How well will you adapt to retirement?

People are retiring very differently in today’s world. It’s no longer a case of someone reaching 65, being given a gold watch and spending the rest of their days pottering in the garden, learning a new hobby or looking after grandchildren. 

Instead, current retirement trends include transitioning from full-time to part-time work or finding bridge employment, such as volunteering. However, many people even “un-retire” and re-enter the workforce, usually due to boredom or financial considerations.

While this highlights the need for good pre-retirement financial planning, it also shows the need for good social and mental health pre-retirement planning. Organisational psychologist Dr Sarah Cotton, from Transitioning Well which helps manage major life changes, says people experience a lot of changes in retirement.

 “Often what people think will happen in retirement can be very different to what really happens, and it’s important to plan for that,” Dr Cotton says.

In 2006, two researchers, Leo Hendry and Marion Kloep, found there were three distinct retirement pathways, which generally dictate how well someone adapts to this big life change.

The retirement pathways include:

  1. Work is life

    This retiree group showed signs of high distress, reporting a range of debilitating experiences, such as health problems, family tragedies and a lack of skills or hobbies. Their problems didn’t stem from retirement itself but also a number of negative life experiences and events.Dr Cotton says it shows the importance of pre-retirement planning. “There was no planning for retirement at all. It was “I’m here, what now?” planning.”

  2. Work as a lifestyle

    This group has their identity wrapped up in work, including their interests and social networks, and find it hard to retire due to a lack of factors pulling them towards it. They also find it hard to adjust to retirement due to a perceived loss of social status or identity. In this pathway it is important to concentrate on what seems attractive about retirement which may include wanting to spend time with family and friends, travelling or pursuing interests and hobbies.

  3. There is life beyond work

    This retirement pathway is the one most people follow. They usually have a wide range of interests, hobbies and social networks already established and a positive outlook about their retirement.

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact:
Lifeline: 13 11 14 |
beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36 |

This article was provided by SuperFriend, not AustralianSuper. SuperFriend is a national mental health foundation that helps workplaces promote and support improved mental health and wellbeing for their employees. The views expressed are of SuperFriend, not AustralianSuper, based on their experience and expertise.

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