Seeking Flow in Retirement
In the not-so-distant past, retirement planning was planning for a financial event—deciding how much you needed to live comfortably for a certain number of years and then figuring out how to accumulate, distribute and sustain that income. Very little attention was paid to a retiree’s quality of life or personal fulfillment in retirement until individuals began living decades beyond their working years.
Still today, in fact, the majority of pre-retirees neglect to psychologically prepare for the changes that accompany the retirement transition—the change in identity, the change in routine, the change in social interactions (types and frequency), and the change in purpose. These retirees may be left feeling socially isolated, bored, depressed, purposeless, and disillusioned about retirement after the “retirement honeymoon phase” wears off.
Financial Transition Planning
However, there is a way for pre-retirees to take control of both their personal finances and their personal fulfillment to avoid becoming fiscally or emotionally bankrupt—Financial Transition Planning. This type of specialized financial planning not only helps individuals on their journey to financial wellness, but also to personal wellness. It helps them to live their lives on purpose, reviving their vitality and enthusiasm for life.
Also Read Northstar’s Related Article: 5 Life Transitions and Times When a Financial Advisor is Needed
As research indicates time and again, having life goals that continue into retirement are a vital component of a retiree’s sense of purpose and satisfaction; it helps them to feel a connection to their present self, the person they once were, and the future person they can become.
But putting goals in place and sticking to them day in and day out, especially amongst the emotionally turbulent time of a major life transition, can be difficult. The key is to build resiliency within ourselves and our environment.
According to Dr. Michael Unger, author of Nurturing Resilience and Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success, we accomplish this by using both our inner resources (mindset, strengths, thoughts, emotions, behavior) and leaning on external resources around us to affect the change in our environment that will sustain our success. As Unger notes in the Psychology Today article, How to Build Resilience:
“According to my clinical research, a resilient person is one who is able to navigate towards the resources that they need to cope in difficult situations, as well as one who can negotiate to get these resources in a way that makes sense to them. Resilience is a dynamic process, as opposed to an individual state. In fact, even those individual characteristics that we commonly associate with resilience, whether at a biological or cognitive level, are mostly triggered by our environments. So, resilience means that your environment has to provide you with the resources you need in ways that are useful to you.”
Like resiliency, retirement is dynamic. Situations (and accompanying values and emotions) will change as time goes on. The plan a retiree makes today may not provide the same personal fulfillment ten or twenty years down the road. In fact, it’s likely his or her outlooks and priorities may change quite a bit.
However, if retirees make an active choice to build resiliency and “Seek Flow” in retirement, they can work to create environments for themselves where they can succeed in whatever endeavors they undertake.
Also Read Northstar’s Related Article: How to Thrive While Life Happens
Seeking Flow in Retirement
Seeking Flow in Retirement means aligning your personal values with how you spend your time in order to create a sustained feeling of vitality and connection in your life. It’s making sure to add activities and commitments from your external environment into your personal one that provide one or more of the following components:
1) Routine: When an individual leaves the workforce, he or she also leaves a predictable routine. Routines, for many, provide a sense of comfort and stability that can seem to be lost in retirement if not replaced with new ones.
Without routines in place, retirees can begin to feel stifled by all their newfound time—something they certainly never anticipated. They begin to feel unproductive, and subsequently, unnecessary. This change, without a doubt, can be one of the most difficult aspects of the retirement transition.
A retiree’s routine should be flexible and include pursuits that may reoccur daily, weekly, or even monthly. Perhaps some aspects of a retiree’s previous routine will even carry over into retirement, providing them with a sense of continuity and familiarity that may help to ease the transition. These could include going to the gym, participating in family get-togethers, volunteering, or more deeply pursuing a current hobby.
2) Social Interaction: In the post-working years, social interactions may be drastically diminished—and quickly. Pre-retirees will need to consider:
- Who will I interact with on a regular basis? Where will I feel a sense of community and belonging?
- To whom with I “matter”? Who will make me feel noticed, appreciated, and needed?
These are not easy questions to answer, but working social activities into the retirement flow will help to fulfill this innate human need. Interactions could be momentary or hours long and may come from a visit to the coffee shop, the country club, church, your family’s homes or events, or volunteering with like-minded individuals.
3) Challenge: These endeavors can help retirees learn something new about themselves, help them meet a goal, or even provide a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment into their lives. Challenges can be personal, emotional, physical, or even spiritual—what’s important is that is supports the individual’s personal pursuits.
4) Measurable: Metting measurable goals and milestones helps sustain momentum from day to day. It's important to see how much progress has been made and celebrate success. These checkpoints not only help build confidence and reinforce a sense of achievement, but work to keep things moving in a positive direction.
Psychologists tell us that activities with some or all of these four components can produce feelings of well-being and energy. When meaningfully incorporated into a retiree’s schedule, they can help to sustain a passion for life.
At Northstar Financial Planning, we recognize that there is so much more to retirement than saving and spending. We have been uniquely trained as Certified Financial Transitionists®to help our clients manage both the financial and personal side of these potentially distressing life transitions. If you or a loved one is nearing retirement and uncertain of financial readiness or have not taken the personal side of retirement into consideration, we would love to help. Set up a complimentary Get Acquainted meeting to discuss your retirement possibilities.