The Surprising Stresses of Retirement

We have recently had several clients retire. One of the fascinating aspects of this job is seeing how various people react to retirement. I used to be ignorant in assuming everyone would be excited about retirement. As far as I am concerned, although I absolutely love what I do, I cannot wait to have more time to pursue hobbies and interests, that is one way I view my own future retirement.

However, many times, as we have recently seen, some clients dread retirement. Perhaps if you are reading this, I am talking about you specifically. You might be one of the clients I am thinking of. You know who you are, or if it is your spouse I am talking about. Well, why are some clients dreading retirement? Is it a money issue? The people I am talking about are not worried about money, or at least should not be. No, it is something deeper than money. So what is it?

I believe some people dread retirement because it is new and unfamiliar. We are all creatures of habit. These client’s I am talking about are hard workers. Their work ethic and reliability are second to none. They have spent decades going to work on a set schedule. It has been a means of providing for their families. Work has given them purpose. It almost defines them, or at least a large part of them.

It is important to not take it for granted that leaving a job, whether due to termination, quitting, or retirement, is a major life event. Therefore, even under the best circumstances it can cause a lot of stress.

To those clients who have recently retired or can and do not, please, pay attention. Do not let fear and stress motivate you. Not when it comes between you and the prospect of a happy and fulfilled retirement.

If you are ready to retire or have retired and are stressed or depressed, please stop and take inventory of your emotions. I would like you to consider your situation as though it is not you. Pretend you are someone different and you are a good friend of this person who is stressed about retirement. What would you tell them? Would you add to their fear? Would you upset them even more? No, of course not. Would you not you offer help and support? First, you would take their concerns seriously. You would ask questions and find out the details. That way you might provide positive and meaningful guidance.

Would you want this good friend of yours to dwell in despair? No. You would want them to be happy and healthy. You obviously care about this individual; after all, you are their good friend. After an extensive conversation, you might say to yourself, I mean your friend, that they need to let go of the fear and anxiety. If a professional has verified finances are in order, they ought to enjoy retirement. They have literally earned it.

Fast forward three months. You, our client, have taken the retirement you so deserved. But there is a problem. You are depressed. You report back at our next meeting that you are not enjoying yourself. Or what is more common, your spouse reports back you are not enjoying yourself. Perhaps your pre-retirement anxiety and stress followed you. Your spouse reports you are not active, energetic, and happy. They say you seem depressed. Now we have got a problem.

Let me be clear, if you are idle long term in retirement and depressed, you will die. I am not trying to be dramatic. That is just the reality of it.

When I hear a client is finding themselves in this situation, I get upset and worried. I am fearful for my client’s life. I am fearing for my client’s wellbeing; after all, they are a friend. I want the best for you. I want you to live a long and happy life. I will therefore tear down anything in the way of that. It would be so nice to take a direct drill sergeant approach and yell at you to motivate you and move you. We all know that would not work. It is not my style anyways.

Rather, I will implore you. Find a way to be happy and fulfilled. Start small. It is not simply a switch that can be flipped. Start with a desire to be happier. If you are full of stress and not enjoying life, you need to have hope that things can change or at least you need to want to have hope.

Next, let’s wake up at a specific time. Remember when you were employed? Could you sit in bed or on the couch because you did not feel well? Nope. You went to work every morning regardless of how you felt. It was important that you were at work, people and a company were relying on you. That gave you purpose. Again, get up at a specific time. Sorry if you do not want to, too bad. Get up and get ready.

After you have eaten something for breakfast, let’s setup a goal of one task you will accomplish. Do you need to fix the railing, plant something in the garden, or fix the project car in your garage? Whatever it is, put it on the agenda and do it. Just like when you were employed, this task is demanded of you. It is not optional. The completion of that task is relying on you. This gives you even more purpose now. Now you are a handyman, gardener, or mechanic.

While you are fixing or completing that day’s agenda item, do not be afraid of distractions. Maybe you see a light bulb that needs replacing, take care of it, and return to your original task. Remember when you were constantly bombarded at work with interruptions and distractions? Guess what, those little annoyances happened because you were important and were needed. Now around the house, you are again presented with interruptions or distractions which need attention. You need to address them, because you are important and serve a purpose.

Zoom out a little and not focus on just one day. Our perfect calendar process talks about planning your week, month, and year with agenda items that you want to do. Maybe it is not all vacations and celebrations. Maybe it is quiet time. Plan activities of all kinds. Whether fun or lame, big or small, plan activities for yourself. Now you have more importance and purpose.

As you build upon this, you will rise from depression. We need to enjoy life. There is nothing selfish about that sentence. It is completely selfless. If you enjoy life, you will be happy, positive, and a good influence. Those traits will cause you to bless the lives of your family and friends. By taking care of yourself and being healthy and happy, you will be able to care for and help others around you.

I hope this article has not applied to you personally. But if you are one of the clients I am thinking of, please talk to us more if you are not enjoying retirement. We are here for you. Afterall, if you do not change and shape up, I might eventually approach this subject like a drill sergeant.

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