How To Transition From Work To Retirement | 10 Helpful Tips

If your retirement date is coming closer, you’re probably wondering how to transition from work to retirement? Look no further. I’m here to help you out with these helpful tips.

How To Transition From Work To Retirement:

  • Have A Budget Plan For Your Retirement
  • Have A Fun Plan For Your Retirement
  • Be Aware That Retiring Is A Process
  • Taking Time To Adjust
  • Discover Your New Identity
  • Find Your Purpose In Life
  • Set Goals
  • Maintain Being Social
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Keep Staying Active

To learn more about what the retirement process is and how you can transition into retirement more smoothly, keep reading!

1. Have A Budget Plan For Your Retirement

You need to have a budget plan ready before you retire with anticipated costs for basic needs, housing, health care, long-term care. But also costs for activities and plans you have in retirement. Without knowing what you need in retirement and what you can spend, you can’t really make other plans.

If your dream is to travel in retirement, then your finances need to be aligned with that. You can have all the ideas in the world, but without a financial plan to back it up, retirement can be disappointing. To avoid that, you need to develop a budget plan so you know what your financial situation is. And if you’re also responsible for other family members, then you need to include these commitments in your calculations as well.

Income for most retirees is a combination of the following:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • Employer pension plan(s)
  • 401(k) or traditional IRA savings
  • Personal savings
  • The income of a retirement job (if necessary or desired)

Make sure the income you’ll get in retirement through different channels is enough to cover your projected retirement income needs and plans. Taking inflation, the possibility of higher health costs later in life, and high aging into account.

With a tight and clear budget plan, you have a better understanding of your finances, which makes your retirement less stressful. It helps you to know how much you can spend on activities, interests, dreams, and other plans in retirement.

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I wrote several articles that are about preparing for your retirement. Depending on your personal situation, you might find it interesting to read:

2. Have A Fun Plan For Your Retirement

After finishing the budget plan and being prepared financially for your future, it’s time to create a fun plan for retirement. Creating a fun plan is something many retirees overlook.

You’ve spent your entire life working hard to be able to retire, so how do you want to spend that well-earned free time? What are your dreams for retirement? And do you have hobbies and interests you want to pursue? Do you have a bucket list or want to create one?

Having a fun plan ready, and know how you want to spend your time in retirement is essential for a smoother transition from work into retirement. You can make a year plan, month plan, or week plan. That’s totally up to you, but it’s important to keep planning in retirement.

A fun plan or activity plan for your retirement is something to hold onto and have things to look forward too, which helps you keep moving forward in life and stay positive.

I always say to retirees that it is important that you have something to retire to. Sometimes it can be challenging coming up with ideas for things to do in your retirement. It this applies to you, I recommend reading some of the helpful articles I wrote:

3. Be Aware That Retiring Is A Process

Many retirees don’t prepare for what’s coming after they stop working. A financial plan is needed to retire in the first place. So many retirees are only focusing on making sure they can retire financially and forget about what’s coming next in retirement. They go into retirement, cold turkey, and that is for most people, not the best way. If you’re not prepared, you probably have a hard time transitioning from work into retirement.

To be successful in retirement means that you find satisfying and fulfilling replacements for work and find happiness in interests, relationships, and activities in your daily life. You also need to be happy with your new identity and role in life. This way, your life continues to have meaning after your job has ended. But this isn’t as simple as it sounds.

It’s important to know that retiring is a process. You move from a working-life into a life of leisure and freedom, and that transition takes time. The transition from work into retirement is different for everyone. However, there are common stages to the process everyone gets through.

The Five Stages Of Retirement

There are five stages of retirement. And being aware of this process, and these stages make you more understanding of your transition. It gives you landmarks to help judge where you are and what lies ahead of you.

Let’s look at these stages real quick. If you want to read an extensive article, I recommend reading my article, What Are The Five Stages Of Retirement.

Stage 1: Pre-Retirement

This phase is where people come to the realization that retirement is coming soon. And that it’s not something far away. Probably you’re in this phase right now where you prepare for retirement and getting ready to stop working.

It’s an important time because, in this phase, you have the opportunity to prepare for your retirement financially and emotionally, in the best way possible. If you prepare this major life change thoroughly, you have a better chance of transitioning into retirement more smoothly. And later in this article, I will give you tips on how to do that.

Stage 2: Honeymoon

The honeymoon stage is the period where you just retired. The first couple of weeks where you really feel the sense of freedom and celebrate your retirement. You’re like a newlywed, everything is fun and interesting!

However, the honeymoon stage can also trigger mixed emotions like excitement, fear, or anxiety. Many retirees go into this phase without any consideration or plans for their long-term needs in retired life.

This stage is the time where you want to enjoy yourself and have fun with retirement parties. But also have a long-term plan ready for how you want to spend your time in retirement. You can read more about creating a long-term plan for retirement in my article, How To Plan Your Life After Retirement

Stage 3: Disenchantment

For some retirees, the honeymoon phase is followed by a period of disenchantment or disillusionment. The reality of retirement hits in. And the dreams they had before about retirement, aren’t the reality of their retirement right now. People start to ask themselves questions like ‘Is This Really It?’

This period in retirement can feel disappointing and an anticlimax and can sometimes lead to depression. This disillusionment stage often happens to retirees who weren’t prepared enough for their time in retirement. But this phase also gives the opportunity to re-invent yourself and re-define your goals and purpose in life, which can be exciting too.

Stage 4: Reorientation

Many retirees transition automatically into this stage. This phase is where retirees are actively developing ideas and move towards a more balanced life. You’re orientating, thinking, and exploring new routes. You take action to the life you want to live. And a combination of mentally, physically, and social activities and routines in retirement is the best way to live a happy retired life.

Stage 5: Stability

This is the stage of “retirement.” You’re not planning, preparing, and moving towards retirement; you’re living it. You’re satisfied and happy with who you are as a person, where you’re at in life, and you’re satisfied with all the activities you’re doing in retirement. The free time is converted to self-fulfillment.

4. Take Time To Adjust To Retirement

Retirement is a significant life change. One day you’re at work and have responsibilities, goals, a purpose, and you’re surrounded by coworkers. And the next day you’re retired, have no schedule and no specific tasks or activities to do. And also less social interaction. That sudden change and the adjustment to that can be difficult.

The process of transitioning from work into retirement takes a bit of time, so you need to give yourself time to adjust to your new life as a retiree. Sometimes time is the only factor where uncomfortable can become comfortable again.

Also, the dynamics at home are changing when you’re retiring. Your role is changing, and maybe you’re spouse needs time to adjust to the fact that you’re home more often. Or your spouse is also retiring at the same time. And you both need time to adapt to the new situation. It even can cause conflicts if you don’t communicate with each other or talk about it before you’re retiring.

A great way to make a smooth transition from work to retirement is to tiptoe into retirement. Create a process where you slowly reduce the hours you spent working.

You don’t quit your job entirely, but you work part-time or as a freelancer for a couple of years and slowly reduce your working hours. This way, you still have a schedule, purpose, goals, social connections while you also have time to explore the leisure life that’s ahead of you. And have time to think and explore how you want to replace your work satisfyingly.

It might be the ideal way how you can smoothly transition from work into retirement.

Once you experience or come to terms that you’d instead continue doing other activities than working, then you know it’s time to stop. And by then, you’ll already have new fulfilling activities that replace your work to make you’re transitioning a lot smoother.

Working parttime can also be necessary for you in retirement to make ends meet. But you should keep in mind that this is also possible in a way that’s enjoyable too.

However, many people don’t have the opportunity to slowly reduce their working hours and retire just from one day to the other. Don’t worry, just make sure that you allow yourself time to adjust to your new situation.

It can be helpful to create a daily or weekly schedule for your activities so that you create some structure in your daily life. And because you’ve created a fun plan for things to do as a retiree, you probably don’t have to worry about what you want to do.

If you’re want to read more about adjusting to retirement, I recommend reading the article I wrote, How Do I Adjust To Retirement?

5. Discover Your New Identity

You likely identify yourself with your job. In western society, what you do is more important than who you are as a person. And after so many years of working (full-time), it’s not surprising if your job has become a part of you.

But you need to know that you’re more than your job. You have defining qualities and interests that are also a part of your identity. But because your job consumed most of your daily life, these other qualities faded more into the background.

When you transition into retirement, you can feel a loss of identity. Questions as: Who am I? What do I like? Start to arise. So you need to rediscover who you are and your value in retirement again. And this process takes a bit of time.

One of the best ways to explore who you are is by trying out new things and getting out of your comfort zone. And that means doing things you’ve never done before or things you haven’t done for a while.

Getting out of your comfort zone can be challenging and scary at the same time. However, there are many benefits to it. It helps you grow as a person and discover what you love to do. Some of the benefits when you get out of your comfort zone are;

  • Makes you learn a new side of yourself,
  • Can stimulate your creativity,
  • Makes you more flexible when unexpected things happen in life.
  • And learning new things throughout your life also contributes to happiness.

Keep Learning New Things

I’ve learned that when you keep an open mind, stay interested, and keep learning. It helps with discovering your identity. When you keep learning new things in life, you also learn new things about yourself.

One of the most easiest and interesting ways of learning new things is by following courses on the Masterclass platform. Masterclass is an online platform, where your teachers are the most famous and successful people in the world. They offer over 80 courses and 1000 lessons in all kinds of categories.

Some of the famous teachers are Martin Scorsese, Gordon Ramsey, Kelly Wearstler, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Serena Williams, and Dr. Jane Goodall. They all offer courses in the disciplines they’re famous for. Start today;

6. Find Your Purpose In Life

Working gives you a sense of purpose, earning money to save and pay the bills. But also setting goals and achieving them. Doing a job well gives you satisfaction and a worthy, useful, and accomplished feeling.

Continuing to find fulfillment and satisfaction in retirement is essential to living a happy retired life. So you need to find a (new) purpose in life once you stop working.

What is important to you and gives you fulfillment? Is that continually educating yourself? Be surrounded by your family? Is it helping others in need? Or maybe something else.

Maybe your purpose is obvious to you, or you need to do a little exploring to find your purpose. When you have a purpose in retirement, it makes your transition much more comfortable: you have a compass that guides you. And you can set goals and create action plans to achieve these goals in retirement. Which ultimately leads to feeling accomplished, satisfied, useful, and worthy.

Finding your purpose is learning to know the reason why you do the things you do. Your purpose is to answer the why on what you do. It’s different than knowing your passion. If your passionate about something, it means you love doing that specific thing.

For example, your purpose can be to help other people in need, and you can be passionate about playing guitar—two different things. If you want to learn more about passion, I recommend reading my article, How To Find Your Passion In Retirement.

7. Set Goals For Your Retirement

Achievement is an element in life everyone strives after. Without goals, we have no direction in life. And during personal life, the achievements for most people have been; getting a degree, getting married, raise a family, having grandchildren, paying (off) the mortgage. And achievements in a career are mostly promotions and completing projects successfully.

When you’re retiring, these goals are all accomplished, so you need to set new goals in life. If you set some of these goals before you retire, it helps to transition from work to retirement more smoothly.

Having goals in life is essential because:

  • You move your life forward,
  • You push yourself out of your comfort zone,
  • You can make dreams reality,
  • It fuels your ambition,
  • It helps you feel useful, worthy and accomplished,
  • It boosts your self-esteem,
  • It motivates you,
  • You prioritize your time better,
  • It inspires you necessary to aim for things we never thought was possible,
  • You can live your retirement to the fullest.

If you want to go into retirement and use your well-deserved free time in a meaningful way, it’s best to set a goal that aligns with your purpose in life. Or, if you don’t know what your purpose in retirement is, you can set a goal that motivates you to explore and find it.

When you already set a goal for the time in retirement before you retire, it makes your transition easier. A goal gives you a reason to wake up every morning. If you split up your goal up in different daily steps, you can check these steps off daily. And that will make you feel accomplished and self-worthy at the end of each day. That helps you maintain a positive mindset in retirement.

Set your goals using the SMART method. The SMART way is writing down a goal that meets the following criteria:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Attainable,
  • Relevant, and
  • Time-bound.

This way, your goal becomes more tangible and measurable. And it’s easier to make a plan and hold yourself accountable. If you fail at a first attempt, you can reevaluate your goal and formulize it better and adjust where needed. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing on goal setting, people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve it than those who don’t.

Which goals you want to set depends on your dreams, talents, and desires in retirement. And it also depends on what your purpose in life is.

If your purpose is helping others, then maybe you can set a goal, for example: explore and find the perfect volunteer job for three days a week. Or start a charity and raise X amount of money before the end of the year.

After you’ve accomplished your goal(s), you can set new ones. And you want to keep doing that for the rest of your life, so you always have direction and focus. And don’t be afraid to dream big. A dream becomes a reality if you focus and keep working hard towards it. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish in a year.

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8. Maintain Being Social

Socializing is a crucial element to live a long and happy retirement. When you stop working, you need to replace the daily social interaction you had at your job with other connections like family, (new) friends, your community. You need to expand your social circle in retirement.

Most people are not aware of the enormous effect social connections have on people’s mental and physical health.

Multiple studies have shown that socializing has both physical and emotional health benefits. Being social can improve your brain health, it can boost your mental health, and positive social bonds can also lead to a stronger immune system.

The number one mistake with retiring is that people are not actively seeking social connections. They decrease their social time instead of expanding their social time. Being social is one of the most essential ingredients to living a happy retired life.

Have you ever heard of the five blue zones in the world? There are five “Blue Zones” in the world where people live longer than average. The regions are Ikaria, an island in Greece; Okinawa, an island in Japan; the Barbagia region of Sardinia (Italy); Loma Linda, a small city in California, and the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica.

The exciting facts about the people living in these Blue Zones are that they all live a similar lifestyle. And engaging and being socially connected is a massive part of their daily life and one of the reasons why they live longer.

National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner wrote a book (link to Amazon) about the nine lessons we can learn from the people who live the longest. According to Dan Buettner: “Besides having a large percentage of people that live to 100, the aging population also remains active well into their 80 and 90s. And typically don’t suffer from the degenerative diseases common in most of the industrialized world.”

I can definitely recommend reading his book for inspiration;

So if you want to live a happy, long, and healthy retirement, then maintain being social is crucial. Tips for maintaining your social connections:

  • Spend time with your family by organizing weekly family dinners
  • Babysit your grandchildren
  • Be a foster grandparent. Check out volunteer programs here
  • Do volunteer work. Check for volunteer jobs
  • Apply for a class
  • Join a club via Meet-Up 
  • Have a (part-time) job
  • Have a daily coffee routine with your neighbor
  • Travel and meet people from other regions or countries. Find a travel buddy via Senior Travel Buddy

You can learn more in my article, 20 Ways How To Stay Social After Retirement

9. Exercise Regularly

Exercising has many benefits. If you exercise regularly, you strengthen your muscles, manage your weight, reduce stress, and it reduces the risks for many deathly diseases. It improves your physical and mental well being, and it also increases your chances of living longer.

According to Harvard Medical School: “Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that is the body’s natural painkillers, and mood elevators.” So exercising keeps your body strong and your mind happy.

Tips for exercising:

  • Swimming – This is probably the best workout you can do in retirement. With swimming, you use all muscles in your body because of the resistance of your body vs. the water. And the risk of getting an injury is very low. Look for (indoor) pools near you, get swimming lessons or jump in a nearby lake or ocean to do some swimming.
  • Water/ Aqua aerobics – An alternative to swimming is doing aerobics in the water. Its fitness in the water on a music beat. Look for water aerobics classes nearby you, and maybe you make some new friends along the way.
  • Hiking in nature – Go for a hike every day in the park, forest, or national park nearby. Being in nature is good for the body, mind, and soul. Nature does wonders for the human body: it reduces anger, fear, stress, and increases your mood. You will feel better emotionally after spending time in nature. And being in nature also contributes to your physical health: reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. 
  • Yoga – Yoga originated in India and is both a spiritual and physical exercise. With yoga, you do breathing techniques, exercise, and meditation all in one. It improves strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness and helps to improve your happiness. There are over 11 types of different yoga styles that range from more physically demanding to easy, relaxing, meditative yoga. Here are the 11 types explained so you can find out which yoga type fits you the best. You can start lessons at a yoga school nearby or watch YouTube tutorials at home.
  • Playing golf – Playing golf is a fun hobby but also a great exercise for your body. If you’re playing 18 holes, you will walk between four to eight miles. So playing golf a couple of times a week will improve muscle tone and endurance.
  • Dancing – Dancing makes you feel good. And research has shown that dancing gives a much bigger release of endorphins than during other forms of exercise. Dancing connects to the emotional centers of the brain where you will let go and release emotions, which is great for staying mentally healthy and positive.
  • Pilates – Pilates is similar to yoga because it also improves your body’s flexibility, but it focuses more on relaxing tense muscles. It’s a great option if you have a couple of injuries, which makes you limited in doing exercising.
  • Gardening – Gardening makes your body do all sorts of movements like squatting, bending, walking, lifting, digging, etc. It will keep your joints active and your mind more positive and creative because you’re out in nature. If you want to improve your gardening skills, I recommend following the Masterclass of Ron Finley which you can check out here.
  • Dog walking – If you want to do some exercising and earn a bit of money, you can become a dog walker for you’re neighborhood via the app Wag. Apply on the Wag app as a dog walker, and people from you’re neighborhood can book you on demand. You’ll earn around $17-$20 per walk (20 minutes) while staying fit.

10. Keep Staying Active

No longer having a schedule can be a little bewildering at first. But if you stay active, refocus on new interests and activities in retirement, you’ll establish new routines in retirement.

The people who live a happy retirement are the ones that stay active every day and have a combination of physical, mental, and social activities throughout their week. Also, the people in the Blue Zones remain active well into their 80 and 90s. So besides exercising regularly and maintaining social connections, you want to challenge yourself mentally daily in retirement as well.

According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, doing mentally challenging activities keeps your brain healthy, prevents the risk of Alzheimer’s, and it also improves your memory, concentration, and general problem-solving skills.

Tips for staying mentally active:

  • Solve puzzles (sudoku, crossword, etc.)
  • Learn something new: skill, language, musical instrument.
  • Read inspirational or informative books every day
  • Meditate. Headspace is one of the best-guided meditation apps that makes meditation very easy and accessible for everyone
  • Start writing (family history book, novel, start a blog)
  • Listen to (positive) podcasts
  • Watch inspirational TEDTalks
  • Learn how to do house maintenance projects by watching YouTube tutorials or via instructions online. You’ll save a lot of money on plumbers, electricians, and handymen.

I explain more about mentally challenging activities in retirement in my article, How Can I Keep My Brain Active After Retirement?

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Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 200+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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