Planning for Retirement... Mentally



Debbie Saleem

Financial Advisor


You’ve met with your advisor and are delighted to find out that you’re financially on track to retire within the new few years. The countdown has started – congratulations! I’m sure you’re looking forward to the leisure time in your future – all of the travel, golf, and gardening that you’ve dreamed of.

But have you given much thought to the emotional impact of retirement? Every change in life, both positive and negative, comes with some emotional discomfort.

Retirement means an additional 2,000 hours of free time every year – more if you have a long commute each day. What are you going to do with this extra time? There are only so many programs on Netflix! Here are a few tips on how to prepare for this new and exciting chapter in your life:

Start preparing in advance – mentally

It takes time to get used to the idea of retirement. Ideally you should start preparing one to five years in advance. If you’re not mentally prepared for this change, it’s easy to fall victim to loneliness and depression. Preparing well in advance will make the transition less stressful.

Visualize your life in retirement

What have you always dreamed about doing but haven’t had time for? Imagine you found out it was your last day on Earth – what would you regret not doing in life? What places in the world haven’t you explored yet? Ideally, it’s best to visualize with your spouse all of the possibilities in retirement. Have some fun with it by using a vision board or Pinterest.

Discover your new identity

For many people, work is central to their self-image, especially if they’re the main provider. Once paid work stops, this can lead to a feeling of loss of identity. It can be difficult to figure yourself out again, so you need to get reacquainted. Get to know yourself again – what do you/don’t you like? What did you enjoy doing in your past that you haven’t had time for? Closely evaluate what your core values, talents, strengths, and weaknesses are. Make a commitment to yourself to continue to grow personally and socially.

Discover what your new purpose in life will be

It’s important to feel accomplished, useful, and satisfied – feelings often fulfilled by our jobs. It’s necessary to think about what your new purpose will be before work ends. Think about what your passions are. Do you enjoy helping others? If so, there are countless organizations that need volunteers – check out Or perhaps mentoring is in your future. Is it educating yourself with a new skill or subject? Maybe you’ll become the caretaker of your grandchildren. Find that thing that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.

Take retirement for a “test drive”

If possible, consider taking a sabbatical before retirement for a few months to try things out. Or maybe slowly reduce your working hours rather than coming to a full stop. Perhaps you can ease into retirement by becoming a freelancer or a consultant. This way you’ll still have a paycheque coming in but will be in control of how much and when you work.

Replace work routines with new routines

Your mornings have looked the same for decades – you wake up at a set time, get ready, have breakfast, and go to work. Everything about our schedules changes once we retire. Loss of structure and routine can lead to depression, so it’s imperative to come up with a new retirement routine. Ideally, it will be a combination of mentally stimulating, physical, and social activities.

Communicate your plans with your spouse and family

It’s vital to discuss your hopes, dreams, and plans with your spouse. Many couples assume they share the same dreams without talking about it, which can lead to disappointment and conflict. Perhaps a bucket list item of yours is to travel across the continent on a motorcycle – what if your partner isn’t interested? You may need to find a buddy who will join you on your trip instead. It’s also important to discuss your changing roles in retirement. Do you both want to retire at the same time? Will you be expected to do more chores now that you’re at home? How much “alone time” and “together time” do you each want? Keep each other in the loop about your desires so you can plan for activities in retirement together.

Make sure you discuss your plans with your family as well. Perhaps your children are expecting you will be available to babysit your grandchildren on fixed days, but you don’t want to be tied down. You’ve worked very hard during your life and have earned this freedom – don’t be afraid to set boundaries regarding commitments with your family that keep you from following your dreams!

Re-evaluate and develop your social circle

One of the big adjustments related to retirement is the decrease in social interaction. Our jobs provide us with a sense of community and intellectual stimulation with colleagues that for the most part decreases when work stops. Friendships, especially with pals outside of work, make it easier to adjust to retirement. Reach out to friends from your past, solidify existing relationships with friends you haven’t seen much due to work commitments, and cultivate new ones.

Make time for physical activity

Whether it’s golf, going to the gym, gardening, or a simple walk through the park, physical activity improves not just our bodies but our mental health, too. It will help you live a longer, healthier life during retirement. Retirement is the stage of life that you’ve worked hard for – you owe it to yourself to make the most of it. Happy planning! ■

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