We work to save for retirement for most of our lives. We anticipate having the time and freedom to do what we want when we want. However, when retirement happens, many of us struggle with the transition. According to a MIT Agelab survey in 2018, about two-thirds of recent retirees (69%) say they had challenges adapting to retirement.

Advertising portrays the early years of retirement as being filled with beaches, bike riding, and golf. It is true that if you've stopped working, you'll have more time for leisure activities. You might even think, "This is the life. This is what I want my retirement to be like." But after a while, these activities can become routine. They might not provide the happiness we expected.

So what's the problem?

Despite our cognitive, physical and financial resources potentially being at their highest level of our retirement, the first year or so of transitioning into retirement brings challenges related to our routines, roles, and relationships.

Breaking a routine that began at school: Get up. Get dressed. Get breakfast. Go to school or work. Come home.
Eat. Go to bed. Retirement can break this routine. There's nothing forcing you to live like this anymore. You'll have a lot more time on your hands. You may enjoy this freedom, but if you're not sure what you're going to do with it, boredom can set in. The MIT Agelab research identified that 32% of recent retirees struggle with getting used to a new and different routine.

Your relationships change: If you stopped working, you may miss the socialising, intellectual stimulation, and sense of accomplishment resulting from collaborating with co-workers on projects. You'll spend less, if any, time with co-workers, and way more time with your spouse. This adjustment can put a strain on relationships if couples don't share similar interests or social circles. New conflicts can pop up about the sharing of chores, how to spend leisure time, and how to manage the household. Additionally, many new retirees find themselves caring for parents, children, or grandchildren. Trying to care for either grown kids, parents, or both, under the constraints of a retirement budget, can cause stress on relationships as people wonder if they're overextending their resources.

Your role will change: Work gives us an identity, a sense of purpose, and respect. If you stop working, you may miss that identity and sense of accomplishment. You might feel under-appreciated and like you're in a state of limbo after leaving the structured world of work. Your family members may expect more from you, more of your time and attention, maybe more than you'd like. Your previous identity, built over your career, was clear. Your new identity is foggy.

Smoothing the transition

  • Pick a date: Retirees usually have a smoother transition if they enter it in a planned way, where they choose a retirement date. They tend to experience more anxiety if they're forced into this phase by a layoff or health problems.
  • Create a new routine: Even though we know retirement is coming, most of us don't spend much time planning what we'll do when we get there. Ask yourself: How do you plan to spend your time? What are your hobbies? What activities will fill your days? Set some long-term and short-term goals. Moving towards these goals can provide a sense of purpose and control in your new routine.
  • Find ways to be productive: Consider volunteering, working part-time, taking a class, or learning a new skill.
  • Discover new relationships: Build new relationships to replace work relationships. Consider taking a class, working part-time, playing a sport or joining a group where you can meet people.
  • Give yourself time: Don't expect to hit your retirement groove right away. It may take six months or a year or two to find your new roles, routines, and relationships.
  • Plan your finances: Talk with the team at Milestone to ensure you have your finances arranged to meet your new lifestyle.