Life After Retirement: What Should You Expect?

Our blog is no stranger to the subjects of aging and retirement.

We’ve written about the benefits of retiring at the lake, how to stay youthful regardless of age and how to financially prepare for when you leave the world of work.

This isn’t by accident. The majority of lake homeowners are aged 55-64 and beyond, or in other words, prime retirement age.

Leaving your 9-5’s behind and retiring to a brand new lake home full time is a major aspect of the American dream. But what should older adults expect after they pack up their working boots for good?

It’s important to prepare for the common pitfalls that often take many off guard post-retirement.

The Shock of a Brand New Life

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs, 40 percent of retirees struggle with clinical depression. Additionally, retirement increases the probability of being diagnosed with a physical illness by 60 percent.

For older adults, suddenly leaving one life to start another after years of routine can be rather traumatic. Even when you think you’re prepared, it’s wise to not underestimate the shock of a brand new life.

One of the most common results of retirement is loss of identity. Many working adults have grown to equate what they do to who they are. Jobs also provide several mental health benefits, including:

  • access to relationships with co-workers
  • mental stimulation from constantly learning new things
  • satisfaction from contributing to society and feeling appreciated

From as early as preschool, the meaning of our lives revolve around achievement. First it’s good grades, then rewards in sports and the arts, then making money and getting promotions. Recent retirees report struggling to find a suitable outlet for achievement and reward.

Without these consistent means of fulfillment, despair often sets in as they adjust to a new way of life. The key to a successful retirement, though, is to find different avenues for fulfillment and satisfaction to make up for the loss.

Set Realistic Expectations

Adaptation and newfound happiness are more than possible, but it’s also important to remain realistic.

Retirees often assume they’ll suddenly develop a million new hobbies to fill all that free time. This is a common misconception that often leads to disappointment.

A word to the wise: if you’ve never gardened a day in your life, don’t expect to develop a green thumb as soon as your 401k kicks in.

A smart way to gauge what your retirement will look like is to look at how you utilize your free time before you get there.

Do you spend your weekends sleeping the days away, or catching up on your latest creative project? Do you have an active social life, or love to go on vacations every holiday?

Most of the time (unless you’re particularly ambitious) retirement doesn’t mean recreating your life so much as expanding the one you already have.

Keep this in mind when setting expectations about the other side.

How to Be a Successful Retiree

First, consider what type of person you are. Are you the working type, or the creative leisure type?

If you identify with the latter, you might be perfectly content with going on relaxing vacations, painting landscapes and trying out new recipes for the rest of your days. But if you’re the working type, this’ll likely bore you out of your mind.

In that case, you’ll want to find some outlet of production to keep busy. Keep in mind, working doesn’t always mean labor in exchange for money.

Volunteering your time to a cause you believe in is a great way to contribute to something bigger than yourself. Having a sense of purpose is important at any stage in life.

Also, the retirement rules aren’t set in stone. Who’s to say that, after leaving your 9-5, you can’t embark on that start-up business venture you’ve been dreaming about for years? The opportunities are endless.

Think of it as being 18 again and leaving your parents’ house for the first time, except with more money and more common sense.

The world is your oyster. This is a great time to try new foods, visit new cities and even switch up your wardrobe. Just because your body’s getting older doesn’t mean you have to.

Older adults face existential crises immediately following retirement because most, if not all, of their identity is tied up in their jobs.

Avoid this pitfall by creating a well-rounded life outside of work before you even reach retirement. That way, the transition is easy and more enjoyable.

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