My Retirement Rut…And How I Got Through It
December 8, 2020

Retirement Rut

When Jody and I first entered semi-retirement, we were filled with excitement about our future. Our careers were winding down, we were both slowly easing into our exit plan and mentoring our replacements. During our 6 month transition prior to our next phase of life, we began envisioning what our early retirement would look like.

We thought that the greatest thing about early retirement would be having the time and freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it. No more commuting, meetings, long hours, and missing out on your travel dreams — who wouldn’t be counting the days? We had plans of travel, starting some new hobbies, reading books by the pool, and playing golf. At first it was enough, and our plate was full. As a matter of fact, we had trouble fitting it all in.

But after about a year, it became a bit mundane and unfulfilling. We started craving something more and found ourselves spinning out of control. We were not living a healthy lifestyle, we fell into a rut and soon realized something had to change.

We hit reset and reassessed our grandiose plans. We developed the following plan that worked well for us and wanted to share it with you.

Step 1: Assess the Situation

The challenge of creating new social relationships can feel daunting at any stage in life. For those who relied on their work lives as major sources of identity and social status, the questions of, “Who am I now?” and, “Where do I fit?” can be confusing. Work also provides a clear structure to your day. Now, activities and social experiences may involve effort, planning, and scheduling. Assessing your situation to determine what you think is missing is a key step into making changes.

Jody and I spent time reflecting on our individual list of friends and created a plan for more proactive contact for those that really mattered. We also decided that there were some friends that we were ok letting fade away.

Step 2: Identify The Opportunities

Leaving the workforce brings more time to spend with family and friends. You also have a “second chance” to explore interests that lay dormant during your work life, or deepen your commitment to your community, political convictions, or spiritual values. Social experiences in retirement tend to be voluntary and chosen ones, minimizing interactions that you find unpleasant and maximizing those you enjoy. Ultimately, spend your time doing the things that make you happy.

Besides pouring ourselves into Retirement transformed, we also joined some nonprofit boards that aligned with our personal passions. That takes up about 15% of our time, but the payback in terms of fulfillment is much more.

Step 3: Find A New Interest

Getting out from inside the same four walls you see all day long can provide your mood with a real boost and remember that you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose by trying something new; if you don’t enjoy yourself, you don’t have to go again – you can look for your next few favorite activity instead. Developing a growth mindset will help give you the boost you need to get out of your rut. 

Jody and I went deep into learning some topics important to us. For example, Jody took some graduate courses at UPenn. For two semesters she was online with a cohort of other students, mostly much younger, and it gave her such satisfaction to get a certificate at the end and graduate in the top of her class. I’m sure we will see Jody taking more classes.

Step 4: Reach Out For Help

You don’t have to do this alone. If you do need to ask for help, you should never feel ashamed; just because you’re no longer working, it doesn’t mean that you’re no longer important. After decades of hard work, you deserve a varied, fulfilling and enjoyable retirement. Oftentimes, the help is out there and easier to get than you may think. According to a 2019 study, one-third of retirees found it challenging to make the transition to retirement, with over half of those making the adjustment over two years. Knowing that you are not alone in these feelings should be the first step in helping you make your retirement what you want it to be.

As you take part in each of these steps, remember to focus on one at a time, and give it your full attention. You deserve to take the time you need to make sure you enjoy the retirement you worked so hard for. Finding your way may not be easy, but with the right resources and help, you can get there. 

Retirement Transformed can assist you in finding your passion for retirement and getting you out of your rut. Think about joining our Retirement Transformed Facebook Community. In there you will find like minded people looking for and sharing ways to live an amazing retirement.