Dave's retirement journey

Having trouble adjusting to retirement?

By Dave Dineen, BrighterLife.ca

The Retirement Maze: What you should know before and after you retire by Rob Pascale, Louis H. Primavera, and Rip Roach.Stranded in an unfulfilling retirement? Or approaching one? You need to read The Retirement Maze: What you should know before and after you retire by Rob Pascale, Louis H. Primavera, and Rip Roach.

I’ve read a slew of books about retirement. After spending years researching the retirement of Canadians, I’m often urged to write my own book. But I’ve never read a book like this.

It’s not about the usual retirement topics of finances or health. Instead, the focus is on the difficult business of adjusting to being retired.

Retirement = building a new life

If you think it’s an easy adjustment, this book has news for you. Its three authors are professional researchers whose comprehensive study of recent retirees and people not yet retired is both sobering and helpful. The people studied are American, but the issues explored apply equally to Canadians.

The key problem the research identified is that with few exceptions, retirees (and those nearing retirement):

  • Do very little planning
  • Don’t plan in enough detail
  • Don’t plan for anything but finances.

What happens if you retire without planning appropriately? It’s not as pretty a picture as you see in those travel or financial services ads:

  • Only half of retirees feel their lives improved after retiring.
  • Nearly half of those retired five-plus years haven’t found something to be passionate about.
  • As workplace friendships fade, you may not replace them.
  • You’ll spend less time socializing in retirement than while you were working.
  • Like 45% of retirees, you may miss your old job.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When you retire, you can no longer rely on a job to help define who you are, provide structure for your daily life or give you opportunities to socialize. Retirees find these are difficult gaps to fill, the authors say.

But defining who you want to be in retirement is key. Without making the effort, your life won’t be as rewarding as you hope. But after painting a fairly unappealing picture of the actual retirement many people are facing, the authors offer plenty of tips for a more successful adjustment.

  • Introverts: Focus on replacing fading workplace relationships. Try new activities with social involvement. Look for organizations related to your personal interests. Use Facebook to reconnect with old friends. Seek work/volunteer opportunities. Focus on making new friends.
  • Pushed into retirement? Develop your other roles (e.g., parent, spouse, gardener, golfer). Volunteer. Accept your role as a retiree (stop looking back). Consider a “bridge career” to carry you to your eventual retirement. Focus on the positives. Talk with your spouse/partner — you aren’t the only one adjusting!
  • Blue-collar workers: Be open to new things — you’ve been in a highly structured work world, now it’s time to be more flexible. Maintain your health. Set new goals. Spend more time with friends, not just family.
  • In a bad relationship? Put “make a friend” on your to-do list. Beware the emotional roller-coaster of retirement’s early years. Talk.
  • Early retirees: Use your energy and talent to volunteer. Try to retire when your spouse/partner does. Be open to negotiating who does household chores. Create detailed plans for an active social life. Keep the option of working open.
  • Procrastinators: Plan, plan, plan — today! Learn from the experiences of others. Make an action plan. Track your expenses and income.
  • Retiring before your spouse/partner? Focus on the “balance of power” in your relationship. Talk and plan together. Experiment with new interests.
  • Women: Find ways to maintain your vitality and keep your relationships current.
  • Men: Don’t rely on your spouse/partner for 100% of your social activity — plan for it and add it to your to-do list. Negotiate your fair share of household chores.
  • Everybody: Experiment to find new activities, passions and meaning. Get out of the house. Travel as much as your budget and mobility allow. Don’t let solo activities crowd out social ones. Help others. (Painting a friend’s living room feels better than painting your own!) Don’t let time with family crowd out time with friends. Exercise. If you’re worrying about money, find out if your worries are justified.

The typical retiree’s life isn’t a bowl of cherries, say the authors of this book. But they guide you on how you can pick the best fruit.

More tips on preparing for retirement:

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Suzanne Burchell on

I really miss the exciting times of union work in education , directing school plays and variety shows plus seeing kids change through drama……….it has only been a few months…so it takes time to accept this less structured part of life and the high times of shows and peformances with kids ( it is not the same in community theatre) ……………….I had 40 years of such a great rewarding profession. Being a widow is a wee bit lonely as well but I hear the other side of too much time with a spouse. The bonus of retirement is being availbale for my Grandaughter and working wiht seniors. Gradually life will fill in but there will not be anything like my days in the classroom. I have time to read wonderful novels and toattend writing classes and author’s series now. Gardening will be hugely wonderful to be home in the spring and fall …..the winter has been long and so cold 😦 !!! Suzanne

    davedineen on

    Wow, Suzanne, that sounds like an exciting and rewarding career you’ve had! I’m sure many readers will be envious. You’re right that it is a huge adjustment from the hubub of a busy daily routine to something a lot less structured and a lot less busy.
    I know a lot of people who have retired and they hardly recognized themselves in their new circumstances. But they rediscovered, or reinvented, themselves.
    My advice: do a lot of self-examination. It sounds like you have plenty of verve and valuable experience; do you want to put it to work, or explore new interests? It sounds like you’re already branching out in your literary and gardening interests.
    Be open to change and personal growth; you’ve fostered that so many times in students. Now it’s your turn!

      Suzanne Burchell on

      Thank you for such a kind reply…change takes time and patience. Suzanne


Sherry Galey on

I think the key is to embrace whatever stage of life you’re at. Enjoy paying work when you do it and enjoy being active and out of the work force when that time comes. Prepare for the future intelligently but don’t waste time worrying about it or missing the past. The only time we all have is right this minute.

    davedineen on

    You have it exactly right, Sherry!

thesavvyboomer on

Well I guess I and my circle of friends are the exception because we have all embraced retirement and find that it is not only a bowl of cherries but a boat sized container of fun. It took me about 1 week to adjust to retired life and that was because I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the alarm on the clock.
We travel, socialize, play golf, tennis, cycle, hike, spend our winters in warm climes and miss work about as much as a bad rash. We often joke that the only days we stay home are holidays and weekends because the roads, malls, golf courses, rec facilities etc are too crowded then.
I worked my ass off for close to 40 years and fortunately had a good investment adviser. Now I have the time to do my own investing and love getting up early to check out the markets and then enjoy my coffee with friends and discuss the important events such as sports and plans for the next dinner together.
No mortgage, no debt, (hey, you had 40 years to get these under control unless you thought you weren’t going to age) seniors discounts offered by virtually all merchants and government services, a govt pension (even though it’s not much I finally start getting back what I contributed all these years) and of course free ferry rides here in BC.
So rather than reading a book about how to adjust to retirement, take my advice-embrace it and accept whatever happens instead of worrying about how to adjust. Just like in your working life-if you need to read a book on how to live your life, you’ll be living someone else’s life, not your own.
Oh yeah, my other piece of advice is that it’s best to have mainly other retirees in your circle of friends. Not always practical but I find those who still work don’t believe that I don’t miss working. I hate to say it, but I really feel sorry for them.

    davedineen on

    Thanks for the savvy words and advice Savvy Boomer! Yes, it’s key to have retired friends, if possible, so you can share your experiences with folks who aren’t suspicious that you’re either: a) lazy or b) not made of the stuff today’s workplace needs.
    Free ferry rides, eh? Yet another good reason B.C. is a place for remarkably lucky retirees!

      Peter Lawton on

      It’s very unfortunate Savvy Boomer that you had to go through 40 years of “working your ass off” to finally be able to spend some years enjoying your retirement. I loved my job. I had the best 40 years a person could have in my working career.That career has now set me up for a shift to a different pace but it gave me a great foundation for the next round. Do I miss my work in that career? Absolutely I do, and I’d do it all again in a shot. I really don’t envy your path. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to my kids.

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