Retirement is a time in every employee’s life that evokes a number of emotions: anticipation, excitement, fear, stress, anxiety and relief, among others.
The positive emotions are amplified when planning has taken place to remove the stress, fear and anxiety, so it’s important that people considering retirement aren’t leaving preparation to the last minute, especially not the month or year before the intended retirement date.
Most people will get on track with their financial planning or, at the very least, determine when and how much they need to start saving to comfortably support their desired lifestyle. Those with a keen sense for future financial planning will also incorporate details, such as spending habits and how those may change when not actively employed, options for alternate forms of income should they wish to supplement their savings and even exploring investment options they may not have previously considered.
On the other hand, the factors that tend to get left by the wayside until the first days of retirement are related to emotional, physical and mental health.
Emotional health is greatly affected by a major life event like retirement, when that daily sense of belonging, including a number of relationships that may not easily sustain outside the work environment, is suddenly removed and changes an individual’s sense of self. Similar to moving to a new city, province or country without a school or job to attend, retirement can bring some commonality for building new relationships.
This is where having a plan for hobbies, new passions like travel or politics or even a new part-time career can supply retirees with a starting point for forming new relationships based on shared circumstances and interests, sufficiently removing a lot of the pressure to create those necessary relationships out of thin air.
Physical health is something many people take for granted, forgetting that just getting up and out of the house every day, as well as moving about during daily work tasks, accounts for a large amount of activity. Without this consistent movement throughout a workday, retirees are left to self-prioritize and commit to physical activity in other ways, such as exercise, tasks around the house and yard or through hobbies to ensure their health doesn’t take a negative turn.
The likelihood of chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure increases in those aged 45 to 65, so paying attention to management of physical health prior to and during retirement will greatly improve anyone’s chances to avoid these conditions and the financial implications they can bring.
As well, mental health is important to acknowledge at all stages of life, and Canadians are drastically improving their ability to do so through reducing stigma, increasing their personal resilience in the face of external stressors and becoming more comfortable with reaching out for support. An essential component of maintaining positive mental health, especially following retirement, is achieving and sustaining a daily sense of purpose.
For many employees, that need is fulfilled by their job. But for those same people, retirement can become a dangerous undertaking since the provider of their purpose is removed and they’re left vulnerable to the anxiety and depression that can accompany a purposeless existence. However, all isn’t lost for those individuals. Purpose can be found through many other endeavours, such as volunteer work; caring for an animal, loved one or stranger; or dedicating time to the growth of a sustainable garden or green space. The important action is identifying what creates that sense of purpose and, if possible, incorporating it into every day.
Planning the next phase in life, whether that means partial or complete retirement from the workforce, should provoke feelings of excitement rather than fear and doubt. That’s not to say some feelings of anxiety aren’t completely normal. But feeling equipped for this new adventure inspires confidence in what’s to come.
Paying equal attention to all areas of health (mental, physical, emotional and financial) when planning will help ensure preparation is complete and retirement is a time to enjoy.