We all ask “How much money will I need?” and “Do I have enough saved?” But while financial security is certainly critical, people need to amass more than money for a successful retirement. They need to stockpile their emotional reserves, as well; courage, flexibility, acceptance, motivation, curiosity, etc. Too few people consider the psychological adjustments that accompany this life stage, which can include coping with the loss of your career identity, replacing support and friendship networks you had through work, spending more time than ever before with your spouse and finding new and engaging ways to stay active.
Some retirees ease smoothly into retirement, spending more time with hobbies or family and friends. But others, research finds, experience anxiety, depression and debilitating feelings of loss, says Robert Delamontagne, PhD, author of the 2011 book “The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement.” “People can go through hell when they retire and they will never say a word about it, often because they are embarrassed,” Delamontagne says. “The cultural norm for retirement is that you are living the good life.”
Psychological research has found that working or volunteering during retirement can help stave off depression, as well as dementia and hypertension. But activities aren’t always the answer, or the key to everyone’s well-being. Psychologist Jacquelyn B. James, PhD, of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, has found that only those people who are truly engaged in their post-retirement activities reap the psychological benefits.
That’s why people need to be doing social or psychological portfolio planning as much, if not more than financial planning. This needs to be done before they retire, to figure out what makes them happy. Jumping off a diving board into retirement is not advised. It’s a process and it takes time. Learn to swim first. Test the waters early and often.
Be on the lookout for the next installation of Psychological Asset Planning.