Are you Ready for Retirement?

There are a lot of articles that deal specifically on how to financially prepare for retirement — this is not one of those articles. After speaking to many retirees who come into our office, I’ve discovered that mentally preparing for retirement is every bit as important as financially planning for it.

On the surface, the thought of retirement might bring visions of unlimited time to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them. On the surface, that sounds great. But after years of living a regimented life in a work in environment for most of your waking hours, suddenly transitioning to a more, well, “retiring” mindset might take some adjustment.

The Crash and Burn Phenomenon

According to the American Psychological Association, a study presented in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that many retirees go through   a rush- crash pattern for the first few years of retirement.

The author of the study, Elizabeth Mokyr Horner, Ph.d compared the phenomenon to the a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash several hours later.

Soon after retiring, many people feel an adrenalin rush, which lasts for the first year or so. After this response wears off, it’s followed by feelings of listlessness, boredom or even depression. Preparing and planning for these transitional years can make them easier to navigate.

Consider Bridge Employment

According to the online brochure, “Life Plan for the Life Span,” retirees who are employed part-time  enjoy the aging process more than those who have completely retired, as well as those who work full-time.

Referred to as bridge employment, having a part-time job before completely retiring is one way to not only alleviate potential money problems – it also makes the process of going from full-time employment to full-time retirement more gradual, and thus easier to adjust to.

Engage in Meaningful Volunteer Work

The key word here is “engage.” Although some studies show that people who volunteer in retirement are happier than those who are fully retired, others have shown that some people do not get the same satisfaction with volunteering as others might.

The difference appears to be in how completely engaged a volunteer is with his work. A study published in Psychology and Aging a couple of years ago concluded that volunteers who work at least 200 hours a year have a lower risk of blood pressure than those who did not. However, those who worked less than 200 hours per year did not have the same protection against hypertension.

Remain Socially Active

Maintaining strong social ties is an important ally against depression – in fact, it is one of the only activities that have been proven to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia. Dedicating a portion of your free time to nurturing either friendships that are already in place or fostering new ones can help increase personal satisfaction in the retirement years.

Maintain a Routine

Several years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “A Clean House is the Sign of a Boring Life.” Although I get the point, there’s something to be said for the stabilizing aspect of keeping a fair amount of order and routine in our lives, even after retirement.

According to, there are several benefits to keeping a daily schedule during the retirement years. Having a time preset to say, workout or clean the kitchen saves us from the stress of deciding when, or even IF, we’re actually going get those tasks done each day. The result is less stress and more mental energy.

Some estimates claim that most of us will spend as much if not more time retired than working. Certainly such a sizable phase of our lives deserves some thoughtful planning to make it more meaningful.


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