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How to Mentally Prepare for Retirement

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During your career, it isn’t uncommon for Sunday evenings to be a foreboding experience as we look ahead to a week of work. In those moments, the thought of retirement can be blissful. After all, no longer would Monday morning signal the beginning of a 5-day commute!

Yet the reality is that retirement is a huge life event, and can bring a big set of lifestyle changes which can often leave people feeling a bit “lost in themselves.” This is completely normal. For those of us who have spent thirty or so years building a career, ceasing paid work could even be a frightening thought to do the potential loss of identity that might entail.

As financial planners in Lincolnshire, we spend much of our time helping clients prepare for the financial aspects of retirement, such as ensuring you have enough pension income to meet your financial goals. However, it’s important to recognise that retirement isn’t simply a set of financial decisions – it also brings significant emotional implications.

It’s a good idea, therefore, to not only have a plan for your retirement finances. It can immensely beneficial to have a plan to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally, to help ensure that you take your later years in your stride.

Don’t just plan for your income, where you will live and whether you will upsize or downsize. Think about what you will do with your time, and what purpose will occupy your thoughts.


Take an Honest Look

To start preparing yourself emotionally for retirement, take some time to honestly reflect on how you feel about no longer working and earning. Do you feel excited, anxious or neutral?

Writing these thoughts and feelings down in a journal can be helpful for some people. The really important next step in the process, however, is to ask yourself why. Why do you feel that way?

For instance, if you’re excited about retiring then reflect on why that is. Does it offer the chance to escape a career which has become tedious, and open up time to pursue a hobby or passion which you have previously not had the chance to entertain (e.g. learning an instrument)?

If you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of retirement, again, ask yourself what the root of that anxiety is. Could it be because you have no idea what you will do with all of the free time? Perhaps you’re worried about becoming isolated and feeling lonely in old age?

These are all legitimate feelings which are important to acknowledge. After all, once you’ve identified them you can then begin to do some inner reflection, asking yourself:

“Is this feeling grounded in reality, or just my perceptions?”

“Is this feeling set to last well into my retirement, or is it likely to pass with time?”

“Is there anything I can practically do to mitigate these negative feelings about retirement, and/or encourage the positive ones?”

It might be, for instance, that you’re very excited about retiring because you can finally learn French or another language you’ve always wanted to pursue. However, if you devote all your time to this endeavour immediately after you retire, then you’re likely to be done within a few years. What then? Are there any other passions or purposes which you can move onto?

Or, perhaps you’re feeling worried about social isolation in retirement (this can be particularly pertinent to people with no children, or grandchildren). Is there anything you can do right now, and in the first few years of retirement, to address this? Perhaps you could volunteer at a local charity shop, or join a choir to start making friends with like-minded people.


Start Planning

Once you have a clearer idea of what you’d like to devote your time and energy to in retirement, it’s time to start laying some practical and emotional “stepping stones” in the years leading up to it. This will help you ease yourself into retirement and transition into your future lifestyle at your own pace, making it all feel a lot more natural and comfortable (as opposed to a sudden “jolt”).

Part of your preparation will, of course, be financial. Speaking with an independent financial adviser can help you identify an appropriate strategy to meet your financial goals, helping to ensure you have enough money to support your desired lifestyle in retirement.

From here, start to think about ways to prepare practically for retirement. For instance, if you plan on devoting your time to writing books in retirement, is there anything you can do to start developing skills, and space (e.g. a study), right now? Perhaps you could be looking to develop connections with other authors or publishers, so you have a network of people you can consult with once you have time to really start writing?

After that, much of your preparation will be personal and mental. For instance, try not to hold onto negative attitudes about retirement as you approach it.

If you believe that retirement will be a terrible experience, then guess what? Your experience of retirement is much more likely to actually reflect that. So try to find the positives about the next chapter of your life, and focus on those.

Yes, your identity might change as you finish working, but this is a great chance for other parts of your identity to develop and come to the fore. It’s an opportunity to possibly create a new identity for yourself if you so choose. That could be a bit frightening, but it’s also exciting.