Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY, October 22, 2013. When Nancy Schlossberg, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, retired at 67, she thought it would be smooth sailing. It wasn’t. “It took me a while to figure out who I was. It was a difficult transition. At first, I literally couldn’t say the words — ‘I’m retired.’ ”
Over the next few years, she interviewed more than 150 retirees and conducted several focus groups with retirees, and she realized that many people had prepared a financial portfolio for retirement, but they hadn’t taken stock of their psychological portfolios.
Schlossberg, now 84 and living in Sarasota, Fla., found that some people spend years preparing themselves psychologically for this transition, but others don’t think about it until they actually quit working. Based on her research, she wrote Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose; and Retire Smart, Retire Happy.
Even contemplating leaving a job creates a lot of anxiety for some, she says. “They love their work, and they are busy. They have an established life, an established routine, established relationships at work and established assumptions about themselves and the world. When you leave all that to retire, you have to establish new routines, new relationships and a new way of seeing yourself and the world.”
To prepare yourself mentally for retirement, Schlossberg recommends taking a hard look at three areas of your life:
• Your identity. It’s who you are to yourself and the world. You can think of it as what you put on your business card or your tagline under your e-mail signature, she says. “When I was a professor at the University of Maryland, it was very easy to say that, and people got a picture of who I was. If you are a roofer, painter, artist, teacher — that’s part of your identity. One man who retired as CEO of a Fortune 100 company had plenty of money for his golden years, but he said his retirement felt ‘hollow’ because he hadn’t thought about his new identity.”
Some people may be OK with saying “retiree,” but others will be happier if they strive to define a post-retirement identity that will provide structure to their days and meaning to their lives.
• Your purpose/mission. This is related to your identity. It’s what gets you going in the morning. It’s your passion. It can take some time to sort out, and you may have several different missions or purposes during your golden years, Schlossberg says. You can ask yourself what you wish you had done in your life and turn that into a new focus. “One woman said to me, ‘I help organizations develop mission statements, but I don’t have a mission statement myself.’ ”
• Your relationships. When you leave your work life, you often lose touch with people who were once a part of your everyday life, so you need to develop new relationships, new communities. You might do that by engaging in volunteer activities, going to a health club or even hanging out at Starbucks, Schlossberg says.
This is the perfect time to spend more time with your children and grandchildren. “I love to play in the sand with my grandchildren.”
Your relationship with your spouse or partner may change, because you’ll probably be spending a lot more time together, Schlossberg says. Sometimes too much togetherness causes people to get on each others’ nerves for minor things, so couples may need to negotiate some new ground rules, she says.
Schlossberg identified six key ways that people approach retirement. To read the complete article, please click HERE.
Nancy Schlossberg currently moderates the Institute for the Ages’ Positive Aging Conversation Circle held every second Tuesday of the month in Sarasota. If you are interested, more details can be found on our Events page, HERE.
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