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Settling into retirement: How to cope with the early days

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Planning for retirement isn’t just about the financial planning and pension provisions you make – it’s about preparing for the changes in your life and how you are going to deal with these and embrace them to ensure you enjoy a happy retirement. This article looks at the social elements to consider when preparing for retirement.
When preparing for your retirement and thinking ahead about your new way of life, have you really imagined what this is going to be like?
Have you considered:
  • Updating your social circle
  • Having a weekly routine
  • Creating a yearly plan
  • Taking on a new role
  • The importance of your ‘me’ time.

So the big day is here – after 40+ years of working for a living you can finally enjoy retirement. But what will it be like and how can you make sure you make the most of your new found freedom?

Everyone’s experience of retirement is different. Your pension, your health and your personal circumstances will have a big effect on how you live a happy retirement. But whatever your own situation there are five simple things you can do to help you settle into this new phase of your life.

1: Make the effort to meet with friends

Humans are social animals. We need interaction with other people on a daily basis to make us feel good. At work, this happens as a matter of course, but in retirement you will have to plan social events to meet with friends. And if all your friends were work colleagues, you will need to make new friends who will be available in the daytime.
Try joining a new club or society, organise a regular get-together with your closest friends and be open to accepting invitations to events that you might have previously ignored. Nowadays social media is an excellent way to reconnect with old friends, so if you haven’t already done so, why not join Facebook and see who you can trace?  It could be ‘The Last Tango in Halifax’ all over again!


2: Set up a daily or weekly routine 

Retirement gives you freedom, but most people feel happier with some sort of routine to their lives. It doesn’t have to be set in stone and of course if an invitation to do something exciting comes along, the beauty of retirement is that you can be spontaneous, change your plans and accept.
There are many practical chores that you will still need to do in retirement such as shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing and gardening, which can all be factored into your routine. Add in regular slots for exercise or sport, activities & clubs and meeting friends but leave yourself at least one day a week free for doing something new.

3: Have a yearly plan

Of course no-one can see what the future holds, but we all need to have something to look forward to. Make a rough yearly plan of things that you would really like to do, but which you didn’t have time for when working. It could include holidays, learning a new language, taking an Open University degree, climbing Snowdon, touring Europe.
Even if money is tight, there are plenty of things you can do which cost very little. Keep an eye on your local paper or online 'What’s On' page of your town or city’s website to see what events are coming up nearby and add these to your plan.

4: Take on a new role

For many people, work gives them status and defines their place in society. It can be hard to deal with feeling that you are no longer important, needed, relevant or useful. Of course that’s not true; you just need to redefine your role. You may decide to take on a smaller part-time job, become a mentor for young people in your previous industry, or take on a volunteering role, which although not paid can give you a real feeling of doing something worthwhile.

5: Ensure you have some ‘me’ time

If you’re married or living with a partner, having your loved one around 24/7 in retirement can take some getting used to. If you haven’t done so already, it’s important that you discuss and understand each other’s ‘vision’ of retirement.
Retirement doesn’t have to mean that you’re joined at the hip - although if that’s what you both want, that’s fine. For most people having some ‘me’ time when they’re not just ‘the wife’ or ‘the husband’ is important.
One way to retain your own identity is by having some activities and friends that are purely yours and encouraging your partner to do the same. That way when you meet up again you will have something new to talk about that will enrich both your lives.
With people living healthy lives for longer, retirement can be one of the most enjoyable phases of your life. But having a happy and fulfilling retirement takes work, so welcome to your new full-time job!
What did you find the most challenging about settling into retirement and how did you get over this? It’d be great if you could share your experiences to inspire others by leaving your comments below.
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.


I wish this article had been available for me to read when I first retired. It is full of good, practical advice that I had to find out the hard way when I took early retirement from a job as Head of a very busy department in a secondary school 4 years ago at the age of 57.

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