By: Nanette Fairley
March 13, 2020


The end of full-time employment can trigger enormously liberating feelings,but it can also cause anxiety and fear.  If you type ‘retirement planning’ into Google, it almost exclusively comes back with articles on financial planning for your retirement.  Sure, this is important, but the psychological aspect of retirement is just as important and one we often neglect.Set aside any financial concerns for now, and ask yourself these six critical questionsto determine if you are psychologically and emotionally ready for this transition.

  • Do you have a plan in place for how you will spend your life post full-time employment?

We plan our weddings and the birth of our children.  Planning what you will do after you retire is just as critical.  You’ll no longer have the structure that employment brings and this can create a void that some find difficult to fill after the initial honeymoon period is over.  Thinking through your plan prior is really important to making the most of this time of your life.  What will you do?  How will you spend your days?  If you are not sure how to progress this, consider completing a course specifically designed to help you develop your What’s Next plan, or work with a coach who can support you to think it through.

  • Have you thought about your new identity post full time employment?
    Leaving a job also means leaving a job title and this can cause feelings of loss. If you have been saying you are an engineer or a nurse, what do you say now?  What is your new purpose?  How will you contribute?

Visualise who you want to become once you are no longer working as a teacher or lawyer.  Write it down and then build it into your plan for the future.

I like what one author, Ken Dychtwald, has shared in his book ‘Age Wave’. He said, ‘the storyline of retirement will be less about winding things down and more about transforming oneself.  Rather than becoming elderly, we become elders – wise, well-travelled and deeply experienced.’ How can you build that wisdom and experience into your new identity?

  • If in a relationship, have you both discussed your plans with each other and found a happy medium?

Agreeing on how you will spend your life,post employment, with your spouse can be challenging.  One may want to retire, and the other work for several more years.  One may want to travel and the other spend time closer to home and grandchildren.  The research shows that those couples that plan together, and better still, retire together, find retirement significantly more satisfying.

  • Are you ready for the upheaval that this transition will bring?
    While the initial euphoria of ditching your 9-5 may last weeks or months, life will change dramatically and any change, even good ones, can make us feel out of sorts for a while. One individual I met said it took him a good three years to ‘find his feet’ after being retired against his wishes.

Think about what you have done to help in the past when managing big changes (new job, arrival of a baby, loss).  What strategies helped?  Perhaps looking after yourself a bit more or not doing everything new at once.  I remember once I started a new job, moved house and bought a new car, all in the same month!  While these were all good things, I felt totally out of sorts at the time.  You might like to introduce one new thing at a time and, once it feels comfortable, try something else new.

  • Do you have a network outside of work?

Having friendships and community is critically important post retirement as they contribute to our positive mental health among other things.  One study has found that retired men are 40% more likely than employed mento experience depression.

While we all have the best intentions of staying in touch when someone moves on from work, but this is not always achieved.  If many of your social connections are people you work with, this may leave a gap.  So before retirement, think about where you would like to build connections and begin to do so.  Join a rock choir or sports club if you have always wanted to but never had the time.  Foster these relationships outside of work as they will remain once you’re no longer working full-time.

  • Are you ready not to have a monthly pay check?

This question is not so much about how much money you have but more aboutyour need for security.  It is very definitely a mindset we need to shift from working and saving to retirement and spending.  A friend was well set up financially when beginning to think about retiring but he felt very uncomfortable about never having a pay check again. If you think this could be an issue for you, think about moving to part-time work initially.  You will then still have the ‘safety’ of some income whether or not you need it.

Remember, finding your new normal takes time.  However, if you have thought through the above questions prior, and you have a plan for your what’s next, you will be more psychologically ready to work through the transition and enjoy your what’s next after full-time employment.