Fast forward to retirement, though, and a full stop can be a big problem. For some, it unexpectedly creates a psychological void that can lead to feelings of irrelevance, loneliness and even precipitate ill health.
So, as you're winding down the "working" part of your life, you need to be actively preparing for the "relaxing" part … which remember, may even last 30 years. Here's your ready-for-retirement checklist (for once, totally ignoring money).
1. Investigate a work transition
Keeping working is probably the last thing you want to think about when finally you're able to retire. But for far too many of us, our sense of identity is tied up with our occupation – and that makes it uncomfortable to give up your defining "label" overnight.
If you recognise you'd struggle with this aspect of retirement, consider a transition to retirement – and I don't mean with the pension of the same name. Going part-time instead of retiring, staying on as a consultant/freelancer, tilting to become a trainer of your trade or profession … are these options to keep your "position" if not your 40-hour-a-week current purpose?
2. Volunteer for good cheer
No one enjoys feeling bored and unproductive so if you're not the type to quickly and contentedly fill your days, what about kind-heartedly donating them? Think of the benefit you might provide volunteering your time at hospitals, with disabled children or transporting elderly ex-service people.
If charity is not enough to pique your interest, there's self-interest too: a University of Michigan meta-analysis of 37 US studies found older people who volunteered were 40% more likely to be alive at the end of those studies.
3. Ramp up your hobbies
You might have a worker-bee psyche today but have you always wanted to play the guitar? Or perhaps you'd like to learn the tango? Retirement is your chance. (My wonderful father-in-law is taking sewing classes and the clothes he is making his grandchildren are exquisite.)
There are also those precious pastimes for which there was never enough time … woodwork or painting, for instance. After you the marketer/plumber/salesperson/teacher, what about you the creator?
You could also plan to devote yourself to the "science of saving as a senior". There are opportunities to snare discounts on everything from restaurants and movies to transport and holidays.
4. Set up your social networks
We're all different and will have a different minimum number of monthly social engagements to feel connected and happy. But you can double if not triple your personal requirement once you don't have a flat-strap structure to your days.
Forbes magazine, for example, arbitrarily names four outings a month as the bare minimum. It also reports three out of five American Baby Boomers fall short of this, so retirees-in-wait need to get socialising.
Think also virtual interactions. The Over 50s, many of them grandparents, are the fastest-growing Facebook user base, as they seek to stay up-to-date and in touch with their grandchildren. And imagine how jealous they'll be when you start Instagram-ing your holidays? (Perhaps book your social media course too…)
5. When it's not by choice
Even some people who have targeted and dreamt of retirement for years struggle to adjust, but it's a different story again if the move was forced, whether through sickness, illness, small business closure or redundancy. Support service beyondblue says job loss can increase your risk of depression or anxiety and has produced a booklet to help.
There is also a formalised strategy to try and ward off premature retirement – if it's not due to ill-health – known as "career planning". More information is available from National Seniors Australia but this basically involves staying acutely aware of your employment position and its permanence, and constantly engaged with your skill-level and career options. It's a "lifelong process to help inform your choices and manage challenges as they arrive", a fact sheet explains, hinging on staying adaptable and employable.
In other words, where could life take you? What else that's exciting might be waiting?
Perhaps, in advance of retirement, the key is never to think of it like a full stop, but instead as a fresh start.
This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 June 2017. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.
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