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How to adjust to retirement

Retirement can trigger a complex range of emotions, including fear and depression.

How to adjust to retirement

How to adjust to retirement

For some people, retirement planning conjures up images of languid days free from the demands of the daily grind, but for others the prospect of leaving the workforce may be a daunting or even frightening transition.

For most, this major milestone will elicit a mixture of emotions that fall somewhere between anticipation and apprehension. Retirement is, in fact, a complex experience for almost everyone, characterized by gains and losses and tremendous shifts in identity and routines.

"Unless those challenges are addressed and dealt with, the so-called 'golden years' can be tarnished," says Irene Deitch, PhD, psychologist and professor emeritus at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. "Even those who may have thought they were prepared can find that the transition is tougher once they're actually in the throes of it."

Understanding the common hurdles of retirement — and how to overcome them — can be essential to making your retirement happy, fulfilling, and truly one of the best times of your life.

Emotional Pitfalls of Retirement:

  • Who am I? "We often identify ourselves by what we do — 'I am a professor,' 'I am a painter,' 'I work on an assembly line,' or what have you," says Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD, author of Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life. "The loss of an identity tag can be extremely disconcerting for many people."
  • Loss of the work-world routines. We get used to going to work and seeing people who are part of that world (even the annoying colleague). Not having a place to go or a workplace to check in with can also lead to a sense of loss of both a social network and of organization, and can leave one feeling somewhat "lost at sea," says Dr. Schlossberg.
  • Relationship shifts at home. Retirement, like getting married or having children, can exacerbate any fissures in a relationship, notes Dr. Deitch. "When one or both partners are at work, there is a natural division of personal space. Suddenly being together 24 hours a day, seven days a week can be incredibly disruptive."
  • Sense of mortality. Retirement can serve as a reminder that you're closer to the end of your life. Even if that end is realistically 20, 30, or more years away, just entering retirement can trigger feelings of "What will I lose next?"
  • Shake-up of self-esteem. If the retirement was under strained circumstances — being eased out, pressured to retire, or even fired — the loss of a job can be felt much more acutely and can lead to feelings of inadequacy, diminished self-esteem, and depression.

How to Transition Into Retirement

Once you've identified the roadblocks that are preventing you from making the most of your retirement, try these tips to create a new life for yourself that's as stimulating and joyful as you want it to be.

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Retirement can be an exciting time in your life, finally having the freedom to pursue your interests, travel, or to simply slow down and enjoy life. However, for some men retirement can be challenging. Here, MensLine Australia explores the issues associated with retirement including the loss of a regular daily work routine and associated sense of purpose.

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Retirement can be an exciting time. You may have the freedom and the time to pursue your interests, travel, or simply slow down to enjoy life. However, for some men retirement can be challenging. You are adjusting to the loss of a regular daily work routine and the associated sense of purpose, which can be hard.

“For some men retirement can be challenging.”

Retirement brings new relationship issues, and for men who do not find new meaningful activities to replace work, there is the risk of boredom and a sense of purposelessness that can be stressful and lead to depression and other health problems.

Who am I now?

For many men, identity revolves around some central roles and skills:

  • being a good provider
  • being useful
  • being independent
  • being an achiever.

To adjust successfully to retirement, men should start redefining their sense of self. Without the role of breadwinner to rely on, you may start to ask, who am I? Self-esteem can start to fall, and depression can set in.

In retirement, other roles may evolve:

  • being a good carer for your partner
  • being a community elder
  • being a good grandparent.

The greatest challenge in retirement is defining yourself less in terms of your roles and activities — what you do — and more in terms of simply being. So what does that mean? Instead of answering the question ‘Who are you?’ with a doing answer such as, ‘I am a father/engineer/teacher/handyman’ etc., you simply answer, ‘I am me.’ The achievement of self-acceptance is one of the great gifts of later life.

Relationship challenges during retirement

Retirement brings new challenges to a relationship. Both parties may have adjusted to a certain amount of time together each day. With retirement, the time spent in each other’s company greatly increases. This intensive contact can disturb the balance of the relationship and bring unresolved tensions to the surface.

Both men and women may struggle to adjust to the new situation. If prior to retirement, your partner stayed at home while you worked, she may resent your intrusion on her well-established routines. Tension can also arise out of the increased need for joint decision-making. Whereas, prior to retirement, the routine of work allowed for a relatively clear division of decision-making responsibilities, after retirement, there may be many more decisions that need to be made together. Unless both of you are prepared to listen and be flexible, a shift in decision-making can be a source of conflict.

The key, as with most relationship issues, is communication. Without effective, open communication, including being able to compromise and negotiate, the challenges of retirement can place a strain on the relationship.

Keeping active in retirement

There is a lot of research to show that the people who cope best with retirement are those who stay active and involved.

This might include:

  • Developing an old hobby or starting a new one
  • Staying physically active, through walking, swimming, going to the gym or taking up a sport. Make sure your exercise routine is appropriate for your physical capacities and limitations.
  • Volunteering with a charity or community group
  • Working part-time
  • Studying a course.

Staying in touch in retirement

Loneliness and isolation are a risk in old age for the simple reason that as people grow older, more and more of their friends tend to move away, die, or lose the mobility needed to keep in touch. This is particularly an issue for men, who tend to emphasise self-reliance and put less effort into maintaining their social networks. Many men do not realise the extent of their reliance on work friendships until after retirement.

Here are some suggestions for warding off isolation:

  • Make an effort to stay in contact with family and friends. Offer to babysit your grandchildren.
  • Check out local community centres for upcoming activities you might enjoy. Even if you’re not sure, try something new: you might surprise yourself!
  • Men’s Sheds offer a space to share ideas and skills and participate in practical activities such as woodwork, metalwork and restoring old cars.

If you need someone to talk to, MensLine Australia professional counsellors are here to provide information and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Recognize the emotional fear factors to make the leap

by Sharon Jayson, AARP, October 31, 2017

How to adjust to retirement

Experts say there are steps you can to take to ensure you’re ready to make the leap into retirement.

Organizational development consultant Kate Utt, 68, is easing into retirement — and taking the next three or four years to do it.

She moved from California’s Bay Area to Portland, Ore., to get ready for what’s next. But Utt, whose career includes helping others adjust to change, has the same angst about a postworking life as those she counsels.

“It’s big and an important life event,” she says. “I didn’t escape the anxiety.”

Utt is part of the 55-and-older segment of the nation’s labor force — the only age group to grow since 1994, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A BLS report released in May, with projections for 2024, shows that about 41 million people in the labor force will be 55 and older, including 13 million who will be 65-plus. For some of them a regular paycheck will be the reason to stay on the job, but for others the idea of leaving work may create such uneasiness and trepidation that they’ll get cold feet and stay.

Why? Experts see three emotional fear factors: the loss of professional status that’s closely bound to self-image, change and concern over how to spend the extra time.

“Work structures us and gives us routine in our lives," says psychologist Louis Primavera of Touro College in New York City, who cowrote the 2012 book The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire. “We plan around work. It is part of our identity. We go to a social gathering and people say, ‘What do you do?’ Clearly, what happens is people say, ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to be?’ The fear of loss of identity is a major fear.”

In his book, Primavera says the change from a strong work identity to a postwork identity can be a slow process, especially for those with significant emotional connections to their careers. He recommends retirees focus efforts on changing their self-identification to meaningful nonworker roles, because you can’t discard the worker role without replacing it with something else. By that, Primavera suggests increasing involvement with nonwork-related activities and strengthening relationships outside of the office environment.

Retiring is "a series of transitions," says Nancy Schlossberg, a professor emerita of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, and now of Sarasota, Fla., where she is a consultant and public speaker on life transitions.

“Change is very unsettling. There are people afraid because they can’t forecast the future,” she says, and because they fear they no longer will have a purpose.

In her 2009 book Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose, Schlossberg talks about “mattering,” which she describes as “the degree to which you feel you’re appreciated, you’re noticed, you’re depended upon.”

But there could also be a downside to mattering, when expectations about retirement could bring conflict. For example, Schlossberg says, “One woman said her daughter expects her to babysit and will want her to babysit more. She said, ‘When I retire, I’m afraid I’ll have to do certain things that the culture expects me to do.’ ”

Schlossberg recommends an “expectation exchange” — a conversation between parent and adult child or between spouses to articulate expectations and avoid misunderstandings by giving concrete thoughts on how each envisions the future.

Retirement should also be about simplifying life and taking on fewer obligations, suggests psychologist and gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, of Emeryville, Calif.

“It’s a great time to think about all the boxes of who you used to be — materially and psychologically — and unload them,” he says. “Secondly, it’s a time of new beginnings and making new friends. [Developing social connections] creates healthy brains and more vibrant people.”

However, Dychtwald cautions, retirees need to make sure they don’t render themselves irrelevant once they stop interacting with others at work.

“If you’re not current with technology or paying attention to the latest performers and entertainment or fashions and styles, you’re relegating yourself to being a remnant of the past,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to be relevant.”

Dychtwald says surveys by his company, Age Wave, show initial discomfort about retirement lasts about 18 months and then “the level of happiness soars.”

“There is a life beyond work,” he says, “but it can be very unnerving for people making the transition.”

What do you fear most for your retirement? A 2015 Bankrate.com survey highlighted running out of money in retirement as the biggest fear of 23% of the Americans. While you may or may not share their fear, it is important to adjust your retirement planning as you age. Our team has put together a small Infographic that will highlight some timely steps, which, if taken, can help you build a retirement nest egg that will last throughout your life.

How to adjust to retirement

Retirement planning tips

Retirement planning: Start an IRA account in your 20s

No one can emphasize more about the importance of starting an IRA account early in your life. Imagine the compounding effect your money will experience for the next 40 years or so. At the same time, if your employer offers matching contributions, you are simply collecting free money for your retirement.

For small business owners or self-employed professionals, a Solo 401k plan will do the trick. They can contribute up to $59,000 in 2016 and $60,000 in 2017.

Choose asset allocation wisely in your 30s

Considering the number of years you have in retirement, you might want to invest a decent portion of your portfolio in equity and balance the risk with bonds. If you have limited knowledge of investing, now will be the time to hire an investment advisor.

Self-directed Solo 401k plan holders can choose alternative investments, starting with real estate, precious metals, private equity, personal lending, tax liens, tax deeds, and the traditional stock or bond investments.

Stay on course with your retirement planning goals in your 40s

In your 40s, your income is comparatively higher and you have a family to take care of. These responsibilities can easily push retirement savings to the back seat. The key is to stay focused and keep contributing to your retirement plan.

Speed up your retirement savings with catch-up contributions in your 50s

The IRS allows catch-up contributions for individuals above 50 years of age. Make sure to benefit from it and max out your contributions. For a regular IRA, you can contribute an addition $1,000, whereas Solo 401k plan holders can contribute up to $6,000 in catch-up contributions.

Prepare an income strategy in your 60s

You have saved your entire life and now you’re ready to retire. How do you plan to spend your retirement money? Splurge, perhaps! No, start by creating an income plan for your retirement. Seek professional help and make sure that your income strategy offers some legroom for travel or other leisure activities. After all, you have earned it!

Do you have questions or perhaps a different analogy? Please share with us and we would be happy to answer.

Well, that depends. For some people, retiring is like not having someone hit you on the head every day–those people are going to adjust within five or six hours.

How to adjust to retirement

(Source: biznology.com)

For others, adjusting takes a bit longer–for me, for instance, it has taken about two years. Why, when everyone I speak to congratulates me on being able to retire and in fact, I was looking forward to it? well, here are the issues.

First, did you like your job? If not, you will gallop happily into retirement. If you did, you’re going to miss it.

How to adjust to retirement

(Source: bordercollietrainingtips.com)

Second, do you have something to retire to, that you haven’t had time to do before? something awe-inspiring and compelling? if so, you’re in luck. If, like most of us, you kind of whiled away the week-ends doing not much of anything but taking a rest from work, you might want to start the search for that awe-inspiring and compelling thing right away so it’ll be there when you need it.

How to adjust to retirement

(Source: commons.wikipedia.org)

I kind of put my activities into buckets:

There’s the what’s-the-most-fun bucket—this i have managed to fill pretty well, running around seeing art, music, and theater, visiting foreign parts of New York I’ve never ventured into–like Staten Island–and eating a lot (at a discount of course).

How to adjust to retirement

Then there’s the am-I-filling-my-intellectual-needs bucket–I figure this blog is about as intellectual as I’m going to get.

There’s the you-are-a-musician-so-are-you-practicing-the-piano-at-all guilt bucket? I now pretty much have some regular chamber music buddies and we crash through music fairly frequently–nothing to have a concert over but good enough to get me to the piano on a semi-regular basis.

How to adjust to retirement

(Source: peanuts.wikia.com)

There’s also the what-am-I-doing-to-give-back bucket and I have finally found a way to do that–working pro bono for a lovely non-profit that has development needs (did I mention I did development?).

Oh, and did I mention getting to spend more time with Rory and all our good friends? I know, I’m pretty lucky there.

So now, finally, two years after retirement, I mostly have filled all my buckets and feel adjusted to retirement. As they say, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

How to adjust to retirement

Our dog, Nina, decided to retire early, too.

I’m in my early 50s and plan to retire a little before I hit age 60. My savings are now invested in a combination of stock mutual funds and company stock. When and how should I start allocating to a safer portfolio?—R.A.

Whether you’re simply being prudent by doing some advance planning or you’re concerned that the recent market volatility is a prelude to an imminent crash, you’re right to start thinking about how to transition your portfolio to a more conservative stance well before you actually retire.

After all, investing heavily in stocks may be okay when you’re younger and more willing to take more risk for higher returns since you have plenty of time to rebound from market setbacks. But an overly aggressive investing strategy that leaves you vulnerable to severe market downturns as you near the end of your career can be dangerous.

A big drop in the value of your nest egg just prior to or soon after retiring can dramatically reduce the chances that your savings will be able to support you throughout a long retirement. The reason is that the combination of outsize investment losses plus withdrawals from your savings for retirement income can so deplete your portfolio’s value that it may not be able to recover sufficiently even after stock prices begin rising again.

Unfortunately, whether due to complacency, failure to comprehend the risk they’re taking or some other reason, many people fail to dial back their stock holdings as they enter the home stretch to retirement. For example, an Employee Benefit Research Institute report found that prior to the financial crisis, when stock prices plummeted nearly 60%, more than 40% of 401(k) participants between the ages of 56 and 65 had over 70% of their account in stocks and nearly 25% had more than 90% in equities.

So how can you get adequate protection against market setbacks while also providing enough long-term growth potential so your savings will be able to sustain you throughout a retirement that, given today’s long lifespans, could last 30 or more years (or in your case even longer)?

Start by settling at a mix of stocks and bonds that’s appropriate given your circumstances today. There’s no single stocks-bonds allocation that’s correct for everyone of a given age. But it’s fair to say that for someone in his 50s who’s hoping to retire in 10 or so years, a 100% stocks portfolio is pushing it. So I urge you to re-think how much risk you want to be taking as you close in on your planned retirement date.

One way to arrive at a blend of stocks and bonds that makes sense for you is to consult a tool like this asset allocation-risk tolerance questionnaire. The tool not only recommends an appropriate mix of stocks and bonds, but also shows you how that mix as well as others have performed on average in the past as well as in up and down markets.

You don’t necessarily have to adopt this mix exactly. You could decide to opt for more stocks on the rationale that, since you plan to retire early, you’ll need more robust returns to sustain your portfolio through what will likely be a longer-than-normal retirement. Or you could lighten up on stocks, figuring you don’t want to run the risk of a big setback early in retirement that could shorten the longevity of your portfolio. As a general guide, though, a stock stake of somewhere between 65% and 75% of assets would generally be considered reasonable for investors in their early to mid-50s.

Whatever mix of stocks and bonds you settle on, you next want to think about what you’d like your stocks-bonds allocation to be when you actually retire. The mix that makes sense for you as you enter retirement will depend on a number of factors, including how comfortable you are seeing your nest egg’s value bounce around in response to market fluctuations, how likely your nest egg is to last given the size of the withdrawals you plan on taking, what other resources (Social Security, pensions, home equity, annuity income, etc.) you have to fall back on should your pot of savings start running low. As a practical matter, however, many people enter retirement with somewhere between 40% and 60% of their savings in stocks.

Once you have that target retirement allocation, you can then think about creating a “glide path” that gets you from your current stocks-bonds mix to the one you would like to have at retirement. So, just as an example, someone who’s 50, has decided to invest 70% of his savings in stocks today and plans to retire in 10 years with 60% of his nest egg in stocks, might reduce his stock holdings to 65% by age 55 and then to 60% by age 60.

That’s not to say you’ve got to stick to a strict schedule of reducing the stocks percentage of your portfolio by precisely one percentage point a year. But the idea is to gradually shift to a more conservative portfolio, so you don’t find yourself with such a large exposure to stocks as you enter retirement that a market downturn would require you to dramatically scale back your retirement plans or even force you to postpone retirement altogether.

You don’t have to decide this now, but at some point prior to retirement you’ll also want to think about whether to continue to reduce your stock holdings during retirement and, if so, the extent to which you’ll want to do that. The rationale for continuing to reduce stocks as a percentage of your holdings even after you retire is that, as you age, you may become increasingly anxious at seeing your nest egg lose value during periods of market turbulence. Still, you’ll want to keep at least some portion of your savings in stocks throughout retirement, if only to help maintain the purchasing power of your savings should you live well beyond life expectancy.

You can get a sense of what sort of glide path might be right for you by seeing how the target-date retirement funds of companies like Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard gradually wind down their stock holdings in the years leading up to, and then during, retirement. In fact, you could simply mimic the glide path of such funds or, for that matter, invest your retirement savings in a target-date fund with a date that matches or comes close to the year you plan to retire.

Finally, you mention that your nest egg includes shares of your employer’s stock (which, lest there be any doubt, should definitely count as part of your equity holdings). I’m not a fan of investing one’s retirement savings in company stock. Shares of a single company—whether your employer’s or not—tend to be more volatile than a diversified portfolio, which means your portfolio could be much riskier than it would otherwise be if you’ve got a good portion of your savings in company stock.

Besides, your financial fortunes are already tied to those of your company because your income depends on your employer. So why increase your exposure by having your portfolio’s health dependent on the company as well? For those reasons, I generally think it’s a good idea to avoid investing in company stock for retirement or at least limit it to no more than 10% or so of your nest egg.

That said, you could qualify for a potentially lucrative tax break on company shares held within a 401(k), particularly if those shares have appreciated substantially in value over the years (although taking advantage of that break can get complicated). So if you already own a significant amount of company stock in your 401(k), you might want to consult a financial adviser who can evaluate the risk vs. reward of holding onto those shares and, if appropriate, help you come up with a plan for distributing and eventually selling them in a way that will minimize the tax hit.

Fidelity is the Master Administrator for the Plan; this means that you have the streamlined ability to enroll in the Plan and make contribution changes, whether you contribute to Fidelity, TIAA, or both. In order to contribute to TIAA, you need to have an RIT TIAA account. By offering one consolidated plan, RIT is able to avoid unnecessary fees and keep costs to employees as low as possible.

Contribution Changes

What you can do:

  • View and/or change your contribution percentage
  • View and/or change the split between your pre-tax and Roth contribution percentage
  • Join the annual increase program to automatically increase your contribution each September 1
  • Change your record keeper election between Fidelity and TIAA

Log in at http://NetBenefits.com/RIT. You can set up a login if you do not have one by clicking on “Register Now” at the top of the page and follow the prompts.

Step 1: Once logged in, click on the drop down arrow to the right of Quick Links and choose “Contribution Amount“. If you are already logged in, click on the “Contributions” tab.

Step 2: There are three choices:

  • Contribution Amount – to view and change your contribution percentage and/or the split between pre-tax and after-tax Roth contributions
  • Annual Increase Program – to enroll or change participation in the program to automatically increase your contribution effective each September 1
  • Retirement Providers – to view and change the allocation for your future contributions between the two record keepers, Fidelity and TIAA

Step 3: Choose your desired transaction and follow the prompts.

Step 4: If you make any changes, be sure to click “Submit“.

Note: If you elect to have some of all of your contributions go to the Roth source, you should verify that the investment election for the Roth source is set as you desire. See below on how to view and change your investment elections.

If you prefer, you can make these changes by phone; call Fidelity at 1-800-343-0860/V and 1-800-259-9734/TTY.

Investment Changes: Fidelity

What you can do:

  • Change your investment election for future contributions
  • Change your investment mix for your current balance (Fidelity calls this Exchanges)

Log in at http://NetBenefits.com/RIT. You can set up a login if you do not have one by clicking on “Register Now” at the top of the page and follow the prompts.

Step 1: Once logged in, click on the drop down arrow to the right of Quick Links and choose “Change Investments“. If you are already logged in, click on the “Investments” tab and the click “Change Investments“.

Step 2: To change where your future contributions are invested, click on “Future Investments“.

Step 3: To change your current investment mix, click on the appropriate box.

Step 4: Follow the prompts.

If you prefer, you can make these changes by phone; call Fidelity at 1-800-343-0860/V and 1-800-259-9734/TTY.

Investment Changes: TIAA

What you can do:

  • Change your investment election for future contributions
  • Change your investment mix for your current balance

Log in at www.tiaa.org/rit. You can set up a login if you do not have one by clicking on “Log in” at the top of the page and then “Register for online access” and follow the prompts.

Step 1: Once logged in, click “Actions” and then “Change your investments” under the Retirement plans tile.

Step 2: Follow the prompts to make your changes.

If you prefer, you can make these changes by phone; call TIAA at 1-800-842-2776/V and 1-800-842-2755/TTY.

Transfer Invested Balances

If you would like to transfer some or all of your invested balance from Fidelity to TIAA, contact TIAA. If you would like to transfer some or all of your invested balance from TIAA to Fidelity, contact Fidelity.

Questions

Individual Appointments

Representatives from Fidelity Investments and TIAA are also available to meet with you individually. They would be happy to help you assess your current retirement savings picture and figure out what you can do to start saving even more. To make an appointment, contact:

In a previous article, I discuss how continuity is one of the reasons why retirement adjustment can require effort. Continuity theory proposes that the more stuff you can bring with you when you leave your job — friends, hobbies, passions, etc. — the easier the adjustment.

That’s one perspective on the cause of our emotional upheaval when we retire. Another line of thinking is Role Theory, which focuses on ways we define ourselves.

We use multiple roles to define who we are as people and to connect us to the outside world, such as parent, club member, friend, and of course, worker. Roles tend to drive our attitudes, self-image, behaviors, and decisions that are central to how we live.

Before we retire the worker role is firmly embedded in our psyche. Its strength is driven in part by the highly structured nature of the role itself. As workers, we follow a variety of rules and behavior patterns. It’s further reinforced by having peers who hold that role as well. Other factors that cement the worker role are tied to the psychological benefits of working, and to the fact that the role leads to a paycheck.

Role Theory looks at the transition from employment to retirement as a loss of role identity. Many retirees, when they leave the workforce, can have a sense of “rolelessness” – a lack of a meaningful way of defining themselves. Roleless retirees can feel disconnected, unproductive, anxious, or even, in severe cases, depressed. Retirees can remain in a roleless state until a new role is adopted, such as community or club member, or other pre-existing roles become more prominent, such as parent or family member.

Role Theory actually predicts two distinct paths, depending upon the commitment and feelings about one’s job. Those who were highly involved in their careers, identify strongly with their jobs, or believe they lost a personally important role, are much more prone to experience role loss. Conversely, those who saw their job as burdensome, unpleasant, or stressful, or who want to pursue other paths, are likely to be happy to depart the work force and drop their worker roles. These retirees are less likely to feel roleless and suffer the emotional negatives as they enter retirement. Instead, retirement allows them to escape from an unpleasant situation, and provides the freedom to pursue other interests — and strengthen other roles — that are more personally meaningful.