Since you were five years old, your life has revolved around the same, familiar routine.

Get up. Go to school/uni/work. Come home. Go to bed. Repeat.

So, after 50 or more years, when the time finally comes to free yourself from 9-5 life, you assume the transition will be easy.

But for many people, adjusting to retirement is far easier said than done.

Navigating the stages of transition – anticipation, initial euphoria, some stress, dealing with adjustments to a new lifestyle, then settling down – often comes with a myriad of mental challenges.

Studies have shown that one third of retirees have poor adjustment styles in retirement, and are likely to have at least some psychological issues when adjusting to retirement. Adding to all this is the social pressure to be seen to be enjoying retirement no matter what.

Facing the final transition in life

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 3.6 million retirees in Australia. Which means almost 1.2 million Aussie retirees have found transitioning to retirement a challenge.

The reasons retirees struggle to adjust to retirement are as varied as the individuals themselves.

However, Rachel Clements, Director of Psychological Services at the Centre for Corporate Health in Australia, says people who are forced into retirement often face greater challenges with the transition.

“Someone who has carefully planned their retirement is likely to feel more optimistic about the transition than someone who is forced into early retirement due to redundancy or ill health,” she said.

In his article for Forbes, Overcoming mental challenges in your first year of retirement, social worker turned financial planner Robert Laura highlights that many people don’t realise how important the role of “work” is in their lives, until it’s not there anymore.

“Work creates self-worth, physical and mental exercise, friendship, and sense of belonging,” he said.

“I find a lack of friendships to be the most detrimental ingredient to these feelings, especially for men, who used to have lots of work friends and acquaintances.

“Most of those relationships were tied to the workplace and work functions. They never made plans to hang out or get together after they retired and, now that the work is gone, so is their social network.”

Laura adds that in today’s society, the past has diminishing value.

“We live in a “What have you done lately?” society, where the past has diminishing value.

“Once you retire, all of a sudden, you’re just Bob, John, or Carol who is retired, and saying you formerly ran a department, business, or were part of a special project team no longer has the same gravity.

“It’s a mental situation that chips away at some retirees’ self-esteem and perception of themselves.”

Tips for adjusting to retirement

How smoothly you transition to retirement varies depending on your situation, says Rachel Clements.

“How people transition into retirement can be quite polarising and depends heavily on how they have planned for this transition; their financial situation; their health, both psychological and physical; and their perception of what retirement will be like.”

To set yourself up for a smooth transition to retirement, keep these eight tips in mind.

  1. You don’t have to go ‘cold-turkey’ on work: ease your way out of the workforce by slowly reducing your work hours to part time. You could even start a casual job.
  2. Try out hobbies and volunteering before you retire and find what really inspires you. Studies have shown you need to be fully engaged in these activities to reap the benefits.
  3. When planning your retirement, think about what you want it to look like. Talk to your friends and family, write about it, or even create a storyboard to help you visualise how you’ll spend your days.
  4. Set expectations with family and friends around how you want to spend your time in retirement (e.g. not a full-time babysitter!) This gives your loved ones insight into what might be the early warning signs that you’re not adjusting well to retirement.
  5. Plan retirement activities for the long-term, not just for the first year. This will give you something to look forward to as you settle into retirement, after the initial euphoria has worn off.
  6. Set goals for yourself to ensure you feel a sense of purpose, achievement and motivation.
  7. Focus on your health and fitness. Not only will this help you keep fit and healthy (reducing health care costs), but will also make your retirement enjoyable.
  8. Get your finances in order and find new ways to cut your expenses to reduce any financial pressure. Get in touch with a trusted financial advisor if you haven’t already.

Perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that adjusting to retirement could be challenging, and you are not alone. There are plenty of services to support you during this time – talk to loved ones, reach out to Mensline, R U OK, Beyond Blue or your GP.

Take the first steps to a positive transition to retirement, by booking a free consultation with Advice SA today.

Mark Bastiaans is an Authorised Representative #296627 of Guideway Financial Services Pty Ltd ABN 46 156 498 538 AFSL 420367.

The information provided above contains general advice that does not take into account your financial situation, specific needs or objectives and is not intended to be personal financial advice and should not be relied upon without written advice from Guideway Financial Services Pty Ltd.