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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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.
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.
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