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The emotional transition to retirement

Aug 04, 2020 | Peter Alepra


Most people focus on preparing financially for retirement, but the emotional aspect of retirement should not be overlooked.

Grandpa reading to grandkids

Most people focus on preparing financially for retirement, but the emotional aspect of retirement should not be overlooked. The average person spends over 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. Work doesn’t simply satisfy financial responsibilities, it also creates structure, a routine schedule, a sense of purpose, and camaraderie. The more purpose and meaning people have in their lives, the easier they find retirement. Unless you put some purpose into daily activities, you may end up constantly questioning the meaning of life and forgo the many fulfilling opportunities retirement has to offer.

A well-thought-out financial plan that allows you to focus on your passions and interests is a prerequisite to your actual retirement date. This will help alleviate the emotional hurdle of going from W-2 income (regular paycheck) to 1099 income (investments/pensions) and allow you to focus on the important things in your life—family, friends, hobbies, traveling, volunteering, in addition to “life’s-to-do-list.” 

Start by implementing a plan that fulfills your financial needs, preparing for transitions by developing your goals and aspirations for retirement, outlining your day-to-day activities, and strengthening your social connections. 

Create a Financial Plan

A realistic plan that encompasses your financial needs, realistic expectations, and risk/return profile is the foundation to enjoying your retirement. Ideally this is done prior to retirement. 

Set Goals

While the movies may paint the picture of retirement as daily golf and luxury cruises, this may or may not be the reality for many depending on their financial resources. Therefore, it is important to create a practical vision of retirement by involving yourself in an area of interest and passion that allows fulfillment in your life. More and more retirees are seeking part-time employment in areas of interest to maintain a small amount of income as well as to continue a sense of purpose in their lives. Most employers are excited at the prospect of hiring experienced, responsible people. If continued income isn’t of importance, you may want to consider volunteering your time to the community. Contacting local groups and volunteer organizations before retirement to find something that suits your interests and personality will give you a head start.

Pursue Your Hobbies

Others find retirement an opportunity to pursue their hobbies. Hobbies that involve others who share similar interests will provide opportunities to interact with other people. In addition, many colleges offer courses for a reduced fee or even free for people over 65. Learning something new is a great way to keep your brain active and interact with new and interesting people with similar interests.

Create a Daily Schedule

Freedom from the daily structure of work may initially sound appealing to many people, but the problem is that most people have come to rely on routine in life. Society sets routine in our lives from the time we are children, creating structure and comfort throughout the day. While it’s not necessary to follow the same sequence hour-by-hour every day, it is important to schedule time to eat, exercise, socialize and sleep so that you have a general idea of how you’re going to spend your time.

Friends and Family

One aspect of retirement that many retirees enjoy is the ability and time to focus on extended family, especially on grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In fact, it is common for retirees to have weekly schedules that include spending time with friends and extended family members while engaging in various activities.


Many people refer to this as their “Bucket List.” Regardless of how you refer to it, it is an important part of retirement. Many people are hesitant to pursue these outside-the-box interests for many reasons. Some may not have the financial means, but more often than not, people feel guilty spending money on themselves beyond life’s necessities. I always ask my clients, “What have you always wanted to do or where would you like to travel, but have not done so because on the surface it appears impractical?” The answers I have received over the years are interesting, exciting, and gratifying when they become reality. It is always good to have something to look forward to and constructing “life’s-to-do-list” will allow you to do so. It always makes my day when I hear a client say they are busier and happier now in retirement than while they were working. While you may be approaching retirement with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation, it’s helpful to remember the next chapter is a time to embrace your passions and freedom to work and play without the daily grind of a full-time job. By creating a life plan that encompasses your financial needs along with your goals and interests in life, it will allow you to clear the emotional hurdle of retirement.

This article is provided by Pete Alepra, a Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management in Cedar Rapids; peter.alepra@rbc.com.  The opinions in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. RBC Wealth Management is a division of RBC Capital Markets, a member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.


Wealth planning