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How to prepare yourself mentally for retirement?

Updated: Mar 21

When we talk about retirement planning, it is usually perceived in terms of how much funds to save, where to invest in twilight years, etc. The focus is essentially on getting finances in order and accumulation of adequate savings. But retirement planning is more than this math. It is also about starting a second innings in your life, akin to rebirth. Many people dream about the day they will be able to retire, be relieved of all major responsibilities and have time to relax with family.

While the thought of not being tied to your job can be very relieving, the transition from working to retirement life may not be so easy. It is a period of social adjustment during which many older individuals struggle. They suffer from the typical retirement syndrome – boredom, lack of purpose and motivation. A pleasurable retirement requires some vision and planning. Start answering these questions as you approach retirement:

(1) How will you fill up your time during retirement?

You are initially very excited once your retirement life starts. No Monday blues. You get into a set routine of going about your daily tasks. You prepare a bucket list and want to try out activities which you have never done before. Probably, travel is there on your list to visit places you have never visited earlier. What next? What are you going to do with 2,000 hours a year you used to spend working? If you are probably going to live for say 20-25 years after retirement, that would be a lot of time to kill! One of the biggest reasons of dissatisfaction in retirement life is boredom! And it is very common for new retirees. Many people mistakenly envision retirement as a winding down period, but it is not easy to do so for 20-25 years.

So how do you remain active & productive in your retirement life? What hobbies do you want to pursue? Do you want to be involved in voluntary social work? Do you want to start a second innings in your career, your own business? Do you want to blog? Do you want to learn about new things, say a foreign language, etc? Brainstorm and articulate your vision about the activities which you longed to pursue during your working career and would like to undertake post-retirement. You can also lay the background few years before you retire. For instance, if you intend to volunteer for some social work, you can prepare a list of NGOs and start gathering information on them, even visit them for enquiries.

Further, staying lonely and disengaged could affect your physical as well as mental well-being. Besides proper diet and exercise, maintaining social connections is a critical part of healthy ageing. Having a wider social circle helps reduce the risk of certain age-related illnesses.

An active retirement definitely is thus much more fun than just sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. You may discover a new side of yourself in retirement. You may find all sorts of opportunities and interests to pursue and your creativity may soar.

(2) Where would you live after retirement?

You might want to stay away from the hustle & bustle of the city. You may want to live in your ancestral home or buy a new vacation home. Or maybe you do not want to change your base location at all. Your location post retirement would depend upon your desires and your family situation. Personal factors like wanting to stay close to relatives, reduce living expenses, change in health status, etc, may affect your decision. Selling your old home and shifting to a new place may not necessarily be a good call. There would be costs involved in moving and might not be worth it.

(3) Where does your spouse figure in the retirement picture?

You and your spouse may not necessarily have similar goals for retirement. You both can work towards it by addressing certain questions like:

  1. Where do you want to stay after retirement?

  2. How will you spend your majority time?

  3. Do you want to stay close to immediate family members?

  4. Do you want to stay separate or with children?

  5. How much time are you willing to give to your grand kids?

  6. Do you want to work part-time?

You and your partner may find some surprising differences. An open one-to-one communication and compromise would be required to get on the same page with your spouse on retirement goals. Also, if you share a common passion/hobby, you can pursue it together. Ensure you give each other enough space and respect each other’s schedules.

Conclusion: While everyone conjures a happy retirement picture, it may have certain periods of uncertainty. Your personal family and financial situation will not be the same when you retire. Leading an active social life, reconciling your retirement goals & expectations with your spouse can help you to embrace change easily. Introspecting and planning on these non-financial aspects can help you to adjust to retirement life better.

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