What We Can Learn From People Who Hate Retirement

What We Can Learn From People Who Hate Retirement

Many people dream about retirement during their 30 or 40 years in the workforce, but what happens when that dream falls short in reality? That’s a question posed in an article in The Wall Street Journal, with advice for those retirees who aren’t living their best lives after leaving their jobs.

According to research, about 15% of retirees struggle with the lifestyle change, some with boredom after a busy and intellectually-stimulating career and others with the sudden lack of structure or professional identity. Those who leave the workforce for health reasons, are forced into retirement involuntarily, or are faced with financial hardships struggle the most, studies found. But understanding the reasons why some people dislike retirement can help those who are nearing retirement face their future with clear eyes and open minds.

That’s especially relevant now, given the mass exodus from the workforce that’s taken place since the pandemic, the article points out. 2/3rds of the employees who quit during what’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation” were over 55, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs last fall. But a lot of those employees didn’t plan to retire that early and may be feeling regret more keenly than those who planned to leave when they did.

For retirees who just aren’t able to settle into retirement, even after a lengthy adjustment period, there’s a viable option: go back to work, even just part-time. That’s never been more doable than right now: the job market is ripe with opportunities, wages are higher than ever, and more employers are allowing remote work. In fact, even before the pandemic, “unretiring” wasn’t unusual. In the 2019 American Working Conditions survey from Rand Corp., 46% of those surveyed who were 50 and over and not working or looking for work said that they would take a job if the right opportunity came along. And 40% of employees 65 and over responded that they’d previously been retired.

Still, many retirees eventually find a new rhythm, whether it be exercising more, traveling extensively, spending more time with family, or doing charity work to fill their days, the article posits. In a 2020 piece published in Aging & Mental Health, Dr. Georg Henning of the German Centre of Gerontology wrote that those retirees who stayed connected to their friends and family as well as involved in various activities were more likely to “succeed” at retirement. Even more important, the retirees who strengthened those connections and activities before retiring had a much smoother adjustment into post-retirement life.

Dr. Henning advises those nearing retirement to take a good hard look at their long-term finances, as financial challenges can sour retirement quickly. Then, he says, find “meaningful activities” that are engaging, both mentally and physically to keep you active during what will hopefully be a long and happy retirement.