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Beyond Finances: What Nobody Tells You About the First Six Months of Retirement Your decades-long run of morning rush hours, demanding work days, and the pressure to perform is finally over. During those mad-dash days and often headache-inducing projects, it can be hard...

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Due

Your decades-long run of morning rush hours, demanding work days, and the pressure to perform is finally over. During those mad-dash days and often headache-inducing projects, it can be hard to imagine retirement, much less dream about it. But before you know it, retirement will come, and once it’s here, you might be surprised by what it’s like; especially in the first six months. You might have thought you’d be jet-setting the globe or donating your blazer collection immediately. Others might find that removing themselves from their life’s work is more challenging than they’d expected.

Today’s retirement experience is dynamic, and how you experience life after exiting the workforce will differ. Physical demands shift, emotional needs emerge, and your identity transforms overnight. The stark difference in routine and responsibility might feel like a blow to the ego or a welcome relief. No matter your vocation, learn about the unexpected realities many new retirees discover to make your transition into retirement easier.

You Might Miss the Hustle

The blare of your alarm might haunt you, or you may have established a routine you can’t quit. Old habits die hard, and this saying is especially true when you’ve cemented certain mental and physical demands. If you’re used to making big decisions daily, the slower pace of retirement might make you anxious or bored. It might be tempting to fill your calendar with consulting, volunteer work, or new hobbies.

While there are likely many people who’d appreciate your expertise and insight, be careful before you commit your newfound time. High-paying consulting gigs can keep you connected to the industry you built your career, but at what cost? Some industries or firms require retirement at a certain age, and for good reason — that type of work is intense. Retirement is a well-earned reward after a successful career that you should appreciate and enjoy. If you can’t help but have a full dance card, facilitate a schedule that takes advantage of the retired life. Follow a morning routine that stimulates your mind and nourishes your body.

Mike Portegello, who recently retired after a 37-year career with a Big Four professional services firm, talks candidly about his transition to retirement on his blog. “I decided to keep many of my routines set over the last 37 years but with some modifications,” he wrote. “I continue to wake up early and plan my day with set outcomes aligned with my ‘new’ goals. I even continue to dress up with a collared shirt and real shoes. No sports jacket, but I did consider it — I am retired.” This approach aligns strategies and habits that were effective in building an impressive career but modifies them for retired life.

Strategies to Set and Meet Personal Goals

You can stay busy without working yourself too hard. For example, you could do puzzles like Sudoku to keep your brain sharp and reduce eye-straining screen time. Feed yourself a nutrient-rich breakfast full of vitamins, protein, and antioxidants, all of which can support healthy aging. Start your day with movement and incorporate strength training to build bone density and lean muscle. Maintain a positive mindset by reciting affirmations, meditating, and monitoring your self-talk.

After your robust morning routine, you might be ready to relax, but if not, there’s plenty to do. Portegello recommends creating a “blueprint” that outlines a rough idea of what you want and need to do, but be careful not to over-book. If you’ve been peppered with requests to discuss work or volunteer opportunities, entertain them with care. Agree to meetings selectively and enjoy appreciation of your expertise, but consider lifestyle impacts before saying “yes.” You might give yourself at least six months or a year before leaning back into a 40-hour work week.

Why This Initial Stage Sets the Tone for the Rest of Your Retirement

The initial phase of retirement is a period of adjustment and reflection. It’s essential to give yourself time to fully embrace and appreciate the freedom and leisure that retirement offers. Rushing back into a full-time work schedule too soon can hinder this process and prevent you from fully experiencing retirement benefits, such as spending quality time with loved ones, pursuing personal interests, and enjoying a more relaxed pace of life. Take the opportunity to explore new hobbies, travel, or simply enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life before considering a return to a demanding work routine.

Portegello’s critical advice: “The lesson here is to set your routine with things you love or don’t love but are important to you – i.e., health, well-being, education, etc. This gave me the needed structure and a foundation to structure my days, all the while providing me with unimagined freedom.”

You May Feel Out of the Loop

One unexpected surprise many retirees experience is that of an identity crisis. Even if you might not see yourself as aligned or identified by your vocation, work does command significant attention. Your school years were dedicated to learning your craft and the decades that followed were spent honing your skills. Then, almost overnight, you go from revered expert to an out-of-touch retiree, or at least it seems that way.

Many retirees struggle to define themselves outside of the workplace and instead of exploring these feelings, turn inward. Without a clear identifier or list of strategic goals to achieve, feelings of aimlessness and angst can set in. Resist the urge to mourn what was “lost,” and instead, acknowledge the impact your career has made. If you struck deals for major developers, look at the skyline you’ve helped shape. If your nonprofit work has transformed communities, consider the lives you’ve improved.

Ideas to Stay Engaged

Explore how you can solidify your legacy while staying engaged with the most poignant parts of your career—volunteer with organizations whose needs align with your expertise. You can reduce their burden and support their cause. You could also participate in professional groups to lend insight to young professionals and shape the next generation of leaders. Engage in activities that align with your interests and preserve the phase of life you’re now in.

Many decide that the most significant part missing from work isn’t the work at all — it’s the friends and socializing. Friendships form thanks to being in close proximity, sharing experiences, and the amount of time you’re with colleagues. After you retire, you’re naturally outside of your normal gathering spot: work. The risk of social isolation is high, and it can be detrimental to your mental and physical well-being.

Combat loneliness and incorporate regular social engagements into your routine. Schedule time to reconnect with friends, old colleagues, and family. Establish accountability for showing up by buying tickets, making reservations, and gathering with more than one person. By solidifying plans, you decrease the likelihood of last-minute cancellations that rarely get rescheduled.

Relationships Will Become a Priority

Without the barrier of time-off balances, and the hectic pace synonymous with peak career years, you can finally spend time how you wish. Many new retirees welcome reconnecting with old friends, but doing so can be a challenge. You may have to ask for an invite if you’ve always declined the annual group trip to the lake. Doing so might require a bit of bravery, but putting yourself out there is crucial for your happiness in retirement. One of the most significant health risks for retirees is loneliness, making resetting and nourishing your relationships essential.

While you worked, you and your partner more or less crossed paths most of the week. In retirement, you’re in closer proximity than you’ve ever been, which can be a welcome yet startling change. Newfound annoyances may come to light, like the way one of you slurps your coffee. Other issues, like relationship neglect, imbalanced responsibilities, and disconnection, might rear their ugly, yet accurate, heads. Resist the urge to avoid discomfort and instead invest in your relationships and strive to get them back on track.

Ways to Invest More Effort Into Relationships

Dr. John Gottman is a well-known psychologist and researcher in relationships, particularly in the context of marriage and couple dynamics. In “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” he notes that fondness and admiration are “two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance.” If you need to reconnect and nurture your relationship, start by taking small steps to show your partner you care. This could include small phrases like “Good morning,” “Please,” and “Thank you.” You could also leave love notes, reminisce with your partner, or tell them why you appreciate them.

You could also explore therapy for yourself and with your partner, even if things are going well. The emotional shifts that come with stepping away from work can create friction and challenge your identity. Getting to know yourself outside of work and outside of a position of leadership can be tough to go alone. If the idea of therapy has you bristling, you’re not alone — many in today’s retirement generation have been taught to tamp down emotions instead of sharing them. However, investing in your mental wellness and your relationships can help you heal old wounds and discover your best self.

Health and Aging Dominate Your Thoughts

New health insurance protocols, long-avoided procedures, and the absence of an excuse for exercising are all common in retirement. When you exited your work-sponsored plan, you likely did so by maximizing your benefits, or you should have. Take the advice of your care team to heart and prioritize your health and wellness.

If you’ve never been a big exercise fan, you don’t have to go all-in now. However, experts agree that healthy aging and mental wellness in retirement requires physical activity. Walking is low-impact, cost-effective, and can be done indoors or outside. Getting active can also grow your social circle or provide an activity to do with your partner, kids, or friends. Meet new people at the park, gym, or fitness class and expand your friendship base with a new shared interest.

The realities of aging might be hard to escape as mobility changes, cognitive function slows, and your reflection shifts. Your family history of illness or mortality may feel too close to home, especially if you’ve outlived many others. Plus, the contrast between youthful exuberance and being on the upswing compared to the downshift of retirement can be surprising. Pay attention to how you feel both mentally and physically, and lean into exploring them in a healthy, productive way. Care for your health in retirement and adopt a sense of acceptance of aging’s natural place in life’s journey.

Welcome Retirement With Open Arms and a Fresh Outlook

Retirement may often be viewed as the end, but in reality, it’s just the beginning. After the career act of your story comes to a close, grab on to the opportunity ahead of life after work. Relax, explore, and take new risks with the confidence that comes with your financial basics already covered.

Acknowledge the gaps your work years may have lifted from your routine and strive to restore them now. Embrace the opportunity to rediscover yourself, revive relationships and create new ones. When you do, you’ll experience newfound joy, purpose, and fulfillment during your third and final act, retirement.

The post Beyond Finances: What Nobody Tells You About the First Six Months of Retirement appeared first on Due.

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