Make sure you read the articles in a special retirement section that appeared in The New York Times on September 12, 2019. In one of those articles, Kerry Hannon writes about three significant changes that take place in retirement, as explained by Ken Dychtwald, retirement expert and founder of AgeWave. These are indeed "The Big Three"...
I'd like to address each individually, both from Dychtwald's perspective and filtering in my own experience.
According to Dychtwald, "Our identity has been forged and tweaked and shaped by our work life.” Particularly with professionals, their identities are intertwined with their careers. Imagine an engineer, a software developer, a professor, an attorney, or a physician whose lifelong work has consumed much of his or her time. Imagine a senior manager or CEO who has devoted decades to leading an organization. The shift away from this full-time role, whether it's voluntary or not, is a personal loss of professional identity that should not be underestimated.
My identity was defined by the fact that I was a marketing professional, in large part because I started and ran a direct marketing agency for twenty years. I made the "identity transition" prior to my early retirement by selling that firm to a larger agency and accepting a new role for a short period of time. That helped modify my self-perception. I then started a small business with my wife. When we sold that business, I became a marketing consultant and then a freelance writer. My perception of my identity remains, however: I still at least partially define myself by what I do professionally as a writer -- although now I view it as more of an avocation.
At the top of the change list, says Dychtwald, is relationships. In retirement, people miss the relationships they forged as part of their careers. While some work friendships transcend the workplace, retirees may end the relationships they had with coworkers, resulting in a real sense of loss. Other relationships could fray as well, especially if retirement includes a relocation. Moving away from long-time friends can be disconcerting. In addition, it isn't uncommon for marital relationships to suffer or be redefined due to retirement.
I was fortunate in that I could continue some work relationships through freelance writing after leaving full-time employment. I also built new work relationships via volunteering as a consultant and at a non-profit organization. By starting a business together, my wife and I were able to enter a "pre-retirement" phase and share a common business interest. This helped strengthen our relationship (although not every couple is able to successfully work together).
Dychtwald observes, “Most of us, until our retirement day, have lived our lives in a structured lifestyle. You retire, and all of that is dissolved." How true this is! One of the more challenging aspects of retirement, even if it is a partial retirement, is the fundamental change of schedule. The busy workday calendar -- with its meetings, deadlines and obligations -- is gone. Remarkably, there is now time to do the laundry and the shopping, which requires a whole different kind of scheduling. For some, this is a breath of fresh air; for others, it can become an affliction if they face the frightening thought, "What am I going to do today?"
I believe the best way to cope with this is to keep busy, creating a post-work retirement that has its own structure and is designed around each person's unique requirements. For some, that may be a mix of part-time work, volunteering, and recreation. For others, it may mean taking courses, playing tennis, or traveling. Personally, I think it is less important what each person is doing than it is to feel that you are getting satisfaction from your activities and are vital and engaged in life.
HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.