How to navigate retirement when you’re a workaholic

It’s fair to assume that most people look forward to retirement. But what if you’re among those for whom work defines life? If you’re a “workaholic” unaccustomed to leisure, what are you supposed to do when you finally hang up your hat?

The answer, of course, depends on your situation. If you’re married, for instance, retirement may prove to be a great opportunity for you to spend more time with your spouse. The same goes for those who have children and grandchildren: You can reroute the attention you gave to your job to the family and friends you saw rarely in the past.

For a true workaholic—and not just a hard worker—planning for retirement requires more than just investing and saving for the future. It also involves thinking about the emotional shifts you’re bound to go through when day-to-day life doesn’t revolve around work. What part of the end of your job will you miss the most? Is it the people, the challenges, having purpose? Once you uncover the answer to that fundamental question, you can focus on how you can reap the same benefits-and feelings-while not holding down full-time employment.

Here are some tips to help you make the transition:

Start slowly. If you jump into retirement all at once the shock to your routine might be too much to handle. Instead, look for opportunities where you can work part-time (and only part-time), even if it’s with your current employer. Many large employers keep valuable contributors on as consultants. Cut back on your work hours gradually and your non-working life should just slip into place.

Experiment and schedule. As you wean yourself away from work, look for new ways to occupy your mind. This could be as simple as taking a cooking class, volunteering somewhere or getting out for a walk every morning before breakfast. Also, at least in the beginning, schedule your days down to the minute so you always have something to do.

Give yourself a break. Did you know that 1 in 6 Americans claim that they are very dissatisfied with their life?1 Often, workaholics feel guilty about the fact that for years they didn’t spend enough time with their families. There is also a chance that they also didn’t pay attention to themselves, or to the physical and mental benefits that come with rest. As you ease into your retirement years, don’t forget to take care of your own needs even as you strive to care more for those around you.

Talk it out. If you find that post-work life is more difficult than you anticipated—or even worse, that you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed—don’t hesitate to get help. It’s important that you talk about your feelings with friends, family or with other retirees going through similar transitions.

Look ahead. Most retirees find it doesn’t take long to adjust to life without a full-time job. Keep this in mind as you look toward your personal retirement plan. Focus on retirement the way you’ve focused on your work, and the years ahead can be your best ever.

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1 The 2016 Guardian Study of Financial and Emotional Confidence (Updated 2018)


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