With more and more people living longer and healthier lives, retirement is a golden opportunity to live life to the full - presenting us with exciting new opportunities and choices.
But it’s also a time of intense change - in our finances, relationships and lifestyles. Being prepared, both emotionally and practically, is often the key to unlocking all the opportunities that retirement affords.
Here we find out how best to go about it.
Perhaps the biggest change is that we’re no longer at work. This sounds obvious, but the impact shouldn’t be underestimated. For many of us, our careers are an intrinsic part of our identities. They define who we are, our status in society and how we feel about ourselves. The idea of retirement, and the loss of that professional identity, can be disorientating. The initial thrill of escaping the ‘rat race’ can give way to a sense of loss and a need to search for new purpose and meaning. This feeling can be exacerbated by the sudden abundance of ‘free time’ and lack of familiar routine and daily structure.
This is where planning is key.
Take time beforehand to think about what you really want out of retirement. What’s important to you; family, travel, working, learning new skills? Finding new ways to define yourself during retirement is important and is ideally based on what makes you happy.
You can, of course, continue to work during retirement. Certainly many people choose this option. The abolishment of the Default Retirement Age in 2011 was part of a cultural shift towards recognising the continued value of older workers. A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2013 found that more than half of workers over 55 plan to work past what would have been retirement age. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep working 9-5 Monday to Friday, and the number of people taking on flexible or part time work after retiring is increasing.
Flexible working can be ideal for those of us with caring responsibilities or health issues of our own. Similarly, it’s a great way to combine work with new interests, hobbies and travel. And of course it’s a great way to ease yourself into retirement. The shock of stopping work abruptly can leave many of us feeling depressed and unmotivated. Being able to phase retirement in gradually can help you adjust and adapt in your own time.
Should you want to continue working after retirement age then talk to your employer about your options. All employees can ask for flexible working hours - but it helps to have a good business case for your employer’s consideration.
You may want to work elsewhere, or do something different. If so, make sure you continue to develop your professional network and keep a look out for suitable opportunities.
Another popular alternative is volunteering. Volunteering has been shown to be an effective way to combat depression and anxiety. It boosts self-confidence and can be a brilliant way of making use of your skills, knowledge and experience to benefit wider society. Take a little time beforehand to think about specific causes or organisations you might like to support; this will help you achieve a sense of personal fulfilment.
Retirement can feel like the end of continued financial stability with the loss of a regular salary. Your new income may not match up to your expectations and plans for retirement and the pressures of money worries can take their toll on your wellbeing.
Continuing to work part time can keep the money coming in. But if that’s not a desirable or practical option, getting to grips with your finances and putting together a retirement budget beforehand should help you avoid sleepless nights worrying about money.
Age UK offers an excellent financial checklist of things to consider in the run up to retirement – beginning 10 years before you expect to leave work.
ICAEW also has a wealth of information to on everything you need to consider when planning retirement.
Isolation and feelings of loneliness are also a very real threat in retirement. For those of us used to the buzz of a busy office and daily contact with colleagues and clients it can be a shock to have more time to yourself. If isolation could be an issue for you, tackle it head on straight away and don’t let yourself fall into the habit of being alone.
Your mind-set will determine the impact of retirement on your wellbeing and how you manage the changes it brings. A positive and optimistic outlook can make all the difference.
Be mindful of how you’re approaching different issues and challenges. Try to keep an open, adaptable and pro-active mind-set so that you can make the most of all and any opportunities that come your way.
For help planning and preparing for retirement why not book yourself a place on CABA’s new course ‘Making the most of your retirement.’