“Am I ready to retire?” It’s a question most of us ask ourselves regularly. Retirement should be an exciting chapter in our lives – but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that there will be some losses in retirement along with many advantages. That’s the message in this article we just discovered from MSN describing some of the losses we may face as we grow older.
If you’ve listened to Rajiv Nagaich, you know that his philosophy in retirement is to prepare for the worst and expect the best. Having bright hopes and dreams for your retirement future is a great idea. But as part of your planning, stop and think clearly about some if the losses retirement may bring. Then do your best to prepare, so they don’t catch you off guard.
This MSN article was written by reporter Jennifer Derrick. We offer it, not as a downer, but as encouragement to enter this phase of life with optimism – yet with eyes wide open.
Losses in Retirement Can Blindside Us
We’re all well aware of the fun dreams most of us have about retirement. As long as we don’t have to worry too much about money, most of us expect to travel, indulge in our hobbies, play with our grandkids more, and just enjoy unfettered time as we get older.
Writing for MSN, Derrick cautions, “For many, our biggest fear is the loss of money. While that’s a valid worry, there will be many other losses in retirement that can blindside you if you’re not prepared for them. Dealing with that emotional load of bricks could put a crimp in your big fun. So, what are some of the losses you should consider now? How can you plan for them, mitigate them, and, ultimately, come to terms with them? Here are some retirement losses to think about.”
Losses in Retirement Can Include Diminished Status
This loss is especially true for those with a high-flying title at work or a job held in high esteem. For you, it’s worth remembering that fewer people will recognize your titles after retirement. They might not be as quick to consult you on your expertise. This can be a humbling experience.
“You can (and probably should) mourn the loss of status, but if you can’t get past it, it can cause trouble,” Derrick writes. “It can damage relationships if you try to dominate your personal life the way you dominated your work life. Not to mention just bringing you down because you can no longer lean on your title for validation. Finding other things at which you excel can help, as can finding other ways to define and validate your worth.”
In extreme cases, seek counseling, he adds. “Professional help may be needed if other methods fail.”
Losses in Retirement Can Rob Your Sense of Identity
For better or worse (and Derrick is not a fan of this societal norm), many of us define ourselves by the jobs we do. But when you lose your job through retirement, this can leave you scrambling for a new sense of self.
It’s a good idea to prepare yourself now to come to grips with the way the term “retired” is perceived. It’s a much more abstract identity than any job you’ve done up until now. “It can help to reframe retirement as a chance to change your identity,” Derrick writes. “Who do you want to be? What do you want to be known for? Go forth and forge a new identity based on what’s important to you, not what society called you during your working years.”
Losses in Retirement Can Include Loss of Purpose
In a related vein, work gives us a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is simple. It gets us out of bed every day. So, what will get you out of bed without work?
Derrick writes, “You need to plan for a new purpose once your working days are done. Will you volunteer? Care for family or grandkids? Will you do some part time work in a field that means a lot to you? Figure out your new purpose before you retire. It may change over the course of your retirement, but at least have something to aim for in the beginning.”
Losses in Retirement Can Leave You Feeling Unstructured
Work also brings intrinsic structure to your days. When you’re working, you have a schedule. Retirement doesn’t have a built-in routine. And while that might sound wonderful at first, the unstructured life can be difficult over time if you don’t build any order into it.
“You need a plan to put some guardrails on your time,” Derrick suggests. “Pick a wake-up and bed time and stick to them. Have a loose plan for your days. For example, you can do chores in the morning, volunteer or exercise in the afternoon, and do social activities in the evening. You don’t have to account for every hour, but having a loose schedule can help.”
Losses in Retirement Can Make You Feel Unneeded
Related to loss of purpose, but slightly different, retirement can leave you with a sense of uselessness. When you’re working, your skills and labor are needed and sought after. This might be even more keenly felt if you’re also an “empty nest” retiree and your kids are living their own lives.
“Feeling useless is a fast track to depression, so find ways to feel needed. That may mean forging new relationships, babysitting the grandkids, volunteering, or some part time work. Even just helping your neighbors with their chores or projects can make you feel needed,” Derrick writes.
Losses in Retirement Can Rob You of Your Friends
Working doesn’t always entail having more friends, but it can. At the very least, it can mean daily social interactions that go away when you retire. And sadly, our retirement years can also mean losing friends to the passage of time.
“You need to find a way to both keep old friendships going and forge new ones,” Derrick advises. “Have lunch with your old work friends a couple of times per month. Stay on the work text chain, if you can. As your work friends also retire, invite them to more and more things with you. And when you’re looking for new friends, don’t discount those younger than you. Not only can they help you feel younger, there’s less chance of losing them to death. Seek out activities with a mix of ages and try to befriend all age groups.”
Losses in Retirement Remind You of Your Own Decline
It’s a fact of life that quitting work at anything approaching the traditional “retirement age” often means accepting that you’re getting closer to the end of earthly life. “It’s easy to keep thoughts of mortality at bay when you’re working, but when you enter retirement, a.k.a. the final phase of life, death often stares you in the face,” Derrick writes.
She adds, “Death is something we all have to come to terms with. Religion or counseling may help, or you may be able to get to grips with it alone. Just don’t let the end of denial smack you in the face. Prepare to face the facts.”
Losses in Retirement Often Result in Loss of Income
For many people, earning an income isn’t just a matter of material security, it also comes with an emotional component. Some people don’t realize how valuable earning money makes them feel. When that income stops, so does the accompanying sense of value.
“Create value for yourself independent of money,” Derrick urges. “And what about the shift from being a saver to a spender? Even though we all have dreams of doing fun stuff with our money, that shift from saving to spending can be jarring. You may need to create a spending budget just like you once had a savings budget. Planning for spending may make you feel better about it.”
Losses in Retirement Can Bring Loss of Independence
Part of getting older is accepting that you might not be able to handle all of your own affairs for much longer. And while that can be a scary realization, it doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world. Putting a plan in place ahead of time can ease a lot of the discomfort.
“Where do you want to go? A community or assisted living? To your kid’s house? Who will handle the money? Your kids? A trusted relative or friend? A lawyer or trustee? How will you get around if you can’t drive? We all think it won’t happen and we put this planning off, but dealing with this stuff on the fly is messy and subject to leaving you in undesirable positions. Figure it out early in retirement,” Derrick writes.
Losses in Retirement Can Force You to Quit Hobbies You Enjoy
While endless days indulging in our hobbies sounds like a dream come true, it’s a fact that some of those hobbies might not be physically attainable as you get older. Sports like golf or activities like gardening might not be possible for too long, or you might lose your finer motor skills for the crafts or woodworking you enjoy. What is your plan if this happens?
“If you’re basing a happy retirement on being able to do certain things for the duration, you may be disappointed,” Derrick writes. “Do you have other hobbies on the back burner that you can pursue? Maybe take up light walking with a neighbor if tennis gets too hard? Or reading/learning instead of travel? Start thinking about what might make you happy if your primary activities go away.”
Losses in Retirement: The Biggest is Loss of a Spouse or Partner
No one likes to think about this, and even fewer want to talk about it. But if you’re part of a couple, there’s a high probability that one of you will be alone for a while, and life will go on.
“It won’t do any good to lie in bed and wait for your own death, no matter how much you may want to,” Derrick writes.
And planning for this isn’t just about the will and funeral. “What will life look like for one of you?” Derrick poses. “Will you stay in the family home or decamp to an apartment or senior community? Will you remain open to meeting someone else, or is that avenue closed forever? If there are hobbies you pursued as a couple, will you continue to do so, or will you need new activities? Is there work or a mission that your partner will want you to keep alive for them?”
She adds, “It can help to talk it over with your partner ahead of time so you each know the other’s thoughts as you plan for life without the other.”
Losses in Retirement Can Sometimes Mean Losing a Son or Daughter
This is arguably the hardest subject to talk about, but it does happen. Adult children can and do die before their parents, and this can be crushing if the parents aren’t prepared for this and expect that their adult children will be there to help them in their decline.
“You should have a plan just in case,” Derrick writes. “Who will handle your affairs if your child predeceases you? Who will get any inheritance if your children die? Where will you go for care? Make these plans early and make them legal so you don’t add that struggle to your grief.”
Derrick concludes by encouraging us with the thought that not everyone will experience everything on this list. And some lucky few may experience none of these. “But for the majority of us, at least some of these losses will dampen our retirement years,” she writes. “Having plans and support systems in place (or at least in mind) ahead of time can make dealing with them easier. So while fretting about money is important, don’t forget to prepare for how you’ll keep other losses from bringing you down.”
(originally reported at www.msn.com)