Preparing emotionally for retirement

February 2018

By Clare Richards, Member Care Consultant, UniSuper

When planning for retirement, your focus might understandably be on your finances. But don’t underestimate the importance of preparing emotionally for life after work.

If you’re retiring from full-time work in, say, an office environment, you aren’t just leaving a 40-hour a week job. You’ll also be leaving a social network, a routine and a purpose-filled day.

The challenge ahead is replacing this life with one that is equally or even more fulfilling.

This may prove easier for those of us who considered work a means to an end, as the prospect of being able to concentrate on other interests will be exciting to plan. But if you’re fortunate enough to have had an enjoyable and meaningful career, you could be faced with a more daunting task.

Between 10 and 20% of older Australians have mild symptoms of depression that interfere with enjoyment of life and anxiety is our most common mental health condition. So it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re emotionally ready to retire.

Many people draw a large part of their personal identity and sense of purpose from their work, so it’s imperative to plan meaningful pursuits once you’re retired. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do, but just not had the time? Planning these activities and hobbies will give you a sense of personal fulfilment. They’ll also get you excited and put you in a positive frame of mind as you transition into this new stage of your life.

Whether you feel a kinship with your colleagues, or just think of them as people who occupy the same space as you for most of the day, a job provides you with a social network.

Avoid losing touch with colleagues you consider friends, and make a plan to stay social and forge new relationships. This may mean catching up with existing friends and family a few times a week, or actively pursuing new friends by volunteering or joining social special interest groups.

UniSuper recently partnered with SuperFriend, an organisation that works to create mentally and emotionally healthy workplaces with the aim of reducing the impact of mental illness.

SuperFriend recommends using the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ as a technique to help you emotionally prepare for a fulfilling retirement. The five tenets are: connection with others, mindfulness, being active, giving back, and continuing to learn. 

We also co-present our Preparing for a mentally healthy retirement seminar with SuperFriend. This free seminar helps members form realistic expectations about retirement—by understanding the link between expectations, satisfaction and wellbeing—and learn which factors contribute to adjusting well and poorly to retirement.