Even though most people look forward to retirement, some forget that losing the structured routines, sense of purpose, and social interactions that work brings can lead to a difficult transition from working to retirement. Recently, a professor at Harvard Business School conducted a study on the mental and emotional effects of retirement. The study found that people undergo “life restructuring” and “identity bridging” in retirement, and it gives examples of how people can successfully transition into retirement. But even though retirement changes your daily schedule, there are ways to help make your smooth transition into retirement a more manageable feat.
Life structure consists of the places you spend your time, the activities you engaged in, and the important relationships you’ve cultivated throughout your life. Many of these can change drastically after entering retirement, from work activities to relationships with coworkers. Successful restructuring starts with deciding when and how to retire. Some study participants transitioned to part-time work, and others developed their social schedules or started volunteering. Introducing new activities and investing in relationships are also components of identity bridging.
Identity bridging can be important for people who identify strongly with their profession or organization. Some study participants coped by enhancing their pre-retirement identity. They spent more time on and gave more attention to relationships and activities that were important to them before they retired. In one example, a man enhanced his relationship with his teenage daughter by spending more time with her and helping her improve her performance in school. Other participants activated a hidden identity that had fallen by the wayside during busy careers. One man had given up motorcycling years before, but once he was retired, he bought a new motorcycle and connected with other motorcyclists.
Another interesting takeaway from the Harvard Business School study was that some retirees found purpose by using the skills and knowledge gained in their careers in retirement. One retired engineer volunteered to work on the new community center in his town. Others engaged in mentoring and consulting. This can help replace the social connections and positive feedback work provides. One woman mentored junior workers at her former workplace and volunteered her coaching services at a community organization. Another man reinvented himself by starting a handyman business where he could work as much or as little as he wanted doing one of his favorite hobbies.
Ultimately, it’s important to prepare financially as well as mentally for retirement. Successful life restructuring and identity bridging can help lead to a happier and more fulfilling life in retirement. And, envisioning your retirement, while considering the relationships and activities that really make you happy can help with the transition.
Consider what you want your retirement to look like. We’ll work with you to help better understand your goals, and we can help you create a comprehensive financial plan to that allows you to achieve them. Click here to schedule your no cost, no obligation financial review to take the first step because remember, transitioning into retirement is no small task.