9 Key Tips To Avoid Retirement Culture Shock


So, you’re on the verge of retirement. Congratulations! It’s a pretty exciting time, isn’t it? All of those years of working for others is finally coming to an end and a whole new world is about to open up with endless possibilities.

It’s an exciting time, alright, and it seems simple enough — you come to the end of your career and start living life to its fullest and on your own terms with all of the free time you ever wanted.

It’s difficult for many to believe, but several people, including myself, find it to be a difficult transition. What else would someone want, right? A chance to do everything you ever wanted. Many times, however, it feels like slamming on the brakes, going from long days working with equally long commutes to suddenly… nothing.

I knew what I wanted to do when I retired, but the day I left my day job, I found myself lost and anxious. The coziness of a structured, scheduled life was suddenly gone and it took a few months to find focus. It’s called “retirement culture shock.”

There are many reasons for people to experience retirement culture shock. Some people love their jobs and the thought of leaving it and their coworkers behind is difficult. Other people are so used to a structured lifestyle that breaking that routine is frightening. More often, however, there is a fear that their planning for the big moment wasn’t enough and retirement could quickly go off the rails.

Here are nine tips culled from my own experience when I finally severed connections with my job and became retired. I hope these tips will help you avoid retirement culture shock.

1. Get Ready… Get Set…

You have undoubtedly been planning for your retirement well in advance — where you would like to live if you wanted a change of scenery, getting your financial situation in order, and more. If you haven’t, be sure to set aside time to do so.

The important things to focus on in this pre-retirement phase are your expenses, especially healthcare costs. With this knowledge sorted out, the stress of actually entering retirement is greatly lessened.

2. Planning Is Everything

You have dreams about what you want to do when you retire. Maybe you plan to do the traveling you always wanted to do. Maybe there is a hobby you used to love that you had little — if any — time for while you were working. Or maybe you always wanted to become a volunteer and give back to the community.

Your “to do list” is just as important as getting your finances and healthcare situated before retiring. Long before your last day at work, you should make a list of what you would like to do with the time you will now have, and don’t just put on the list, “1. Travel. 2. Hobbies.” Spell it out and list all of the places you would like to visit. List out the hobbies and volunteer opportunities that have always interested you.

Chances are that if you are like most people, by the time you are done, you will end up with an exceptionally long list. This list will help you fulfill tip #1.

Here’s the catch: Once you retire, you will feel the pressure to conquer that list all at once. More on that in a moment.

3. Find Meaning And Purpose

Once retirement day arrives, you may feel like you are adrift at sea. For years, you have felt productive and needed at your job. The same should be true with your retirement.

Continually look for new avenues that can enrich your life whether that be doing more traveling, taking up a new hobby, volunteering, or even getting a part-time job.

Every day, strive to better yourself and those around you, and you will find your life after retirement much more satisfying.

4. Give Yourself Time To Adjust

No matter how much planning you do, the first few days, weeks, even months will seem foreign to you. Retirement can be stressful, especially if you really loved your job and seeing your co-workers every day.

Even if your job was a drudge, slamming on the breaks and not having to go to work anymore can cause emotional whiplash. It’s a transition in life. Some professionals liken it to the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The key is to allow yourself time to adjust to this new life. Focus on what you are gaining and not what you are losing.

5. Navigating The Emotional Roller Coaster

You may find yourself going through a lot of emotions — one day you’re angry, the next day sad, then anxious. You may find yourself questioning your decision — was retiring at this time the right thing to do? That is to be expected.

Talk to your spouse or friends about what you are feeling. Find local groups of retirees where you can join in and talk about your concerns and feelings. Like minds will help make the transition easier.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, walks through nature, or tai chi will help your mind relax and take you away from stressful emotions. It will also help you control your blood pressure.

Being active will also help your mood (see below.)

Just understand that an emotional roller coaster once you retire is quite normal and once again, give yourself time to adjust.

6. Exercise Your Mind And Body

It can’t be stated enough but it does bear repeating: A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa.

Be active. Take regular walks around your neighborhood, park, or state parks. Go swimming in the summer, camping in the fall. Sign up for weekly fitness classes. Keeping your body moving is the goal.

At the same time, exercise your mind. Take in the many presentations presented at your local library or museum. Spend time reading. Even building jigsaw puzzles is a great stimulant for your brain.

7. Develop A Routine And Stick To It

Coming up with a daily routine helps keep you motivated and looking forward to each day. A structured day could include anything — a daily morning walk on your own for a little “me” time or with your spouse to start the day. Go to breakfast with friends. Exercising at the gym weekday mornings is also a great way to start your day before you head home and work in the garden or author that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

Whatever it is, develop a routine and stay with it. However, in the same sense, don’t be upset if that routine goes off the rails and is interrupted by another event. Just pick it back up when you can.

8. Staying Healthy

As mentioned, starting retirement can be an incredibly stressful time. Along with the tips mentioned above, one of the best methods for a happy retirement is to stay healthy.

Get those regular yearly checkups to track what your body is up to and to get an early diagnosis of any problems that may be arising.

Follow a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet especially when you dine out, even when dining with friends. Now you don’t have to restrict yourself too much. Just strive to eat better. Soon, you will find that it comes second nature to grab a piece of fruit instead of a cupcake.

9. Don’t Rush It

There was one thing I quickly learned, and so did many of my friends, when we retired — don’t rush anything!

Trust me, it’s easy to do. Here you are with a list of things you want to do: travel to all the countries in Europe, visit all of America’s national parks, volunteer with a couple of local charities, and read six books you never had time to read before.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who are recently retired have experienced “go fever.” Heck, even I did. “Go fever” is the feeling that you have to get everything on your list completed.

Eventually, reality sets in: What’s the hurry?

Slow down. Relax. Take it a day at a time. Prioritize what’s important to you and do it in that order, but don’t try to run through the list in the first 6 months of retirement.

You have the time to do it all.


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