10/16/2012 7:00 PM ET|
How to avoid a depressing retirement
Successful retirees know how to adjust to life after work, a new book maintains. The process starts with the right attitude and good planning.
In retirement, you must be reborn or face withering away. That's the premise of the new book "The Retirement Maze," which explores tactics to help retirees on the path to a new and improved retirement. It looks at who would benefit from taking a "bridge" job and why it's important to build non-work-related friendships before retirement. It also recommends that retirees have more sex. Seriously.
"When you retire, you're going through a major life change; you have to reorient yourself to figure out who you are," says co-author Dr. Louis Primavera, 68, a psychologist and former marriage counselor and now dean of the School of Health Sciences at Touro College. Co-author Rob Pascale, who retired at age 51 after 31 years in corporate market research, floundered at various ventures, including importing produce, before returning to social science and working on the book.
It's not a typical "rah-rah book that tells you how great retirement is" (Primavera's words) or a personal finance book, but instead a book about how folks adjust to retirement overall, for better or worse.
The authors reviewed existing retirement literature, surveyed 1,500 retirees and 400 pre-retirees online, did in-depth in-person interviews and reflected on their own experiences. Their conclusion? You have a better chance of success if you're mentally ready to leave the workforce and have a well-thought-out retirement plan.
But many folks are pushed into retirement early, and most folks, even those who choose to retire early, don't have a plan at all, or not a well-thought-out one. Hence the floundering and dissatisfaction. One out of four retirees has a difficult time and is not at all adjusted. These retirees actually suffer from a mild form of depression, the authors found.
What differentiates successful retirees from unsuccessful ones? Successful retirees have a positive attitude and are more motivated. High-income folks tend to be happier, but only 51% of them said they felt completely adjusted to retirement. It also takes time. While only 18% of survey respondent who were retired six months or less felt they were completely adjusted, according to the authors, that percentage climbed to 35% with two years in retirement, 41% with three or four years and 55% with five or more years, topping out at 59% at 11 or more years.
Here are five main takeaways from the book that offer guidance for a well-adjusted retirement.
Put back structure, purpose and direction. This means planning, goal setting and, most important, following through with those goals, whether they're small everyday matters like taking a shower every morning or big goals like taking on a volunteer job. Establish routines, and stick to a schedule.
Manage your expectations. "Having high expectations can lead to depression," Primavera warns. But doing nothing can be very stressful, especially for a couple. Before you retire, imagine what a typical week or six months would be like, and discuss with your partner or best friend how you would realistically fill the new free time you'll have.
Stay socially connected. For most retirees, their social network plummets as they lose their work friends. "Human beings don't do well without connectedness to others," Primavera says. Call up an old friend. Join groups to make new friends. Don't limit your social life to your family.
Get your finances in order. Before you retire, take a hard look at where you spend money, and put together a detailed financial plan. What constitutes enough money varies by individual -- one interviewee with $5 million in assets was still anxious that he didn't have enough. If money matters are stressful for you while you're working, know that finances can be even more unnerving once you stop getting a paycheck.
Keep searching and experimenting. If your first stab at retirement doesn't work out, try again. A retired police officer who was interviewed for the book tried being a private investigator and hated it, turned down a town manager job and then happily settled on a volunteer position working on missing children cases alongside other retired cops. "The only way you're going to find something is to experiment till you find something that clicks," Primavera says. So keep an open mind.
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Retired at 53, best thing I ever did. Now at 63 life is fantastic and every day is a holiday. Retired ten years as of November 3 2012. Exercise seven days a week for 1 and a half hours every day. I tried the cruise ship / travel thing and while it was nice, it got old fast for me. Now I find that it is the little things that mean the most.
A different little project every week I find is the most rewarding for me. This week I am going to replace the rollers on my garage door with Nylon ones. Worked on the car last week. Week before that, replaced the ground fault receptacles in the kitchen. Already planning a new project. Yes I am spoiled rotten and love every minute of it.
I do think the problem with young people today is that they just can't see themselves at 60. Well I can tell you it comes much faster than you think it will. That old clock on the wall just keeps going round and round. Plan and save early and when the time for retirement comes, you will be ok. If you fail to do so, then it could be a real bummer.
I had an advantage that my parents were teenagers during the great depression and stressed to me relentlessly the importance of planning for the future. I did get the message, and did do what they told me to do. It has paid off just fine now at 63.
The more money you have, the better off you will be. Most people can not retire at 51, 56, 60, or even 65 anymore. It is about expectations....keep yours real. If you want a champange life style, then you better have champange money. Beer and shot, much more doable. Health most important thing to tend to. If you get out early, it's easy to exercise 20-30 hours a week. That get increasingly more difficult the older you get.
SS will always be there. That's the good news. The bad news is that the retirement age will go up and the benefits will go down to the point that it will be almost useless.
Better get a retirement plan in place ASAP or sooner if you don't want to be living under a railroad bridge for a home during retirement.
Good article. I know a few people who couldn't wait to leave their full time jobs and are now quite miserable in retirement, though they blame it on all sorts of trivial external causes. To me it seems retirement is less about leaving a job you hate (work) than it is about moving to a job you love (retirement).
That's why, even though it's still many years off, I'm taking the time to explore part time volunteering so that I will know what brings me happinenss and satisfaction in retirement and how to plan for it before I get there.
I am in a forced retirement, I have become disabled sooner than I thought with my illinesses at age 57. I don't want to use my 401-K. The longer I hold out the better. when I get it, right now Social Security Disability is playing their game of telling me they disagree, I have a string of doctors telling me I am, plus my own body is telling me I cannot work. I have been out of work since Dec. 2010. So waiting on my appeal I have used up most of my savings to live, now I am borrowing money When I do get it I will receive 1100.00 a month, I could probably live on that, but I will have no extras such as clothes, limited fuel in my car, Medicare payments each month deducted from my check, I am suspecting to be about 300.00 a month short. I don't even own a phone anymore. I had the misfortune not being able to save enough money throughout the years, because of a disabled son's medical bills, he has since passed in 04, So I have only been able to save for retirement after that. I'm sure there are many stories someone else has.
I know there are people worse off than me, I was hoping Obamacare was going to help us. But from what I have seen, the insurance is NOT Affortable, I checked it out last night and it is going to be about 600.00 a month just for single. Deductibles 2,500.00 a year or more. How is that affortable???? How about the people with kids.I saw monthly premiums 1,800.00 a month OBAMA is out of touch with the lower Middle Class. As usual the Middle Class will still suffer and a penality if we don't take the insurance. Go online to "Obamacare Affortable Coverage" and see where it puts you. Its sad.
I am not looking for the champange lifestyle, I don't mind living simple, that is not a change to me, yes it is a disappointment after so many years of working 2- jobs, but it needs to be do-able. Obamacare premiums need to be lowered to make it do-able or he is setting us up for failure.
My husband and I have a high deductable premium insurance plan that we choose from the medical plans offered by both of our respective employers when we retired based on affordability. So far the tax code allows you to open a Health Savings Account to place funds in that go strictly toward medical bill payments (medical premiums exclude). It's a write off on federal taxes. Not a wonderful plan but it was what we decided we could afford. It's no magic bullet, just the lowest premium insurance out there. States have plans too if you are healthy you can shop around. Good Luck!
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