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Even though most people look forward to retirement, some forget that losing the structured routines, sense of purpose, and social interactions from having a job can lead to a difficult transition. During the past year, many have realized that never going into the office has drawbacks, even if being home a bit more is nice. Adaptation is key, and a recent Harvard Business study[1] outlines how retirees can adapt to this new stage in life.

The study used the term “life structure” to describe the places you spend your time, the activities you engage in, and the important relationships you’ve cultivated throughout your life. Many of these can change drastically after entering retirement. Successful restructuring starts with deciding when and how to retire. Some study participants transitioned to part-time work, and others developed their social schedules or started volunteering.

The study also talked about retirees who once identified strongly with their profession or organization. Some study participants coped by enhancing their pre-retirement identity. They spent more time on and gave more attention to relationships and activities that were important to them before they retired. In one example, a man enhanced his relationship with his teenage daughter by spending more time with her and helping her improve her performance in school. Other participants activated a hidden identity that had fallen by the wayside during busy careers. One man had given up motorcycling years before, but once he was retired, he bought a new motorcycle and connected with other motorcyclists.

One interesting takeaway from the Harvard Business School study was that some retirees found purpose by using the skills and knowledge gained in their careers in retirement. One retired engineer volunteered to work on the new community center in his town. Others engaged in mentoring and consulting. This can help replace the social connections and positive feedback work provides. One woman mentored junior workers at her former workplace and volunteered her coaching services at a community organization. Another man reinvented himself by starting a handyman business where he could work as much or as little as he wanted doing one of his favorite hobbies.

Consider what you want your retirement to look like: Will you stay put or make a big retirement move? Will you transition to part-time before fully retiring? We can work with you to help better understand your goals and create a comprehensive financial plan tailored to you. There is no better time than the present to start the conversation about what your new life in retirement could look like.

[1] https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/01/how-retirement-changes-your-identity


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