Retirement is a reality that we will all face and if not properly managed can contribute to significant hardships. For example, the Journal of Population Ageing identified that those who retired were about twice as likely to have depression symptoms vs. those still working.
The Centers for Disease Control report that suicide rates for men are highest among those 75 and older. For women who retire and are unable to find a job, the depression score can double.
As with any new stage in life, preparation and planning are very important. One important factor is the reason for retirement. Obviously, an unplanned, unanticipated retirement due to health or job issues can be the most devastating. Still, even for those who plan, retirement can also have adverse effects if not done properly.
For those who face a retirement “crisis” due to health or job issues, the priority is to address the issue. This can entail looking for a new job, getting the proper medical help and treatment, etc. For these situations, having savings accumulated over life become a significant protective factor. Also, having a strong family and social support can help in coping with this crisis.
In the ideal scenario, for those seeking retirement voluntarily, it is important to plan, anticipates visualize, and execute (PAVE).
Plan: Retirement should not be decided overnight. Planning for it should be done throughout life by accumulating savings and a retirement fund, and by setting a target date (this deadline can change depending on needs or opportunities). Also, building support through family and friends is a lifetime endeavor. Finally, living a healthy life (physical and mental) will ensure being able to maintain a positive and active lifestyle through retirement. Of course, a major component of retirement planning involves proper financial planning. It is highly recommended to take advantage of specialized professionals (e.g., accountants, financial planners, family, or friends who are knowledgeable in this area) who can provide guidance and tools. Lacking proper financial resources during retirement can contribute to hardships and depression and anxiety.
Anticipate: Being aware and anticipating potential hiccups or challenges is also critical. Retirement involves different stages. The first one is the pre-retirement stage which involves planning, etc. (see above “Plan”). Then the day of retirement happens. This can usually be associated with a “honeymoon” stage where, at first, we enjoy having free time, lower stress, and pursuing leisure activities. However, disappointment or becoming disenchanted can quickly set in when we reality hits home. The risk of this shock is greater when we have not planned properly and can be related to becoming bored, lonely, and depressed. As we “regroup”, this becomes the fourth stage, in which we address some of these newly found issues and we assimilate and internalize our new “retired persona”. Finally, as this is resolved and we adjust and find joy in retirement, we can enjoy the stability and full benefits of a well-planned retirement.
Visualize: As we plan and become more aware of the possible stages we might be facing, visualizing our day-to-day retirement is helpful. This exercise requires being realistic and finding the right balance. For example, to offset boredom, it will be important to devise a schedule that is not too taxing or extreme and that will keep us busy and motivated. As we do this, it is important to allow for downtime and time alone. For some having a vision board can help, for others outlining a schedule can provide structure and motivation.
Execute: All the planning, anticipation, and visualization will not be of help if we don’t put our plans and goals into action. Retirement can lack structure. So having the discipline to execute our schedule will be of the essence. The golden rule is: “when in doubt or down, move and act!”.
As part of the PAVE framework, and during our lifetime, it is essential that we maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind. As part of this, accessing the right specialists (medical doctors, psychologists) is necessary to ensure proper life transitions.
Also, it is strongly recommended that when getting close to retirement, we use the support and guidance of a psychologist that can help cope with the anxieties associated with this process. Also, as part of this process, having a psychologist will help you cope with any unexpected situation to ensure a happy retirement.