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25th May 2021

How to Successfully Transition into Retirement

How can we prepare for retirement and make it a positive and fulfilling experience, the ‘golden years’ of our life? Retirement is a major milestone that marks our passage into later adulthood. It is a complex transition with a shift in routines and identity. It elicits a mixture of emotions varying between apprehension, anxiety, excitement and anticipation. We explore how to successfully transition into retirement.

The Voice of New Retirement report looks into the life experiences and aspirations of over 6,000 UK adults in six areas that contribute to their overall happiness and wellbeing, reveals some positive statistics about retirement:

  • Almost two in three (62%) of today’s retirees feel their experience of retirement is better than expected
  • Retirees also report greater contentment with their finances, health, diet, exercise and time spent with family
  • 62% of retirees describe themselves as happy, and they are twice as likely as unretired people (14% vs. 7%) to be extremely happy

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So how can one ensure they have a happy retirement? Here are some aspects of the transition to consider:

1. Changing the perceptions of retirement

Retirement is often described as an endpoint of someone’s life as a working adult, actively contributing to society, and tends to have a negative stigma attached to it, often associated with a person getting old and starting to experience physical and cognitive decline. However, this negative perception, while likely to create anxiety, also fails to comprehensively incorporate all of life’s transitions and the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural changes that go along with the behavioural withdrawal from work. To see retirement in a more thorough and positive light, one can perceive it in one of four ways instead:

  • Retirement as a lifestyle – when a person retires, they have to create a new lifestyle and form new habits. This is a time in their life when they have to move away from the work-focused lifestyle and break their old habits.
  • Retirement as a goal – in a financial sense, a lot of people see retirement as something to be planned, pursued, and achieved. It is seen as an endpoint of a long marathon in which they have managed to accumulate enough financial resources to sustain themselves for the rest of their lives.
  • Retirement as a process – retirement can be seen as a process that spans over several decades and may include different factors to well-being – what makes someone happy at 65 will be different than what brings them happiness at 95.
  • Retirement as a mindset – one can also see retirement as a way or cognitive orientation, that determines how people process information and make decisions.

2. Preparation is key

Most experts advise that when it comes to retiring, preparation is key. Having a plan and a good understanding of all the financial, physical and emotional aspects of leaving work can help an individual create a life that is stimulating and joyful. The Voice of New Retirement report demonstrates a clear link between people’s approach to planning and the probabilities of experiencing a happy retirement that exceeds expectations. Financial planning and being comfortable enough not to worry about money is seen as one of the most important objectives. Among those who planned well in advance, 69% felt happy or very happy and 72% had enough money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

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3. Starting early

Before making their decision to retire, some people choose to take a year out of work to get a taste of absence from the workplace. If that is too extreme of a step, we can still make changes to our lifestyle before retirement to ease the transition and avoid the initial stress that we might experience when our routine suddenly changes. Future retirees are often advised to build what will become a retirement lifestyle by taking part in meaningful and recreational activities, having new hobbies and becoming members of clubs and organisations. That provides opportunities to stay active and build friendships beyond the world of work.

4. Building Your Psychological Portfolio

Along with financial planning, it is important to consider the psychological adjustments that accompany retirement, such as feelings of loss of career identity and support networks that we usually have through work. That is why it is important to invest in our social and psychological portfolio before retirement and figure out what makes us happy and what would help us to maintain our well-being throughout the retirement years. An answer to that might be to get involved in volunteering. A study [2] has found that older adults who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year report a greater increase in psychological well-being than those who do not. Moderate volunteering has also been linked to higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms.

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5. Seeking Support

Exposure to retirement education at the preretirement stage is essential for avoiding the ‘knee-jerk’ decision to retire. Attending workshops, reading books and receiving coaching can help an individual feel prepared and deal with any uncertainty a future retiree might be facing, clarify life and work goals and how to achieve them.

What can Impact do for you?

If you want to plan for your retirement but do not know where to start or if you are an employer who wants to ensure their employees are prepared for the next stage of their life, Impact Psychology offers 1-1 coaching and workshops to support you and your team.  We tailor each session to your specific needs. We will be happy to answer any questions and discuss our services, you can get in touch with us here.


Additional Resources

[1] UK: Retirement exceeds expectations for today’s retirees – but lack of preparation risks adding to the challenges facing younger generations. (2016, March 7).

[2] Sneed, R. S., & Cohen, S. (2013). A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28(2), 578–586.

[3] Adams, G. A., & Rau, B. L. (2011). Putting off tomorrow to do what you want today: planning for retirement. American Psychologist66(3), 180.

[4] Chamberlin, J. (2014, January). Retiring Minds Want to Know. American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from

[5] Dholakia, U. (2016, November). 4 Different Ways to Think of Retirement | Psychology Today. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from

[6] Osborne, J. W. (2012). Psychological effects of the transition to retirement. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy46(1), 45-58.