The Psychology of Retirement

The Psychology of Retirement


Often when we talk about retirement, we talk about it in terms of saving. That is not a bad thing, especially considering that most of our working lives we are dedicating money to a retirement fund. But one of the most overlooked factors to retirement is the psychology of it.

It can be all too easy to think about retirement as a monolithic numbers game, yet the psychological consequences need to be thought through so that you can feel safe and secure heading into your golden years!

By placing emphasis on retirement as a life transition, it can help mitigate the feeling of anxiety or stress surrounding the process. What does your bucket list look like? A trip to Asia? Driving cross-country to babysit your new grandchild? Volunteering for a safari in Africa? All of these ideas are ‘big-ticket’ items, and once those are done, what will your days look like?

Retirement will bring about a lot of changes for your day-to-day routine. That confusion can lead to depression. Studies have shown that the likelihood of developing chronic depression increases to 40% after retiring.

This significant hurdle can be overcome by making a conscious effort to plan for the lifestyle you want in retirement. Just like you would plan for your financial livelihood, use those same tenets to help build up your personal livelihood plan for retirement.

All change is difficult, but here are some tools that can help make that transition a little easier.

Home is Where the Heart Is

In retirement, your living situation very well may change. It is important to think about where you see yourself and how you can plan to get there. Here are some options to consider.

  • Stay in your own home
  • Downsize your home to free up cash flow to pursue some of your other hobbies like traveling, art, fashion, music, etc.
  • Move closer to family or friends

When thinking about the space you will want to live in, consider it part of your holistic retirement plan. If you know you want to be near your children and they are farther away from you, plan for the logistics of the move including pricing and timelines. The more that you plan ahead, the more secure you (and your family) will be in your retirement plans.

Run Forrest Run

Staying active in retirement is crucial to long-term happiness. The endorphins you get from exercise are important for your physical and mental wellbeing. Any type of exercise will help you stay in shape and help you feel like the best version of yourself.  Some great ways to exercise are:

  • Walk
  • Hike
  • Yoga
  • Swim
  • Aerobics
  • Dance

Going to an aerobics class or a dance class could also be a great way to meet new people and help form a community.

After a colleague’s grandmother retired, she trained and completed an Ironman Championship Triathlon in Hawaii. That feat had always been a dream of hers, and she took it on when she had the time to dedicate to training for the race. Whatever form of exercise you choose, build it into your new routine and you will be happier.

The Reason Is You

In your working life you had many motivations, most of which probably surrounded on advancing your career. Once you find that has changed, how will you work to keep yourself motivated?

Think about some of your passions and list them out. Find at least 3-4 things that you do that bring you joy or things that you have an interest in learning more about. Once you have these items, think about ways to implement them in your new life.

Passion Projects

If you have a green thumb, why not use this time to tend to and cultivate your dream garden. If you see this as more than a hobby, try to find a part-time gig at a florist’s shop. You could even take this love and do some DIY flower or garden projects to sell at your local farmer’s market.


Get out of your pajamas and put on your good shoes to go meet some of the members in your community. See what events your local senior center has going on– most offer exercise classes like yoga, game nights, and volunteer events. Becoming more active in your community will help restore motivation and purpose in your life that may be feeling more empty since you stopped working.

Attend classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman – They offer courses to further learning, health and well-being, personal connection, creativity and enjoyment. They also have trips, special interest groups, social events and a lunch-and-learn series.

Just for Fun

Have you always been a big reader? Well after you have bonded with some people over the game night you went to, you may have discovered that some other people like the same types of books that you do and they want to start a book club. Finding like minded people to form quality relationships with is wonderful to help enrich your life in retirement.

Keep Calm and Hustle On

Just because you have retired does not mean that you have to give up working all together. Many retirees have part-time jobs. Maybe you have always been musically gifted and want to give piano lessons, or you want to be a salesperson in your quaint small-town boutique. Part-time work will help give you the structure you need to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle in retirement.

If you loved the work you did at your old company and are still interested in working there ask to see if there are any other options for you. You could perhaps do some consulting or change your hours to a more flexible schedule.

If working at your old place of employment isn’t an option for you then find work that you have always been interested in and pursue it. It may seem silly to make a career change at this stage, but think of it as an investment in your new life.

Do Good

When retirement rolls around, you often have more time to devote to things you care most about. One way to live this out is through volunteering.
Volunteering for a charity or non-profit organization can help you make a difference in the world. It is also a wonderful way to develop a community and create a sense of belonging.

Planning for retirement is two-fold. It involves an active savings strategy, but it also requires you to think about a new plan, a new structure, a new way to live. Retirement isn’t just a walk in the park – but it could include that if you want it to.

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