I can’t believe how stressed I was in this week, last year, leading up to my final workday. Hard to believe that it is one year since I swapped my work clothes for cycling, hiking, and yoga gear.
So, how am I doing? It’s a good time to have a retirement check-up.
The research on retirement can be a bit daunting and can leave a person waiting for the ball to drop.
A good old Google search shows that there is general agreement that a person travels through stages in their retirement journey. Again, looking back at my early retirement blog posts, particularly 'Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Retirement Conundrum (Part 1)', life is all about stages! Different sources label the stages slightly differently but they are generally consistent in identifying certain phases or emotions in retirement. For instance, Eric Paquette, in ‘A Guide to the Common Retirement Stages and What to Expect’ (wildpineresidence.ca ) identifies five stages: Pre-retirement (planning and envisioning retirement life), Full Retirement (excitement, leaving the workplace), Disenchantment (perhaps disappointment or feeling you are missing out which can lead to “boredom, loneliness, and feeling useless”), Reorientation (creating a new identity with a new passion and purpose, possibly the most difficult stage), and finally Reconciliation and Stability (contented and satisfied, feeling fulfilled) which can take up to 15 years after retirement (!). He noted that everyone goes through these transitions, some more than others.
Like I said, on the surface, this can leave a person fearful and waiting for the worst. But it has got me thinking - what factors determine if retirement will be easy or difficult? Is it the amount of planning a person puts into what retirement would be like? Is it the depth of commitment and identification with the job? Is it the degree of readiness and age? Is it the amount of financial and personal resources a person has? Is it the pre-conceived notions of what retirement looks like?
We have a friend who is barely 60 years old and could not wait to retire. The minute he turned 60, he sold the house, quit his job, and moved to another province, envisioning a much lovelier life there. That lasted five months as sadness set in, and reality did not match expectations. He is now living just down the street (in a different house) and working part time (at his old job) as, this time, he merges into the retirement lifestyle. And he is happy. He will be the first to admit that to retire early upon turning 60 was the “worst” decision he could have made.
I imagine that all of us, regardless of our situation, will experience some degree of emotions because retirement is all about change and, again referring to my above-noted blog post, change is scary. But I would also think that ample pre-planning, a strong financial base, personal supports, a plan of action, solid mental health, positive thinking, and realistic expectations will go a long way to dull the negative effects of this big transition.
As I am only one year in, I guess I will have to wait a bit to see if a big downfall comes. All I know is that I have no regrets whatsoever. I have not had one minute when I wished I was at work, either my old job (I've forgotten my passwords, anyway) or a different one. The time is flying by so fast. Maybe I am in the honeymoon stage but, maybe, just maybe, all that stress and turmoil and worrying and researching pre-retirement was worth it, and retirement will proceed rather seamlessly. I know I did not leave work with any great feeling of excitement or anticipation; the feeling was more of tension and worry about the future but also complete certainty that the time was exactly right. Regardless, I am confident, now that I have settled in, that if I find I want ‘more’ out of retirement life, I have the calmness, ability, strength, and resources to stay on track - and I have no preconceived notions about who I should be. And sometimes just knowing that there are stages to the journey helps us to be aware of our thinking and emotions and helps us to be pro-active in preventing a crash.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of My One Year Retirement Check-up where I will look at some of the major thought ‘take-aways’ from my first year.