If you can't wait to retire, you may have never given a moment's thought to the things that could go wrong with retirement. However, up to 20% of retirees report feeling dissatisfaction or disillusionment with retirement, so, if you're still in the planning stages, it can help to take a look at what can, potentially, go wrong. That way, you still have time to take evasive action.
The reasons for retirement dissatisfaction can be many and varied but they tend to fall into categories. These are:
1. Retiring for the wrong reasons. The 'wrong' reasons include:
- retiring just because you're the right age for it (and without checking in with yourself about whether you really WANT to retire)
- retiring because your partner is retiring and they're pressuring you into retiring at the same time, whether you're 'ready' for retirement or not
- allowing yourself to be 'pushed out' by a boss who seems anxious to replace you and who already has your replacement lined up and ready to step into your shoes
- retiring before you've met all your professional goals
- retiring before you've met all your financial goals
- being forced into retirement by redundancy, ill health, company relocation, etc
2. Not having anything to retire 'to'. For example, having insufficient hobbies, activities and pastimes to keep you interested, interesting and engaged. Not having a plan for your retirement (or having a plan but not taking action on it). Not having a bucket list of things you want to be, do, have and achieve before you 'kick the bucket'.
3. Unresolved relationship problems. Like the fact that the two of you don't get on. Maybe your relationship worked while you were both working and had routines to follow and not much spare time available to find out how little you actually have in common. Or you're spending too much time together, you're getting under each others' feet and you need regular time apart to each do your own thing and/or have some privacy. Other causes of relationship problems in retirement arise from:
- partners who have never learned to communicate and resolve their differences like adults
- one or both partners having inadequate boundaries around the way their partner is allowed to treat them
- not living your own retirement - i.e., always doing everything your partner wants to do and none of the things that YOU want to do
4. Financial woes. Not having enough money to be able to live the kind of life in retirement that you want to live. Or not having enough money to be able to stop worrying about what the future will bring. Also, when partners have different values about money, they can often gloss over these when both are working and have a steady source of income. In retirement, when people become more reliant on savings, simmering resentments about money can intensify into something much bigger.
5. The failure to replace the benefits you got from your work. The benefits that we get from working are generally recognised to be:
a) financial stability
b) time management
c) a sense of being useful
d) socialization and companionship
We need to find ways of replacing those benefits once we retire. So, our pension and possibly a part-time job or home-based business will, hopefully, provide us with financial stability. Having a structure to our days and somewhere to go/something to do will provide us with a way to manage our time. Voluntary work or starting a service-based business will give us a sense of being useful. Having a wide circle of friends of all ages will fill the need for socialization and companionship. You might not feel the need to replace the 'status' that you got from your working life but if you do, some sort of voluntary work might do the trick. Volunteering makes us feel valuable - it helps us realise how competent, accomplished and fortunate we are in comparison with others and it provides us with the opportunity to be perceived as a 'good' person.
6. Wasting time. Once the initial excitement about being retired has passed, some people don't actually DO anything with their retirement. They act as if they have all the time in the world to check off all the items on their bucket list. Or they spend their time procrastinating about what to do and how to do it. Or they get sucked into watching too much daytime TV or getting distracted online without acknowledging they're in the final chapter of their lives and that this is their last, best chance to do all the things that they've always wanted to do.
7. Not taking care of yourself. Many people report a little weight gain or loss of muscle tone in retirement but there comes a time when you have to make the choice to either take that in hand and do something about it - or not. Not doing what you know to do - i.e., not taking the necessary action, makes you feel bad about yourself and this is often compounded by what you see when you look in the mirror.
8. Having so many ideas that you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to begin.
Here's what to do:
Make a plan and then work the plan. Just take the first step... I'm 99.9% certain that you know what that first step is. Decide what it is you need to do and take the first baby step in the right direction. I love baby steps. They're much easier to take than a big leap and, no matter how small the step you feel able to take, you'll have made progress. Which will give you the incentive to take the next baby step and the next and the... (Okay - you get it!).
Most of us spend more time planning our annual holiday than we do planning the non-financial aspects of our retirement. Some time spent thinking about what could go wrong with your retirement, can help you avoid many of the potential challenges and pitfalls, and help make sure you get the retirement you want and deserve to have!