Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

6/7/2023 | By Terri L. Jones

Planning for your retirement involves more than financial preparation. Whether you are aging in place or savoring life in a retirement community, these tips for adjusting to retirement can ease the transition and help you make the most of your post-career years.

All the years you’ve been working, you’ve probably dreamed about the day you retire. You’ll be able to sleep late, dawdle over coffee and the newspaper in the morning, go shopping or play golf in the middle of the week, take a vacation whenever you choose, and learn to play the guitar or whatever other hobby you’ve been hankering to take up.

But while retirement can definitely be freeing and fun, what no one tells you is that it can also be hard. No, not the laborious, stressful kind of “hard” to which you’ve just bid farewell, but a major adjustment that can leave you feeling a little unmoored, unchallenged and possibly out of sync with your partner.

For that reason, planning for your retirement shouldn’t be just about financial planning. It should also be about preparing yourself for this significant life change. Below we provide some advice to ease the transition to your happily ever after:

Tips to help in adjusting to retirement

Determine what retirement means to you

Before you clean out your desk or turn in your tools, you need to think about the kind of retirement you want. Do you want to travel the world, refine your tennis game, volunteer, or settle into a comfy chair and read to your heart’s content? Once the novelty of retirement wears off, you may find yourself at loose ends and quickly become frustrated or even depressed if you don’t have some sort of plan.

If you haven’t developed a lot of hobbies through the years of family and career, now’s the time. Experiment with activities you’ve always wanted to try and see what sticks. Join clubs, enroll in classes, volunteer, or try a new sport. Besides assisting your goal of adjusting to retirement, these activities can help you meet new friends to spend time with once you’ve left your 9 to 5.

Get on the same page with your partner

Senior couple golfing and laughing together, from Monkey Business Images.

Figuring out how you want to spend your retirement is especially important if you have a significant other to consider. Discussing your dreams and plans ensures that you’re both on the same page … or at least gives you the opportunity to start the negotiation process.

“It may even be a good idea for each of you to prepare for the discussion by writing down what your vision of the ideal retirement is, so you’re ready to communicate your hopes,” says Christy Bieber of Motley Fool.

And while you’re sharing your ideas, be clear on what you want to do together as well as apart. In many cases, the partner who doesn’t have a lot of hobbies or an active social life will end up tagging along with the partner who does, which may not always be a welcome situation. This forced closeness could lead to resentment from both parties.

“Couples need to strike a balance between togetherness and having some time apart,” says psychologist Robert Bornstein. He also suggests that retired couples have some separate friends and private space within their homes where they can enjoy alone time, like an office, mancave or she-shed.

Ease into it

To make this drastic life change a little easier, try adjusting to retirement gradually instead of cold turkey. That could mean slowly reducing your number of hours as you approach the date you plan to retire or finding a low-stress or part-time job to bridge the gap between full-time and “happily unemployed.”

According to a study about work after retirement, retirees who sought a “bridge job” were typically in better physical and mental health than those who didn’t. These tentative retirees proved to also be more satisfied with their lives.

Related: Factors to consider before you retire

Make a schedule

For many, retirement is synonymous with “doing whatever you want whenever you want.” However, you may be surprised to find that ditching a schedule altogether may be just as uncomfortable as having one.

Giving your days a little structure – like waking up at about the same time, reading the newspaper, and exercising in the morning and then reserving the afternoon for errands or meeting with friends, etc. – ensures that you don’t go to bed feeling as though you’ve accomplished nothing. This can be especially critical if you’re a “get things done” kind of person.

Your retirement schedule certainly doesn’t have to be rigid; you can deviate from it at any time. But a little routine can give you a sense of normalcy, at least until you adjust to your more footloose and fancy-free lifestyle.

See what feels right

Despite all the soul searching and planning, you won’t have retirement all figured out on day 1 (or maybe even day 365!). But that’s OK. Unlike the life you’ve left behind, there are no deadlines, performance reviews or probationary periods to hold your feet to the fire. Everyone settles into retirement in their own way and at their own pace. But once you’ve made it through that bumpy start, the final destination will be so worth it!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones