Depression just after Retirement

So, are you REALLY ready for retirement? Psychology may undermine your health and happiness.

It has been 30 or so years since you first started your career and after such a long time, it seems that now may be a good time to consider retiring. You have put your time in, there are a number of things that you would like to do while you are still young and your savings should provide all you need for the next 20-30 years. After all, you have been wanting to travel more, to spend more time with your children (and who’s kidding whom, it’s really your grandchildren that you want to see) and to have more time to pursue some of the things you have put off all these years. Yes, this certainly must be the right time.

But wait a minute: are you really ready for retirement? There is an interesting and often unexpected phenomenon that occurs as many people transition into retirement. What is it? Post-retirement depression.

Your response (if you haven’t already decided to stop reading because it couldn’t possibly apply to you) is likely similar to many of my clients’ responses: “I don’t think I will experience anything like that because I have been so tired of working for so many years. I’m really ready for retirement.” “That won’t happen to me because I have all of these projects lined up that will keep me very busy after retirement.” or the most common, “I’m sure that it won’t happen to me. After all, you know how much I like to (play golf, sail, travel, garden, etc.) and now I will finally have enough time to do it as much as I would like.” Uh huh, it all sounds perfectly logical and, to some extent, even ideal. But watch out, there could be a freight train coming.

In 2013 a study was released by the Institute of Economic Affairs and Age Endeavour Fellowship that suggested that retired people are “40% less likely to describe themselves as in very good or excellent health than working people of the same age. Mark Littlewood stated that many working people look forward to retirement, however, retirement is often connected with a downturn in health.” [Source]

I witnessed a great example a few years ago. One of my clients retired from a successful career in finance. He had enough accumulated to retire comfortably and was very active in his life, his community and his church. He had many friends and was one of the most upbeat people I have known. Then he retired. After three months he had fallen into such a deep depression that he sought counseling to help himself out. He had lost his purpose and it took months before he fully recovered and returned to “normal.” He wasn’t prepared for the dramatic changes that occur at retirement and the loss of purpose, drive, inter-personal connections and sense of achievement all caused him to suffer an uncomfortable transition.

So what is one to do? In preparation for retirement there are a number of ideas for making the transition successfully. First, create a plan for your finances that allows you to take your focus off of the day-to-day financial concerns and place it back on the things that give you the most joy. You want to know that you can live the life you hope to. So how do you achieve your goals? Start with a plan.

Second, consider easing into retirement instead of quitting “cold turkey.” Most people jump into retirement when they would be much better off working part-time during the early retirement years and gradually transitioning out of the workforce. Part-time work keeps your mind and body engaged and helps offset some of your expenses early on. Think of it as a way to pay for all the fun you will have while you are not working!

Next, consider one of life’s most basic needs, to belong, as part of your plan. What interests do you have and how might you fit into a community of people with similar interests? Maintaining a community around you is a critical part of a happy life and it couldn’t be more important that just after retirement.

Finally, stay fit both mentally and physically. Make a plan to keep moving and to keep your mind and body active. By exercising regularly and continuing to learn, you will keep focused on positive developments and not the void of the things that may feel like they are missing from your work life.

Once you settle in, retirement will be great. With a little advanced planning, you can make the transition work well, too. If you feel you need help, please feel free to give us a call.