Adjusting To Retirement: 10 Tips To Help You Navigate A New Identity

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Older couple hiking
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You’ve made it to the finish line! Now you can enjoy the benefits of retirement: leisure time, relaxation, less stress. But it can also feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. For so many years there was status, income, and purpose in being employed. What will this next chapter bring? It can be disorienting. 

Developing and maintaining your intellectual, psychological, physical, and social well-being can help smoothly navigate your transition into retirement. Now is your chance to build a new life. Explore new activities, relationships, and ways of thinking. Perhaps you’ll rediscover a passion, or have more time and attention to devote to a certain role, activity, or relationship. Read on for some important non-financial tips on navigating your new identity.

Create Your New Retirement Identity

You’ve probably been daydreaming about retirement for a while. Now is the time to put all those dreams down on paper. What will your day-to-day life look like? Feel free to experiment and be imaginative—this is a period of exploration and reinvention. What brings you purpose? What motivates you to get out of bed? Plan to engage with those things and identify ways to achieve those goals.

Come up with New Metrics for Success

Nobody’s going to give you feedback on how your retirement is going. No one is going to pat you on the back in recognition because you showered and got dressed today. There’s no annual review on how your garden grows. While this might seem like great news to some, to others, it can be anxiety-inducing. How can you tell if you’re doing well if there’s no one else to judge? One way is to see if you’re reaching the goals you set out in your retirement identity. Perhaps it’s reading a certain number of books in a month, reaching a fitness goal, or traveling somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

Stay Active 

Yay, you don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock anymore! Now you can set your own rules. That doesn’t mean you can just sit around the house all day, though. To stay physically and mentally healthy, make sure to be active, exercise your brain and body, and eat healthfully. The risk of developing dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) increases with age, but physical and mental activity may help delay or stave off memory loss, helping to maintain overall health and preserve cognitive skills.

Renew Relationships

All this free time means you can reconnect with old friends, and maybe even make some new ones. You’ll have more time for your family, so you can visit relatives, or take care of grandkids. If you miss your coworkers, get in touch for lunch.

Netflix and Chill

Streaming services have come a long way in the past decade. Now there’s way more on “TV” than there ever has been in anyone’s lifetime. Try out a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu. All you need is a (fast) internet connection and a streaming device or Smart TV.

You can find old programs you used to love, “binge” the latest hit, or have a movie marathon. The best part? No commercials!

Get a Dog

If you’re not going to travel too much, it might be nice to adopt a new best friend, assuming you’re not allergic to them. Studies show that pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners. Pet researcher and psychology professor Allen R. McConnell found that furry friends make us happier, more trusting, and less lonely. So head to your local animal rescue and adopt a dog or cat. Not up for the commitment? You can always volunteer at a shelter, or foster a pet for a short time.

Indulge in Your Hobbies

If you already have a hobby or two or three, great! If not, now is the time to get some. Perfect your golf game, garden, paint, cook, read, make your family tree. Need some more inspiration? Check out these stress-relieving hobbies.

Learn Something New

We’re not saying you need to go back to school, but studies have shown that learning new skills may improve your memory and thinking ability. Use it or lose it, right? Whether it’s learning to play an instrument, tackling a foreign language, or taking free online college courses, it’s never too late to learn something new.

Give Back to Your Community

Of course, you’ve already learned quite a lot. Share that knowledge by mentoring the next generation. Take up a cause. Volunteer for an organization. Studies show that volunteering can actually help stave off depression in older adults. In fact, in one survey, 82 percent of respondents said they planned on volunteering during retirement. Some companies even offer the opportunity to travel and volunteer

Get Your Affairs in Order

This is a bummer, but its time to make plans for after you’re gone. In addition to legal and estate planning, a tool like the Family Love Letter can help eliminate confusion by providing information. It basically allows you to leave directions for your loved ones, so they don’t have to make tough decisions in challenging times. This particular planning tool includes contacts, assets, liabilities, insurance and benefits, documents, and other information. Although it’s hard to have to think about these things, do it for your family. It will bring clarity, reduce stress, and minimize conflict.