When preparing to retire, remember a steady paycheck is not the only thing grinding to a halt when you end your daily grind.
If you’re not careful, disrupting your familiar habits, roles and relationships could make you feel aimless, isolated and depressed instead of free, relaxed and fulfilled.
Retirement is not just about ceasing work but redefining what works for you. You can gain opportunities to explore new interests, rediscover old ones and spend time with the people who matter most to you.
Here are some common losses in retirement and tips on how to restructure your routines to enjoy the benefits of this stage of your life’s journey.
1. Work income
You won’t get a paycheck from an employer anymore, so you’ll have to pay yourself instead.
Your retirement income typically will come from Social Security, retirement savings and pensions or annuities if you have them. You might also consider working part-time or starting a small business to supplement your retirement income and ease any fears of dwindling savings balances.
At age 67, the Social Security Administration expects men, on average, will live nearly 16 more years; women, 18 more. During that time, households headed by retirees may expect to spend around $1 million or more.
Plan ahead, create a realistic budget and adjust your spending to help see that you don’t outlive your savings. If you need help, check out The Only Retirement Guide You'll Ever Need from Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson.
2. Sense of purpose
Paying attention to your job tasks can make you feel engaged, challenged and productive.
When providing for your family and other responsibilities wane, retirement can leave you feeling like you’ve lost your sense of purpose. Almost a quarter of retirees responding to a Harris Poll done for Edward Jones financial services say it is challenging to find purpose in life.
New hobbies or interests might give you a sense of fulfillment. The most impactful, said surveyed retirees who tried them, are adopting a pet, engaging more in faith or spiritual practices, and pursuing new experiences and adventures through travel.
You also could volunteer in community services or mentor others to give back or get an encore job. Retirees working in retirement told Harris pollsters they feel a stronger sense of purpose and accomplishment.
3. Part of your identity
When you meet someone, one of the first get-to-know-you questions is “What do you do for a living?” Whatever you used to say no longer applies once you leave your job. You’ve lost that part of your identity and that can affect your mental health. A 2013 Canadian study found a strong correlation between men’s feelings of self-worth through employment and depression after retiring.
“So much of our mind space is occupied by our work, that we let other pieces of ourselves atrophy,” said Teresa Amabile during an HBR IdeaCast podcast. Amabile is a retired Harvard Business School professor who studied 120 professionals to find how they prepared for retirement transitions.
Some people build what Amabile terms a “bridge identity.” You can bring non-career interests to the fore, such as family engagement if kids or grandchildren are around. Some retirees revive long lost hobbies such as motorcycle riding. A former high school drama star joined community theater. Others bridge their work identity by volunteering or opening consulting firms. A former corporate executive used leadership skills as her church board’s chair, Amabile shared in her study.
Social ties are often closely linked to your job. Daily interactions with co-workers, even those you might not like, help fill your human craving for the company of others.
A study done back in 1938 pointed out retirees’ No. 1 challenge is replacing connections abruptly cut short when you retire, according to CNBC.
Many retirees expect to dote on grandchildren, but the kids might be in school or busy with friends. Invite neighbors, former co-workers, church acquaintances or people you meet in new activities to become parts of your new routines such as walking, bike riding, grabbing coffee, learning crafts, playing cards or attending theater.
Since retirement often goes hand-in-hand with aging, you inevitably see more deaths of friends and family.
“Grief is painful at any age, but it’s often overlooked in older adults,” Melanie Donohue, a licensed clinical social worker, writes on the website for her business Blue Moon Senior Counseling. Losing friends can be as important to you as losing family, she says. Acknowledge your loss and take time to grieve your way; there is no right or wrong way.
Not waking to an alarm may bring you joy, but how will you spend — God willing — your 6,000 or more days after getting up?
Your job provided structure and routine not only for your work time but how you fit everything else into after-work hours and weekends, Amabile told HBR IdeaCast. For married retirees, spouses’ routines change too. They’re not used to having you around all the time when you used to work.
One man told Amabile he immediately drove his wife crazy: “I alphabetized all the spices the first day I was retired when she went off to work, and she said you need to get out of this house for at least four hours every day.” He eventually set up breakfasts with friends and volunteered regularly.
You will have time to experiment setting regular times for meals, family, exercising, socializing, volunteering, hobbies, encore jobs and anything else that can bring you a feeling of normalcy.
At work, attention from your boss, co-workers, clients or customers can make you feel valued, respected and appreciated.
Once retired, you might fear, who’s going to pay attention to you?
“Most people need to know they matter in the present tense, even if it’s in small ways,” Katherine King, psychologist, wrote in an article on the Psychology Today website.
Recognize and celebrate your own accomplishments, talents, experiences and value as a unique person. You can share your wisdom through volunteering, mentoring and socializing with new connections.
7. Physical activity
The very nature of going to work gets you moving. While some jobs require strenuous labor, even desk jobs can get you walking to meetings, standing around a water cooler or walking on coffee breaks.
When you retire, too much Netflix and chill or tuning in to free reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Designing Women” raises your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and even death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, the Mayo Clinic warns.
Even leisurely movement will get you burning calories and could lead to extra energy, it says. “Physical activity helps maintain muscle tone, your ability to move and your mental well-being, especially as you age,” the Mayo Clinic says.
8. Certain expenses
You can get a payday by not going to work anymore. You won’t pay commuting costs such as train or bus fares or, if driving, gas and parking. Also, driving fewer miles could save you on car maintenance and possibly car insurance. And will you really still need two cars if you have them?
Money you spent buying lunch at work can be saved by preparing your own meals at home or reallocated to socializing lunches with friends old and new. Wardrobe costs can come down if you’re going from business to casual attire.
When income drops, you’ll likely pay less in taxes, too, depending on your income and location. You might also qualify for tax credits and a higher standard deduction for the elderly, the IRS says.
If your children have their own careers and you have solid retirement savings and income that will sustain a surviving spouse and cover funeral costs, you might not need to pay life insurance premiums any more.
Such savings may help you pay for travel, hobbies or charitable causes and other activities you find fulfilling.