Often when we talk about retirement, the financial aspects of this change in life are highlighted. Of course this is important, but as the period that we retire can extend to many years, we need to be psychologically prepared.
Process of Change
Essentially retirement needs to be thought about as a process of change, as opposed to leaving something or stopping everything! Retirement is not just one, but instead many transitions, and coping with these transitions depends on the following: the role of work and family in the life of the individual; the timing of retirement; the degree to which work has been satisfying; the degree to which retirement is planned for; the expectations one has about retirement; the degree to which a meaningful life is established and, of course, one's health and sense of financial security.
In other words, there are many factors that contribute to helping people negotate the retirement transition.
Which one are you?
An interesting way of looking at retirees are the following ways in which people approach retirement:
l Continuers: Those who continue using their existing skills and interests
l Adventurers: Those who start entirely new endeavours;
l Searchers: Those who explore new options through trial and error;
l Easy Gliders: Those who enjoy unscheduled time, letting each day unfold;
l Involved Spectators: Those who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways
l Retreaters: Those who take time out or disengage from life.
different Strokes For Different Folks
Looking at an individual’s past, present, and future as a whole explains why people differ in their retirement experiences.
Interestingly, researchers have looked at the connection between retirement and physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Their studies examined what happens to people who exit the work role in a society where work is central to one’s identity, and also how the retirement experience differed for men and women.
They found that retirement brings different rewards for husbands and wives.
Noting that most couples do not retire at the exact same time, researchers found various levels of marital satisfaction and depression for different combinations of employment and retirement.
Newly-retired women tend to be more depressed than continuously retired or not-yet-retired women, especially if their husbands remained employed.
Newly-retired men experience more marital conflict than non-retired men.
In addition, newly-retired men with employed wives tend to show higher marital conflict than newly-retired men with non-employed wives.
However, men who are retired and reemployed, with wives who are not employed, have a higher morale than couples where neither spouse is working.
Some researchers have found that those people most happy in retirement enjoy a variety of activities, ranging from volunteer work, exercise, continuing education and so on.
Many on the road to retirement plan to spend a lot of time travelling, but increasing or unexpected physical ailments may make extensive travelling difficult, so be flexible in planning for retirement activities.
So here are the questions that you should ask in order to determine if you are ready psychologically to retire:
1. Do you enjoy your job? Does it provide a sense of meaning and purpose in your life?
This is critical. Some people enjoy what they do so much that it would be unwise to retire unless they can replace that sense of meaning with some other activity or passion.
2. If your job is stressful, is it retirement you seek, or a change in careers?
The point is the decision to retire is about what you value. Are you a working type, or a creative leisure type?
3. Does your job provide critical social needs in your life?
Are most of your friends work associates? Does a good part of your social life revolve around work and the people at work?
If the answer is “yes”, you may want to postpone retirement until you cultivate the supportive
social networks beyond your workplace friends.
4. Are you prepared psychologically to retire?
Do you have a retirement plan? Do you have hobbies or interests that will fill your time? Have you realistically considered what your life will be like as a retired person?
What about longevity? Will you live longer as a retiree or a working individual? Research by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, as part of their Longevity Project, shows that people who have meaningful careers and are especially productive have the longest lives.
As Friedman and Martin state, “Striving to accomplish your goals, setting new aims when milestones are reached, and staying engaged and productive are exactly what those following the guideposts to a long life tend to do.
The long-lived didn’t shyaway from hard work for fear that the stress of it would lead to an early demise; the exact opposite seems true!”
May you Retire Well.
Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist