7 Retirement Surprises That Shouldn’t Surprise You

Jun 24, 2022

So much is written about retirement coping strategies these days (including many blog posts by us!) that it’s tricky to find something original to say about the subject. But, like so many issues we tend to take for granted, retirement still has the capacity to surprise and – sometimes – even daunt us. The fact of the matter is that retirement is one of the most traumatic transitions in life no matter how well prepared you might be psychologically and financially to handle it.

1. The Shock of the New

Saying goodbye to the (often comforting) routine of work can be a shock to our system. Certainly, not having to wake up to an alarm clock, managing sometimes rushed early morning rituals and suffering an uncomfortable commute, can initially be a source of comfort and joy – for a while. But then the pure thought of a long and possibly meaningless day sets in.

Without the daily distractions and challenges of work along with the good fellowship of friends and colleagues – some retirees may turn to alcohol or other substances to assuage their boredom and ennui. Be prepared if this begins to happen to you and take proactive steps to nip it in the bud. Consult your doctor or seek out a counsellor immediately to get help.

2. I’m Bored

The pandemic demonstrated that too much time on our hands can be a source of unhappiness and frustration for many. Some of us even forgot what day of the week it was.

It’s not hard to imagine just how difficult it could be down the road as a new retiree to adjust to, and cope with, retirement if we haven’t put a plan in place. Think ahead! Think about how you’ll avoid being bored.

The Everything Retirement website is a treasure trove of inspirational ideas from recreation to well-being to relationships and more. We have the power to transform even the most apparently meaningless day into a productive one or an adventure, or to simply help answer questions you may have about all things retirement.

Remember what we always say: failing to plan means planning to fail. A successful retirement is predicated on this concept.

3. Relationships Are Critical

Social interaction, which is integral to the rituals of work, can wither or disappear altogether in an unplanned retirement. The isolation imposed by the pandemic proved that without cultivating the bonds of friendship we can become like an empty vessel lost at sea. Cultivating social connections – unless you are naturally gregarious – takes an effort of willpower. Be prepared to make it and start before you retire if you can.

4. I Married You for Life, Not for Lunch

Increased togetherness imposed by retirement is a double-edged sword. Research shows that while most retired males welcome it, their wives are occasionally horrified by it. Once the pandemic’s initial restrictions were lifted, divorce applications spiked. Sadly, divorce rates among retirees are also on the rise, with dire emotional and financial consequences. Whether it’s retirement or a pandemic, many couples have trouble adjusting to increased time together.

5. Staying in Shape is Not an Option, it’s an Imperative

Retirees are sometimes surprised how quickly they can lose their reflexes – physical and mental – as the comforts of retirement lull them into a kind of psychological coma. This is a particular problem for people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Getting into and staying in shape is vital as we age, to avoid the risk of physical and mental “wandering.” And remember this: incorporating an exercise routine into our retirement, along with eating right, will lower the amount of money we’ll have to spend on health care, which is one of retirement’s largest expenses. So, pull yourself together!

6. Lack of Purpose Can Destroy Us

The elimination of a full-time job can be one of the most undermining experiences we’ll ever confront. As we anticipate retirement, we look forward to the freedom it will bring. But, once there, we can often lose our bearings and, worse still, our sense of self-worth. When we retire we need to fill the big hole left by the disappearance of our full time job – something that replaces the positive aspects of our career, that’s challenging, that requires learning new things, that allows us to contribute and that makes us feel a part of something bigger. Find purpose in retirement or perish!

7. Learning to Live on Less

For most of us, living on less – which is a reality for many once that regular paycheck is eliminated – can become a fearful shock and a challenge. But with ingenuity, it’s possible to transform a lower income into a way of life that’s fulfilling and fun. The best practical way to achieve this is by adopting the 50/30/20 budget. It allocates 50% to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to your financial wellbeing. While you learn to live within your means, you may be spending 100% on needs, but once you get accustomed to doing that, you can then start saving and adding some wants into your budget. It’s easy!

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