Every day in the United States, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. The pandemic prompted many adults to retire sooner than they planned. No wonder we’re all hearing about friends and family who are retiring or thinking about it. I have several friends who took the big step.
One friend, who worked for the state of California for almost 30 years, was growing frustrated with his job. Deciding to retire was easy for him. He told me, “Some people worry about falling into a deep depression after they retire. I’m expecting to fall into a deep elation!” As far as I can see, his expectations have been met.
Another friend retired after working as a physician for 35 years. He and his wife cared for his elderly mother until she passed away at 99. Now, they spend time with their children and grandchildren who live nearby and, by all accounts, are busy and fulfilled.
While I’m 70, I have no interest in retiring any time soon. Working part-time now, I enjoy my work and love spending my free time helping my daughter with her kids. When I fully retire, I suspect that I might get in my wife’s hair (she works from home). And like most working stiffs, the structure of work is good for me; otherwise, I might want to sleep in on Monday morning if I had my druthers.
I see this frequently. Joe retired from Boeing and can’t wait to spend his free time fishing, hunting and puttering around in his wood shop. The first couple of weeks are great! He loves sleeping in and not worrying about when he must go to bed. But after a month or two, he notices that he’s getting less and less done. He’s watching a lot of TV but hasn’t done has much fishing or hunting as he thought he would. He’s been out to his shop, but isn’t sure what project to start.
Let’s be realistic. Retirement is a huge life change for most adults. By the time the average individual retires, he or she may have spent 45 years as a worker bee. In my experience, women tend to do better than men. In our society, female identity primarily tends to be centered around their relationships — wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. Many women retire and spend more time with family and friends.
Men’s identities often revolve around their work, as do their relationships. Being a breadwinner, a mechanic, a lawyer or a carpenter defines male identity. Furthermore, many men (and women) do very well when they have a structure but may take that structure for granted. Having to be somewhere 9 a.m. on Monday morning provides a shape to the week that might not be present otherwise.
Eventually, everyone must stop work. The goal is to prepare effectively for that day so that when it comes, adults are ready to make a transition into a different lifestyle.
Here are some important points to consider:
What are your goals for retirement? What do you want to do when you retire? Spend more
time recreating? Focus on hobbies? Travel? Volunteer work? Take classes? Think about what’s important to you at this time in your life. Recognize that your priorities will likely change over time.
Plan ahead. Just as in other big life changes, it’s good to think ahead. How will you structure your time? What challenges may lie ahead? How will retirement impact your relationship with family? What about health care? Have you considered your options?
What about living arrangements? Where do you want to live? Do you want to age in place or do you imagine living in a retirement community? Do you want to downsize?
What about finances? Do you know how much you can afford to spend on a yearly basis? If you’re in a relationship, is your partner on the same page on spending?
Both of my parents thoroughly enjoyed their retirement. I hope to do the same when I finally hang up my shingle.
Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic, a part of Optum, where they’re working to create a healthier world for everyone. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/health-