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What are the potential negatives of retired life?

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Many people worry about retirement. Going from a regular wage to relying on a pension can be hard to deal with, as can the social isolation and loss of status you may experience when retired.

But from dealing with financial concerns to relationship issues and staying mentally and physically active, a bit of planning and a positive attitude can help mitigate many of the potential downsides of life in retirement.

Financial security 

For many people planning for retirement, the biggest worry is financial. Living life on a pension can be hard to cope with, although careful day to day budgeting can help reduce some of the pressure.

Retirement should not be dictated or dominated by finance, any more than your years prior to leaving paid employment were - Julia Skinner

Retiresavvy blogger Julia Skinner says: “Retirement should not be dictated or dominated by finance, any more than your years prior to leaving paid employment were.

“You obviously have to be sensible, but with careful budgeting and planning you can make sure that you concentrate on new experiences and let the pennies take care of themselves.”

If you do need extra income, there are options available, from continuing working in semi-retirement, to more creative ideas such as taking part in market research or setting up your own business. If it’s appropriate to your circumstances, you could also investigate downsizing in retirement.

Loss of status and self-esteem

The social network and relationships you build in your working environment are a strong part of what makes up your self esteem. Leaving work and the loss of status that this brings can lead to a loss of self-esteem, which some retirees can struggle to cope with.

Retiresavvy member Peter Galvin says: “Self-esteem is an absolutely key area in retirement, as of course it is throughout our lives. Your self-esteem can take a real hit when you retire.

“You need to recognise this and understand that it is both common and entirely understandable for some people, and appreciate that you need to take steps, before you retire, to consider where your self-esteem will come from.”

This could involve taking up new hobbies or joining new groups in your area.

Strain on relationships

The sudden transition from a 9-5 working life to spending all day at home can be a strain on relationships.

Research by Skipton Building Society shows that four in 10 couples find it ‘impossible’ to live with each other during retirement and have to relearn how to coexist.

Common relationships issues in retirement include not sharing the same hobbies, bickering about the lack of money, and letting minor complaints and irritations escalate into problems.

However, happily, nine in 10 couples do think that eventually they will settle in to a happy retirement together.

Battling isolation

But too many people in retirement – particularly divorced men, who may be lacking an effective support network – can find themselves ‘falling through the cracks’ and suffering from social isolation as a result. It’s important to keep mentally and physically active in order to make the most of retirement.

Social isolation can be a real problem – men tend not to complain about that sort of thing - David Sanders

Projects such as Men in Sheds and Project Dirt offer a place for men to meet and socialise, and stay connected to a community.

David Sanders, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Sunderland, says: “Social isolation can be a real problem. It’s a fact that men tend not to complain about that sort of thing, and certainly wouldn’t attend anything to do with mental health. But the Men in Sheds movement was a major success – men went along, learned and developed new skills from other blokes, and put something into the community.”

A fear of aging

It’s not unusual to feel a sense of mortality or dislocation from society on retirement. Ending work is a watershed moment that can prompt soul-searching and taking stock of what you have achieved and what later life may have in store.

Retiresavvy blogger Clive Pilcher says: “I think it’s perfectly normal to admit that as I approached my retirement last year it brought on thoughts of what life might hold. At the most fundamental level, I think this was a fear of aging. Retirement is, after all, a major step in our lives, and it acted on me as a trigger.”

Clive found that his fear of aging was based on a fear of becoming dependent on others. While he found he couldn’t totally set aside these feelings, he made a list of ‘reasons to be cheerful’ – positive things in life, such as his health, family and friends – to help put his mind at ease.

Do you have any thoughts about the potential negatives associated with retirement? How did you combat them? We’d love to hear your views so please feel free to leave your comments below.

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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I witnessed so many of these very valid points with my own parents during their retirement and it's definitely issues we all need to be aware of as we reach our golden years.

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