Emotional Health · Money & Careers

Retiring and Unretiring: Blessing or Curse?

Popular TV shows reflect this change: the center of American life shifted gradually from “Father Knows Best” family comedies to workplace-centered shows from “Mary Tyler Moore,” to the “The Office” — the “meta” workplace comedy. These all underscore how much of our social interactions occur at work, and how our work “families” affect us.

To be able to retire successfully, we must be aware of this and plan for routine and reliable social interaction. This is especially important for those who are single. Unlike just going to work and having an entire social structure waiting for you, your social life now requires forethought, strategy, and activity. On the positive side, we get to choose who we will be seeing and socializing with, rather than being subject to the personalities of colleagues we haven’t selected ourselves.

Choosing to engage in organized activities, like classes, group trips, and volunteer work can put some social interaction back into life. These activities also have the benefit of providing some structure to the day and create a sense of routine. Again, though, the burden is on the retiree to find these opportunities, sign up for them, and show up. All this requires a proactive attitude that may feel foreign after so many years of being an employee.

While some master the art of retirement, it helps to have enough money to indulge in leisure activities, and ideally your retirement budget anticipates this. Travel, entertainment, and most social activities require some spending, and no one fares worse than retirees with too little money.

When planning carefully for retirement, make sure you have enough money not just to live, but also to thrive. Those who keep active, learn new skills, and stay in touch with friends and loved ones are much more likely to enjoy retirement. They are even more likely to live longer, healthier lives.

If you don’t have enough money to “retire well,” consider delaying it. Or if you have already retired and but you aren’t happy, perhaps going back to work is the answer. While some people go back to the same type of job they had before, sometimes part-time, others enjoy trying something completely different. Others find volunteering is right for them. A feeling of purpose is not a need that can be put to rest with retirement. It is an essential human need. As one retiree put it “As long as somebody wants me, I have a lot to contribute.” And that’s a good feeling.

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  • Risa Denenberg January 23, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    I realize this article is directed to a specific set of retirees with specific concerns. I do wish the idea that being alone equals loneliness would be shattered here, and elsewhere, as it perpetuates a myth. I just retired at 70, after a long satisfying career as a nurse. I would have enjoyed an earlier retirement, but opted to accrue enough savings to be comfortable, as suggested here. And I still work occasionally, and enjoy the benefit of working alongside people I like and admire. Easing out of work is a strategy that might help with making the transition easier. Still, the opportunity for solitude and being with oneself is underrated, yet it is what I cherish most about no longer going to work every day. I doubt if I am alone in this point of view.