Counseling Corner: Easing the way into retirement

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Most of us happily anticipate retirement. Even if we enjoy our jobs, it’s likely we’re looking forward to escaping workplace stresses and instead having the free time to do things we really enjoy.

But despite that retirement can bring a number of positives, many people find the reality of retirement to be challenging and even frightening. Leaving job usually brings not only financial changes, but also some lifestyle changes.

It usually means less contact, or losing touch, with former colleagues you saw every day. You may feel like there’s less purpose in your life, and you might experience a loss of identity once you’re no longer whatever you occupation was.

Successful retirement requires financial planning, but it also requires planning for the lifestyle and psychological changes that will occur. And you want to do that planning prior to retirement.

A first step in pre-retirement planning is to look for ways to keep busy and interested in retirement, rather than worrying you’ll be bored or without purpose. Starting or going back to a hobby can be one way to stay active. You can also look into social or volunteer groups to keep you active and involved.

In today’s active economy you might want to consider not making retirement full-time. Many retirees find ways to continue to work part-time, whether in a paid position or as a volunteer. Schools, libraries, city governments, senior centers and civic groups are always in need of volunteers. Or you may find yourself sought out as a consultant based on your past work experience.

Continuing part-time in the workplace can add a sense of purpose and direction to your retirement years. And at least one study found that those who still work had fewer major illnesses and disabilities than those who quit working altogether.

For some retirees, a rocking chair on the back porch is fine, but for many of us there is a real need to stay active, involved and contributing. If you have retirement in your near future, or have recently retired and are feeling unsure about what your future may offer, consider talking to a professional counselor who can assist you in understanding your feelings and desires for a successful retirement.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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