Wealth Management

Handling the psychological aspects of your transition to retirement

Matthew Swieconek
17 November 2023
6 min read

Many people have mixed feelings about retirement and it’s easy to understand why - it’s a major life event. For those approaching this time, the transition to retirement can start to feel like facing your own mortality, and you may experience fears around losing your sense of purpose or anxiety about what the future holds. In this post, we explore some of the lesser-known aspects of adjusting to retirement.

What makes the transition to retirement so daunting?

Firstly, having a happy retirement depends on how you define it. For some, it’s throwing in the towel altogether and embarking on a work-free, stress-free life. For others, it’s about keeping their toes firmly dipped in the workforce, be it through volunteer work, family businesses or various side hustles.

Yet, no matter the type of retirement you have in mind or how excited you may be, there are bound to be some fears that accompany this new life stage.

Financial security

This is one of the main causes of fear when transitioning to retirement, mixed with the fact many of us are living for longer than we may have accounted for in our financial planning. According to statistics, the life expectancy of Australians has increased by 13.7 years for males and 11.2 years for females over the past five decades. Studies show that most Australians underestimate their life expectancy by five years. While none of us know what the future holds, running out of money and not being physically able to find a suitable source of retirement income is a legitimate fear.

Boredom and loss of identity

Many retirees struggle with feeling unhappy after retirement and find themselves experiencing emotional and psychosocial challenges. Statistics indicate that depression affects up to 22.7% of retirees with identified causes of mental health issues including a drop in income, loss of independent living, and bereavement.

Transition to retirement: how to cope

Is retirement syndrome a real thing?

Retirement syndrome (also called retirement blues or retirement depression) refers to the challenges associated with leaving fulfilling careers behind. In its truest sense, it refers directly to those who once held a position of leadership or authority such as a CEO or entrepreneur. However, it’s also used as an umbrella term for anyone who severely struggles to find happiness in retirement. Instead of feeling relaxed and free, you grieve the loss of your old life.

Potential symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy

  • Changes in appetite, weight, sleep, or energy levels

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others

How to cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of retirement

When transitioning to retirement, anticipating the potential challenges and opportunities as part of the retirement planning process could help you feel more prepared.

For instance, leaving active employment might lead to a loss of identity and sense of purpose, depending on the value you placed on the job and the role it played in your life. To overcome this, try to discover a new sense of purpose, whether it’s going to social clubs, spending time with family or trying new hobbies.

Write a list of all the possible changes retirement could bring about and create a plan on how to deal with them. Here are some further tips and recommendations.

Set expectations and goals for retirement

  • How do you envision your retirement?

  • How much do you need to live comfortably based on the average life expectancy?

  • Do you intend to continue working after retirement, and for how long?

  • If you're unable to work to supplement your retirement income, will you have enough resources to sustain you?

  • How do you plan to handle your healthcare needs during retirement?

With your expectations clearly outlined, you can then design goals that align with your vision. This may involve things like:

  • Setting a retirement budget

  • Discovering new interests

  • Downsizing your home earlier

  • Moving to a less expensive area

Maintain your identity and self-worth beyond work

It's okay to derive your sense of self-worth from work, but it's equally essential to balance work and life so you have time to pursue meaningful goals outside of your career. Think about finding alternative pursuits well before you retire. This may include pursuing hobbies and finding new interests, building deeper relationships outside work, and participating in community activities.

Establish a social network and support system

Retirement comes with a change in social scene. Without the daily interactions you enjoyed with colleagues and clients, there's a risk of social isolation and loneliness, which could lead to serious mental and physical health risks.

As you approach retirement, try to account for this by strengthening your social network and support system in advance. You can achieve this by making new friends, nurturing existing relationships or relocating to be near family.

Monitor your mental and physical health

Aging and the impact this has on your body can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. Keep on top of your wellbeing by creating a daily routine and weekly structure to mitigate the effects of boredom and isolation. Include these in your new routine:

  • Seeking out social connection

  • Engaging in meaningful activities

  • Remaining physically active

  • Keeping up with regular medical check-ups

  • Enhancing personal development

  • Working on developing healthy coping strategies

There are also resources and tools designed to help retirees ease into their transition to retirement. These may include:

  • Online courses or resources

  • Workshops and community events

  • Books and apps

Coping with your transition to retirement

Transition to retirement with Findex

Now you know that transitioning to retirement has emotional implications, and learned of potential ways to combat some of these retirement challenges, where do we come into the picture?

We’re passionate about helping people plan for the life they want. Whether that’s setting retirement goals, identifying investment opportunities to help supplement retirement income or helping you navigate the psychological aspects of retirement. We’re here for you no matter where you are in your retirement journey.

As trusted financial advisers, we work closely with you to help you achieve your financial goals and ease your worries through integrated financial planning and wealth management services. For more information, get in touch with our retirement planning and pension advice experts.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the thought or position of Findex Group Ltd.

Author: Matthew Swieconek | Head of Investment Relations