For some people, leaving the workforce is a long-held dream. For others, the thought of giving up the job they've had for years is a great source of anxiety. If retirement is something that scares you, it's important to be well prepared for this major life transition. How can you make this time in your life enjoyable rather than stressful?

One of the most important things you can do is get your finances in order. Obviously, a huge fear that people have about retirement is being short of money. If you haven't accumulated a seven-figure nest egg, consider trying to:

  • Cut down on spending. Some people spend less once their children are finished with college and out of the house. Others find that their schedule now permits frequent vacations, nights on the town, and expensive meals out. Before opening your wallet, ask yourself if what you want is something you can live without. Anything you save can be put into your company 401K or other savings vehicle, such as an IRA. Not only will you find yourself with a bigger cushion when you do stop working, but you'll be acclimating yourself to a more modest lifestyle that will help you stretch your dollars.
  • Stay in the workforce. If you're not forced out of your job, consider staying on for a few years. You'll bring in an income for a longer period and will build up more in retirement benefits. Staying on the job may also allow you to postpone collecting retirement benefits such as your pension or social security payments. Doing this will mean higher annual payouts when you do finally collect.

But it's not just dollars and cents that worry people about retirement. Going from being employed to unemployed can create huge stresses on your marriage. If you and your spouse are used to spending much of the day apart, having one or both of you suddenly home all the time is jarring. And whereas your previous life may have centered on children and jobs, now it's just you two. Is it possible to maintain domestic harmony?

Yes, but it will take some work, maintains Dr. Stephen Treat, the director and CEO of the Council for Relationships and an instructor at Jefferson Medical College. Ideally, well before you retire, you should open up a discussion with your partner about your expectations. "Couples should talk about retirement and start to anticipate it, along with ideas about what roles (masculine and feminine) they're now going to play," says Dr. Treat. "They should talk about how much time they want to spend together."

Dr. Treat also recommends that couples:

  • Engage in some activities independently. "If you hold onto your partner, it's going to cause resentment and anger. So figure out what both of you want and find a middle ground." Love golf, but your partner isn't a fan? Find a few buddies and play with them a couple of mornings a week. Your partner can use the time to do her own thing, whether that's participating in a different sport, having breakfast with a friend, or just enjoying some quiet time in the house.
  • Appreciate your partner in the present. Do things that are about enjoying the moment, such taking a walk, going out to dinner, or catching an afternoon movie.
  • Have date nights where you talk about your feelings to one another. It's important to connect emotionally on a regular basis even if you're occupying the same physical space most of the time.
  • Retire at different times. "This way [partners aren't] meshed together immediately. I believe that helps each person become more whole on their own."





Council for Relationships