A recent piece of research commissioned by The Skipton Building Society http://ow.ly/zXGyC suggested that the majority of British workers viewed retirement as a fundamentally positive experience. It is not clear from the report how many of the 2000 respondents are already retired rather than anticipating retirement. I suspect from the responses that most of the sample are people not yet retired. To what degree you look forward to your retirement is often largely influenced by how you regard your current work situation. An aspect of impending retirement I addressed in a recent article on my blog www.theseummerhouseyears.com when I asked ‘what kind of retiree are you?’ As I suggested in my blog if you find your job stressful, repetitive, unfulfilling then, perhaps predictably, you are likely to have a more rose-tinted view of retirement. How your retirement shapes up depends a great deal on how you plan for it before you retire. It may be that the reality will be significantly influenced by what kind of retiree you expect to be. So start thinking about it now.

A person who enjoys their career, who derives a good deal of their self-esteem or self-image from their, hopefully successful, career (perhaps as opposed to simply ‘a job’), is likely to find retirement a much less sunny experience. As years of retirement stretch ahead with little or no structure, no opportunity to be valued or even the centre of attention, to have no sense of purpose, then the reality of retirement can be less enticing. Additionally, when a couple who have enjoyed their respective careers retire together, their reaction to retirement, may be rather more negative than they may have anticipated when they were three or four years from actually retiring. Read my blog ‘what happens when couples retire together?’

Another important retirement area I have written about at some length is the effect of retirement on self-esteem. Self-esteem is an absolutely key area in retirement, as of course it is throughout our lives. Your self-esteem can take a real hit when you retire. You need to a) recognise this and understand that it is both common and entirely understandable for some people and I count myself in this group, b) a person needs to take steps, before you retire (although it is never too late, it just becomes harder when a person develops coping habits in retirement rather than facing up to the reality of disappointments), to consider where your self-esteem will come from. Will it come from yourself, from other people, from which activities, when and where? A person needs to give these areas some thought in preparing for retirement. How will I get my self-esteem when I am retired if a lot of my self-esteem came from my career?

In addition, it seems to me, with the benefit of my nearly one year’s retirement experience, the key to a fulfilling retirement is to work out, when you are still working, if possible, what aspects of your working life gave you your sense of well-being. Then make sure that you have ways / activities / experiences in retirement that will give you the same sense of fulfilment. In other words that will meet your needs as a retired person. Have a clear understanding of what kind of person you are, what you value in your life, what you want to have continue and therefore what goals you need to set yourself to fill in the missing pieces of your ideal retirement. Nothing wrong, incidentally in having dreams, ambitions, blue sky ideas about what you want your retirement to be, even what kind of person you want to be. Be ambitious in your goal setting. Incidentally, there is an art in effective goal setting which I intend to address in a future blog on my website.

The sentence – ‘what kind of (retired) person’ do you want to be, is a key one for a person wanting to have a positive retirement experience. Retirement is an opportunity (maybe the only opportunity some people have) to be somebody different. Maybe to try a new life style or at least a significantly different development of the one you chose (or was chosen for you) in the pre-retirement period of your life. Seeing retirement life as a series of newly found opportunities rather than a long line of challenges or even problems is, I believe, the way to have a happy retirement.

In the article mentioned at the beginning of this blog, describing the findings of the research into peoples’ views of retirement, albeit in a largely predictive sense, the terms people used to anticipate retirement were words like – exciting, wonderful, adventurous, idyllic, fun (there were of course some negatives, perhaps the subject of another blog about anticipating the negatives) – and the thing is that there is no reason that, with clever i.e. thoughtful goal-setting, all these ambitious concepts become achievable. You just have to think it through. Be proactive rather than reactive, take control of your retirement life and it will be a satisfying one, mine has been, so far.

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