Retirement Transition – some new thoughts

Given my blog’s name, I do continue to read articles on retirement transition.   I appreciate others perspective on this life milestone.  Many writers continue to work on shifting the perspective of what retirement is in today’s world. Too often retirement is still viewed as a diminishment of the individual, a time of stagnation and decline, or just escapism.

Some recent intriguing ideas:

  • Retirement is not natural. It does not exist in nature. There are no other animals that have a life stage like retirement.  It is also more a Euro-American concept and doesn’t really exist in many countries that have longest-living citizens.
  • It’s helpful to think of retirement not as a period of “winding down”, but more as a “new growth curve”.  There could be 30-40 years between end-of-career and true old age!
  • Retirement takes effort.  Watch-outs that can lead to depression and addictions are isolation (loss of connections with end of career is common), becoming sedentary, and too much self-indulgence. Put in the effort to grow connections, to be active, and engage to serve others.
  • Have a non-financial plan for retirement, one that addresses mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  Most Retirement Planning continues to focus on just the financials.  But end-of-career (or stopping full time employment if it wasn’t career based) can also impact your sense of identity, connections to others, need for structure/routine, and sense of utility or purpose. Thinking about filling those needs is part of feeling happy/content in retirement for 30-40 years.

It took me a few years to craft a non-financial plan that linked to the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  Yes, it was a number of years before I settled on this life vision statement:

Active Body, Connected Heart, Creative Spirit, Contemplative Mind

My weekly/seasonal plans include working on healthy habits; continuing to make intentional connections to replace the social environment I had at work; learning with classes, reading, new experiences, and being a creative dabbler; and deliberately slowing down and taking the time to reflect and wander – down the beach, thru a book, at the farmers market, thru a museum.

I still hear people talk about “failing” at retirement. There are times I have felt like I’m not doing it “right”.  My feeling of failing at retirement is often attributed to not having a Life Purpose, when it is so often said (by many talking about life satisfaction in retirement) to be critical. But failing retirement can be about feeling bored or adrift or irrelevant.  I know a number of folks who have gone back to work as the default solution to “failing” retirement.  Working (part time or even a second full-time career) can be an option to fill the needs of staying connected to others, having a challenge, for a sense of accomplishment, or because they feel like they have more to give.  And in reality, income might be necessary to supplement daily expenditures or to have some discretionary spending.  But work should be a choice to fill needs, not a result of failing retirement!

Your life purpose can be your vocation.  But for many, a career was more a job than a vocation.  A life purpose can also be linked to your role in family dynamics, be about working towards mastery of something, being a life-long learner, or sharing your acquired wisdom in some way. 

For many years I lived for my work. It was a common workplace “joke” that I needed to “get a life”.  These days I feel like I have a well-balanced, curated life. Even if some days I feel like I’m failing at retirement, I don’t feel a need to go back to work. I just put more effort on those non-financial parts of the plan.  And some days I think maybe my life purpose is sharing the acquired wisdom of living a retirement life that is connected, active, and growing, even if it’s not natural!

Have you encountered any new ideas about retirement?

Picture: My latest glass plate flower crafted.

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22 thoughts on “Retirement Transition – some new thoughts

  1. I feel like the pandemic has taken away some of my outside interests that helped keep me balanced. Now…. will I do anything about it? You are always so proactive in your actions. It’s very commendable. Bernie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some really excellent and valid thoughts there! I guess I am retired but I don’t think of myself that way because my husband is still working (he retires at the end of this year). My blog helps keep my mind active and I do yoga and pilates every morning. I used to walk regularly, and will again, but broke my foot so that has had to stop for a while. I can get lonely and I can get depressed if I have too much time by myself. I like my own company and I’m a homebody but I still need connections. We all do. I think retirement can be dangerous if we are not careful so couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There continues to be 2 things I want to communicate about retirement – one is the losses you don’t expect. Other life events have losses (empty nest another big one folks don’t really expect), but most retirement planning never addresses the losses that are coming. The second is our culture of busyness & productivity. Everyone needs to come to terms with that in their own mind.

      Keeping your mind and body active plus recognizing your need for connection and making that happen are both important elements. Hopefully your awareness of these needs will help your husband transition to his retirement!


    1. I’ve shifted to thinking that life, and retirement, is a series of transitions! 🙂

      For some lucky folks, retirement comes easy. I was not one of those people. I struggled, and still at times struggle, even after 8 years of being reitred (where did that time go!). Retirement planning doesn’t think about the loss of identity, the loss of connections and belonging, the loss of structure, the loss of a sense of utility. Many of us had 30+ years setting all those elements up… so it’s not surprising it takes a while, and effort, to reestablish them. Some folks find they do not need all those things. And other life elements can cause slide back – health issues, moving, death of friends or family. Hence, life a series of transitions!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never thought about retirement not being natural. That’s a thought provoking idea. However, the amount of blood/sweat/tears I put in seem unnatural in retrospect. How did I ever get everything done? I love the words you’ve used to describe your retirement life, well balanced and curated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tracey, I know how I got things done… I had no life! Now, from connecting with folks, to an exercise program, to crafting, to studying, to planning, to doing, to being…. life is full! I also do believe some folks slide easily into retirement and some have to push & fight their way in – I was a fight my way in person. Some days it feels like the fight is over, and some days I feel like I’m still figuring it out!


  4. I wonder if left to our own thoughts without the outside world barging into your brain, IF retirement would be as big of deal as it is made out to be now? There’s a whole industry around it, but when my parents retired, no big deal. They just moved onto their next phase of life, trusting the process, doing things they wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ally, I do think when our parents retired it was a different world. First off, most did retire later in life. Second, their life expectancy was lower. My dad was only retired for a few years before ill health shifted everything and limited him on doing anything he might have wanted to do. Now, many people retire with 30 years of living ahead of them – and that’s opened up the whole industry.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve struggled with understanding my ‘worth’ in retirement and as Leann stated above that’s a societal problem. I’ve worked 43 years to be where I am now and I shouldn’t feel like I have to prove I deserve it, that’s a ‘me’ problem I’m working on! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon, You are not alone in the struggle! I feel like we need to reactivate that old L’Oreal tag line – I’m worth it. I’m worth it to do what I want in my retirement years… not what anyone else thinks I should do, not proving myself to anyone, not meeting anyone’s expectations. I said to someone the other day, “I worked for 32 years without any real life…now I’m going to live for 32 years without any real work.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. > And some days I think maybe my life purpose is sharing the acquired wisdom of living a retirement life that is connected, active, and growing, even if it’s not natural!

    Yes, I think that’s very important!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Pat – I don’t think it’s completely true that retirement isn’t part of the natural order. I watch our pets grow older and they slow down, nap more, take it easy, and don’t feel the need to be as engaged with the world as when they were younger. And older people in other countries pass the baton on to their sons/daughters while they sit in the sun and drink coffee or chat with their friends.

    I think our Western problem is we feel like we have to continue to prove our worth and find that difficult without a career to tie that to. It takes a significant re-set to understand that we have value in our retired phase of life and it’s okay to exchange being constantly busy for a more balanced way of life. I personally think that retirement is a gift that keeps on giving.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. This resonates. I’m not on the cusp of retirement exactly, but I’m quitting my 9-5 and my husband and I are moving to Europe in a few months. I think the phycological components of this transition are pretty similar to the “traditional retirement”. Your term “well-balanced, curated life”, is the life I see just around the corner. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many transitions that have similar dynamics, like a big move. I think empty nesting is another. In all, you have significant losses that need to be addressed. Best wishes for your move – how exciting!

      Liked by 1 person

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