. It’s up to you to design the type of day — and kind of life — that you want to live.

Discover The Freedom To Do Retirement Your Way

Choosing to retire at Freedom Village at Brandywine with other active adults and everything you need to make new friends, restart your hobbies, or go on travel adventures is the perfect fit for you as you adjust to this new period in your life. To learn more, use our Community Assistant chat feature or contact us here.