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Emotional rescue Prepare for all aspects of retirement

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I don't mean to speak disparagingly about the concept of "Freedom 55", but the dream of working hard, sacrificing and saving for early retirement seems to have fallen by the wayside.

While the wish to retire at 55 might still exist, no longer do people look in the mirror and seriously envision their near future as a fun-loving young senior lounging on a beach or a loving couple cuddled together on the cottage deck. The reality is that more and more older, so called "mature" workers are continuing to stay in the workforce.

In fact, Statistics Canada suggests that the employment rate for individuals 55 and older has risen from a low of 22 per cent of the workforce in 1996 to 34 per cent in 2010. Today, a 50-year-old worker can expect to stay in the workforce 3.5 years longer.

Yet, I don't believe the various financial crunches over the past few years are the only reasons older workers are staying in the workforce. I am aware of many older workers who have chosen to delay their retirement and stay in the workforce. As an executive coach who assists people in making the transition into new jobs and new lifestyles, I encounter many reasons that older workers are making for this decision.

For instance, people are living longer and have better health into their senior years than did their parents. They want to stay healthy, stay busy and stay active. Secondly, much of our work today is "knowledge" work rather than "hands-on" physical work. Workers are engaged in activities that inspire intellectual thought, creativity, innovation and challenge. These types of work elements are not easily replaced in retirement.

Thirdly, our work world has become much more interactive, relying on teamwork and social relationships. This leads people to want to stay connected with people they know, rather than retiring and having to create entirely new friendship networks.

While many of our older, mature workers appear to be content with their involvement in the workforce, they will indeed need to look into the mirror of life and envision the time when they will retire. Whereas this transition can be a traumatic and daunting task, individuals will need to think about, discuss and plan to exit the workforce. Of course, the key element here is the word "plan".

Planning for the emotional elements of retirement is quite different from financial planning, which is much more concrete and factual. As a result, many older workers may ignore or oversimplify all of the other elements of their life that lead to happiness and satisfaction. So, what are these "personal satisfaction" elements and what should individuals pay attention to? The following list and set of questions will help you to think through some of the emotional elements of retirement.

Self-esteem -- What is your level of self-esteem and what role does your work play in developing and maintaining self-esteem? Do you identify strongly with your current employer? What does your job title mean to you and how will you feel when you shed that identity?

Skills and abilities -- You have honed your skills and abilities at work and this leads to a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Will you have an opportunity to use these skills in retirement? If not, how will you gain that great feeling of satisfaction from what you will be doing?

Family and relationships -- Ask yourself how your family relationships will change after retirement. Will you get underfoot if your spouse has retired before you and has staked out their space in your home? Will your children expect you to take those grandchildren more often? Is this something you would wish to do?

Personal development -- One of the key sources of satisfaction at work has been learning and being involved in new and challenging activities. How will you replace this element in retirement? What would you now wish to learn? What elements of personal development have you explored and which would provide a sense of satisfaction in your new life?

Personal relationships -- Whether you have plenty of friends or just a few, work relationships provide a sense of satisfaction that must be replaced. Many people try to maintain work relationships but without great effort, these can fall by the wayside. If there is a retiree club for your company, then join. If not, you will need to seek out ways to develop new relationships.

Leisure activities -- Work may have taken up much of your time and as such, you might not have developed a hobby or involved yourself in leisure activities. At the same time, you need to keep in mind your health and physical status. While you may not participate in a sport as you did in your youth, there may be other opportunities in the field. If not, explore other activities that will provide leisure and life balance for you.

Work activities -- Retirement today doesn't mean an individual has to stop work; there are many alternative work schedules that will provide for personal renewal and time to refocus on your lifestyle. Organizations of all kinds offer flexible work hours, job sharing, and part-time work options. Review these options and determine which is best suited to you.

It's time to look at retirement as just another step along the career continuum. As a result, each of the above elements needs to be reviewed, discussed, considered, weighed and evaluated. However, any and all of your decisions also need to be put into an overall personal strategic plan. The following steps will enable you to construct a personal career transition plan that will ensure your route to retirement is filled with joy rather than apprehension.

1. Determine the vision for yourself in retirement in the next five years. What could you be doing that will create a sense of personal accomplishment?

2. Identify the personal and financial barriers, constraints, obstacles must you overcome to attain this vision.

3. Confirm your current personal and professional strengths and identify how can you transfer these into satisfactory life as a retiree.

4. Identify the personal challenges you anticipate as the transition takes shape and develop a strategy to overcome these.

5. Create a set of specific, measurable goals (no more than five).

6. Be committed to writing a daily journal that will enable you to check your progress and revise any plans as you go.

7. Keep in touch with family and friends, share, ask for advice, seek out encouragement.

As you can see, retirement means much more than simply financial security. In fact, any transition and/or career change, no matter at what age, is much more difficult than people anticipate. Better planning and planning that includes a close examination of the emotional elements of transition is needed to ensure a successful journey.

Source: Workers delaying retirement by 3.5 years: StatsCan, HR Reporter, Oct. 27, 2011

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, is president of Legacy Bowes Group and vice-president of Waterhouse Executive Search Group. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2011 H1

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