Reaching retirement can feel like crossing the finish line at the end of a 30-, 40- or even 50-year-long marathon. So many of us look forward to the endless vacation days and rest and relaxation of retirement. But what many don’t consider is the growing risk of depression post-retirement. While a life with no alarm clock is something we dream about, the truth is retirement really throws a wrench in how we live our lives, and the switch from a structured, sociable work life can be harder than we realize.
Developing depression post-retirement is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The fact is, the highest percentage of Americans who commit suicide are between the ages of 45 and 55, while the second highest group are those 85 and older.1 Make sure you’re getting the enjoyment and fulfillment you deserve from your retirement by following these six ways to beat out post-retirement depression.
Why Retirees Are Prone To Depression
Working fulfills a fundamental need to contribute to society and provide for your family. When that part of your life has come to an end, it can feel like your identity has been stripped. For decades, you spent 8+ hours a day building a social group with your coworkers, becoming an expert at what you do and living a structured, purposeful life. That’s why heading into retirement is a dramatic change that can feel freeing, yet scary. For some, it’s also a not-so-subtle reminder that they’re nearing the end of their life.
Tips For Avoiding Post-Retirement Depression
Instead of getting caught up in your fears and anxieties about retirement, there are a few ways you can combat post-retirement depression.
Tip #1: Prepare For Financial Independence
Money is one of the top stressors in our country, with 64 percent of Americans stressed about their financial matters.2 If you’re trying to avoid post-retirement depression, it’s in your best interest to reduce as much stress surrounding your financial independence as possible. This can be done by preparing for your retirement well-ahead of time. Developing a sound retirement plan can help you secure stable income throughout retirement while aligning your portfolio with your future financial needs. Meet with your financial planner to develop an income plan. When you know what your future will look like, you will have less stress about it.
Tip #2: Opt For a Gradual Retirement
When you think about it, moving suddenly from working 40 hours a week to zero can be a real shock to your system. While it may sound great in theory, the truth is we’re creatures of habit - and we don’t always react well to quick and dramatic changes. Some employers will allow you to ease into retirement by gradually shortening your work week over a year or a couple of years. This can be a great way to get your toes wet before diving right in to a full retirement. Use your days off to discover new hobbies, start volunteering, meet with friends and begin developing a new routine you can expand on throughout retirement.
If your current place of employment does not offer a gradual retirement option, you could also search for a part-time job, perhaps something that’s more laid back or is a passion of yours. One of our clients retired and then took a job running the archery counter at a sporting goods store. Not only does easing into retirement help reduce the shock, but it can also be a great way to continue earning income without committing to a full work week.
Tip #3: Develop Social Connections
Leaving the workplace means leaving behind the faces you saw five days a week. As you transition into retirement, it’s important to combat the isolation and loneliness you can suddenly feel from leaving behind coworkers and clients you saw every day. It’s important to take the time and effort needed to develop new social connections and reconnect with loved ones. Invite family over more often, ask old coworkers out to dinner or become involved in a charity or church committee. While you may enjoy this new time to yourself, you have a lot of free time to fill. Make sure you’re keeping up with the connections you’ve enjoyed in the past, while staying open to finding new ones in retirement.
Tip #4: Make a Plan For How To Spend Your Time
While your years of scheduling meetings may be over, we still think it’s a good idea to make a plan in retirement. You don’t need to map out elaborate vacations or cross-country trips, but think about what it is you’d like to do with your day everyday. While you may be tempted to take it easy and spend some time lounging around the house, chances are you’ll get bored of doing nothing quickly. Check around for local volunteer opportunities, book clubs to join, exercise classes to keep you moving, babysitting opportunities and more. Coming up with a few activities to look forward to throughout the week can help you from becoming bored or complacent in retirement.
Tip #5: Hit The Gym
You might be tempted to spend some time during retirement hanging out on the coach, and you have definitely earned that time to relax. But remember to get in some physical activity, especially if you find yourself with more free time than ever before. Adults aged 65 and older should aim to do between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.3 Getting active regularly is a great way to combat heart disease and other ailments, increase your overall happiness and meet new people.
Tip #6: Pursue a Passion
What’s something you always wanted to try but never had time for? Retirement is the perfect opportunity to focus on you and your deeper purpose. Have you always wanted to join an orchestra, but didn’t have time to rehearse? Or maybe you’ve been itching to get back in the classroom and learn more about your favorite subject in college. For decades, you made work or raising your family your purpose in life. Retirement is the time to get back to finding and exploring your own personal passions.
For years you look forward to the relaxing, stress-free days of retirement. But before you leave the office for good, take some time to prepare financially and emotionally for this big life change. Taking the time to understand common mental challenges of retirement gives you time to combat your biggest concerns by developing new social connections, picking up new hobbies and even fine-tuning your fitness routine.
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