Tips for handling post-retirement

November 07, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Marie Guedenet, a psychotherapist and life and retirement coach, says retirement is about change and many people have to make adjustments when entering those retirement years.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Long before the retirement party, most people probably have envisioned life without work.

They imagine less stress and more time to pursue interests - such as gardening, volunteering or traveling the world.

It will be like one long vacation, without ever having to return to the office.

But the reality of retirement can be quite different than the concept.

Retirement might mean relocation, losing social contacts or a lack of structure in your day-to-day activities.

Then there are the repercussions of no longer being employed.

"Most people identify themselves with the work they do," said Marie Guedenet. "They consider their jobs to be an integral part of who they are. Suddenly, there is an unfulfilling gap in their lives."

As a local psychotherapist and life and retirement coach, Guedenet counsels individuals who are preparing to enter the second phase of their lives.

"It's a time of change," she said. "And everyone has to make this adjustment in his or her own way."


Redefining the focus

"Retirement is really a time for renewal for an individual, and clearly for a couple," Guedenet said. "When you retire, it becomes necessary to switch the focus from what you do to who you are. It also is reshifting your priorities, exploring what gives meaning to your life."

As a certified retirement coach, Guedenet said she offers tools to help individuals and couples explore their strengths and readiness for retirement, as well as their weaknesses, that require more focus.

"Therefore," she said, "preparation is necessary to transition into that new phase of life successfully and meaningfully."

With thorough self-examination, some people might decide they are not ready to retire.

"When we talk about retirement, we often only focus on the financial aspects," Guedenet said. "We should also think about the psychological aspects, which are equally important and can mean the difference between being happy or unhappy, fulfilled or unfilled."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many of America's 79 million baby boomers are facing, not a brief retirement, but 20, 30 or 40 more years of life after they've said goodbye to their careers - the longest retirements that any U.S. generation has yet experienced.

For today's 65-year-old person, there's a 45 percent chance they will make it to age 95.

Facing life without a career

Many people facing retirement, still in good health and vitality, wonder how they will fill those job-free years.

And while a majority of people view retirement as the beginning of a new chapter - with freedom, opportunities and more time for family and friends - they admit they might miss the life they are leaving behind.

That's why Guedenet believes people should prepare themselves to avoid emotional pitfalls.

To know if you're ready to retire, you first need to know yourself, she said.

The National Retirement Association agrees.

In a recent report, the organization found that many people's expectations of retirement differed from reality.

After a number of months, many retirees found themselves wanting to work again and missing the routine and daily contacts offered by a career.

Among those surveyed, many thought of retirement as a time to pursue activities they had put on hold. But, only several months into retirement, a large percentage had feelings of boredom and lack of purpose.

The report also cited diminishing social contact that sometimes comes with retirement. Losing touch with co-workers exacerbated feelings of isolation.

Facing the change

"Retirement should be an exciting time," Guedenet said. "You should look at it as a time of hope and opportunity. But some people become depressed and feel a sense of loss. It's important to explore what you can do with your life - what you would like to do. Consider it a new beginning."

Retirement changes your life in significant ways and leads to some serious self-questioning, Guedenet said, including:

• Who am I? How much of my identify derives from my work?

• What gives meaning to my life?

• You know about your financial capital. Have you planned your emotional, work/leisure and social capital?

• Where do you want to live?

• Do you want to work part time, full time or not at all?

To help individuals explore their preretirement or recent retirement, Guedenet utilizes a Retirement Success Profile, which measures 15 crucial factors for a successful retirement.

The LifeOptions Profile looks at 20 factors in six life arenas. It is designed to assist participants in making the best decisions and formulate the most life-giving plans.

Unlike psychotherapy, Guedenet said coaching does not aim at emotional healing or relief from psychological pain. Instead, it focuses on the present and the future.

"When we think retirement -(here's) something to remember: We do not retire from, but we retire to," she said.

Retirement coaching

Marie Guedenet will host a group retirement coaching session that is planned for the spring of 2011. Sessions will include discussions of retirement needs and expectations. More information is available at or by calling 301-797-9226.

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