Retirement Planning Beyond Finances: Are You Emotionally Ready for Retirement?

What do you picture when you imagine your retirement?

Maybe you haven’t given it much thought beyond the aspect of solidifying your finances. Or perhaps you have a long list of interests and goals you plan to tackle once you leave the working world.

Retirement is the beginning of a new chapter of life and offers new opportunities and personal freedom. It’s also a major transition that can be quite overwhelming if you’re not mentally and emotionally prepared.

Your vision of retirement should be as comprehensive as your financial plan. Retirees and those looking toward retirement may need guidance to design their next phase of life and a retirement coach can help you focus on the critical aspects of non-financial retirement planning.

Retirement Planning Beyond Finances

There is more to retirement than what appears on the surface. “Many people don’t grasp that preparing for retirement goes beyond the finances,” says Marianne Oehser, certified retirement coach at

The emotional adjustment can be the biggest hurdle to overcome for retirees, says Oehser. Work is normally a large portion of a person’s life and identity. Once you stop working, do you know how you want to fill your days outside of work?

A February 2015 survey of retired baby boomers, commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, found that 69 percent of retirees had challenges adapting to the emotional changes in their lives. According to the survey of 1,000 people, ages 63-73, who retired in the last five years from their primary profession found that the toughest parts of retiring included:

  • Missing the day-to-day social connections with colleagues (37%).
  • Getting used to a new and different routine (32%).
  • Finding ways to give meaning and purpose in their days (22%).

When you retire, you have to launch a new identity, purpose and routine. For those who defined themselves by what they did for a living, not who they were as people, the transition to a new life can be particularly difficult if they don’t prepare.

The details of what you’ll enjoy after you retire will evolve overtime. So, it’s important to prime yourself emotionally and mentally for each stage of retirement.

Stages of Retirement

To help retirees better acclimate to the new phase of their lives, Age Wave has identified the five distinct stages of retirement.

Imagination: The five to 15 years before retirement when you are engrossed in your busy personal and professional lives working hard and saving for retirement. It’s a distant dream.

Anticipation Stage: This stage is a time of great excitement and hope and starts about five years before retirement. Now you are thinking about what you actually want to do and where you want to live. You might be dreaming of where you want to travel, planning new hobbies, or a post-retirement career. “Many people in this stage just think retirement is going to be great, but their picture is very vague and they often fail to plan for the all the adjustments they’ll have to make, beyond just letting go of schedules and hard deadlines,” says Oehser.

Liberation Stage: The very early stages of retirement, where you are free from all the pressures and demands of the past 30 to 40 years of working. Oehser says, “This is the honeymoon phase where it’s like a perpetual vacation and it usually lasts between six to 18 months.” People in this stage are fully engaged in the novel opportunities of retirement – hobbies, traveling, reconnecting with family, and even starting a new business or career. Oehser cautions this euphoric stage can quickly fade. “This stage is not an accurate depiction of what the next 20-30 years of your life is likely to be like.”

Re-engagement Stage: Oehser says that while some people cruise happily-ever-after through retirement, not everyone finds it fulfilling. What seemed like a lifelong ambition of endless free time to pursue whatever you wanted may bring boredom, depression and a sense of uselessness. Reality may set in when retirees emerge from the honeymoon phase and face the reality of life without structure and devoid of direction and they don’t know what to do about it.

Reconciliation Stage: This is the stage where you take stock of your situation and have come to terms with all that retirement has to offer. If people take the time and make the effort to prepare during the Imagination and Anticipation stages while they are still actively working, their transition into retirement is likely to be much smoother. To help smooth the transition of each retirement stage, Oehser says that planning and preparation is essential. “I’m convinced that awareness of how things are going to unfold during retirement has a substantial impact on people’s ability to make the adjustments that are required,” says Oehser.

Designing Your Happiness Portfolio

A retirement coach can help you adjust to retirement and get the lifestyle you want. The process usually starts with a self-assessment that examines your values and strengths and clarifies goals, hopes and dreams for the future.

“Retirement is highly personalized and so I partner with my clients to help them get in touch with what kinds of things are going to be meaningful for them,” says Oehser. “I ask them, what are your goals, where do you want to be?”

According to Oehser, a fulfilling retirement starts with your happiness portfolio. It begins by figuring out how to replace the non-financial benefits you enjoyed while you were working. They include:

Identity  – Who are you?
Structure – How do you spend your time?
Sense of Worth  – What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning?
Social Interaction – You often had work relationships. Now you have to develop new relationships or better relationships with your friends/family.

Oehser explains that replacing these benefits can be an exciting opportunity to explore dreams you might have left behind in childhood or never had time to investigate during the hectic life you used to lead.

“We do a 5-week workshop that starts by assessing eight major arenas in your life so we can look at what may need to be redesigned. Then we work on identifying ways to replace those non-financial benefits of working so you feel like your life is meaningful.”

Retirement should be about how you will continue to grow as an individual and value your new lifestyle. Coaching can enable you to find solutions inside yourself and get you where you want to be in all areas of your life.

“The picture of what of retirement looks like is as different as the people retiring,” says Oehser.

Book Recommendations:
Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities by Richard J. Leider and Alan M. Webber
Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose by Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD
The Power of Purpose by Richard J. Leider The Third Act: Reinventing Yourself After Retirement by Edgar M. Bronfman
Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life by Jane Pauley

Retiring is one of the most significant transitions you will face in life – are you financially and emotionally prepared? How do you picture your retirement?

Learn more about the emotional and financial side of retirement planning in our Discovering Retirement series. 

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