What does the word ‘retirement’ trigger for you? Perhaps fear, denial or excitement? For many, this transition revolves around loss, which can be stressful.
There is the loss of work, of colleagues, of routine and, sometimes, of status. Research shows that after an initial honeymoon period, one third of retirees will struggle to adapt to their new situation.
This conflict can have a negative impact on personal relationships, with newly retired couples reporting the lowest marital satisfaction in their marriages. This has given rise to the ‘grey divorce’, where divorce among couples over 50 is at its highest on record.
So much information about retirement planning revolves around money. There is an information gap about the psychological aftermath, such as finding a purpose, contributing to society, spending time with family and friends, and how retirement impacts on marriages.
So how can you prepare to get the most out of this new chapter in your life?
Have you other ambitions you wish to realise once you retire? How do you visualise yourself in five years, or ten? Do you want to be fitter and happier? What steps can you take that will help you to age more positively? By being willing to reflect on your future and discuss how this will impact your relationship, you can prepare for the reality of retirement.
This approach will let you get the most out of this new phase in your life. Retirement or part-retirement offers a lifestyle that is self-determining — you are free to make your own choices and experience new challenges. This transition can be a time for renewal and growth. It also gives you time to develop a romance with yourself, where you can enjoy doing all the things you never had time for in the past.
Retirement can change the marital dynamic in many ways. Issues such as spending increased amounts of time together, restoring relationships with adult children and grandchildren, and division of money and household chores can all contribute to a changing dynamic. By choosing to connect more deeply, however, you can create a relationship that can, with time, grow and flourish.
If either of your parents are dependent on you when you retire, it’s well worth having a conversation about their future care. Will they be able to live independently or will they need residential care? Is there an expectation that they will move in with you?
One in four Irish adults over 25 still live at home. Research shows that less than half of them pay rent. As you save for retirement, try not to ignore your own financial needs. If your adult children have disposable income, they should contribute fairly. Have a chat with your partner about how long you want your children living with you. Then explain it to them.
If you and your partner plan to downsize when you retire, I would let your adult children know this early. It will give them time to prepare emotionally for this big change in circumstances with the family home.
If you have grandchildren, it’s worth considering how much time you want to spend minding them. Decide how much time feels right for you, individually and as a couple.