Marianne Oehser’s client walked in, sat down, breathed heavily and came right to the point: “We’ve done everything on our bucket list. Now what?”
Barely 18 months after retiring – and originally happy to do so – most clients who make appointments with retirement coaches Dee Casio, Sue Mintz and others have the same “Now what?” post-retirement question.
Why the question now? And not before now?
Retirement’s Emotional Impact
One likely reason takes retirees by surprise. “Clients are usually well-prepared for the money aspects of retirement,” says Dee Casio of Life and Work Transitions. “But they come up short dealing with the emotional aspects of this life transition.”
The reasons vary. People are living longer and therefore have more years in retirement. (It’s a double-whammy for those taking early retirement.)
Worse, many retire without any plan at all. Just “filling the days” is not satisfying and leads to the urgent “Now what?” Question.
Lastly, some retirees enthusiastically attack their bucket lists, thinking that’s what retirement is all about. But after every box has been ticked, they’re still left with two to three decades to fill their days…with what?
Retirement’s Relational Impact
“It’s not unusual that the dynamics in a marriage change after one or both spouses retire,” says Sue Mintz of Retirementhood. Issues include:
- Differing expectations. When a couple bought a motor home to travel throughout Europe for a year, the wife assumed they would fly home every four to five weeks to visit the grandchildren. The husband assumed they’d return home once – at the end of their 12 month idyll.
- Unexpected “little things” tensions. Suddenly all those small pfft! Irritants bloom into huge anger-making annoyances. For some, it’s too much “we” time (a particular problem when one spouse needs substantially more “me” time). For many, it’s the unexpected challenge of being together 24/7/365 for the first time ever.
- Who-does-what? issues. Wives sometimes assume that their husbands will lend a hand with housework – a considerable surprise to some men!
Although these issues seem trivial, they aren’t. It happens so often there’s even a term for it: Gray Divorce.
The Coach’s Role
Retirement coaches offer help navigating these common dilemmas and resolving sometimes widely differing expectations.
Coaches are likewise particularly skilled in another area: helping individuals and couples resolve the “fill my days with…what?” question.
Using a variety of assessment tools (if necessary), skilled questioning (to deepen self-understanding), and interactive activities (when appropriate), retirement coaches help their clients uncover their own, personally meaningful post-retirement vision.
This is no small thing.
Filling the “Purpose Void”
Some people experience a “purpose void” when the needs to earn a living, rear and financially support children and other day-to-day concerns end.
Since a sense of purpose is a fundamental need, retirees often look elsewhere for purpose.
Senior Planet facilitator Pat Whitty of San Antonio moderates the “Finding Purpose, Wellness and Community After 60″ discussion group online every Friday. Whitty cites Stanford University’s Dr. Phillip Pizzo’s identification of three items that are especially important as we age: purpose, well-being, and community. Of the three, uncovering one’s purpose can be the most challenging. (Learn more about Whitty’s discussion group, and other discussion groups and events here.)
Of course, some people avoid the question entirely because they never retire (for all intents and purposes). The recent documentary ‘Calendar Girl,” is the story of Ruth Finley, founder of the fashion industry bible The Fashion Calendar. She finally retired at 95 years old (she passed away at 98). Here’s a peek at her story:
Or like Henrietta Mantooth, still painting at 97, one of the People We Love. Her story is here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Looking for a retirement coach? A list of coaches and their websites can be found at the Retirement Coaches Association. There is also a certification process for retirement coaches you can check, as well.
Coaches offer no-obligation, complimentary get-acquainted meetings in person, by phone or via Zoom.
Whatever avenue you choose, with or without a coach, preparing for the transition to retirement is a smart move. You’ll feel better, improve your relationships….and who knows, maybe even win a prize.
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.