NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Who Enjoys Retirement?

Who Enjoys Retirement?


          Considering retirement can generate both excitement and fear. For many, retirement means the freedom to choose how they spend the rest of their lives – that is the exciting part. The fear is whether there will be enough money in retirement.  The financial concerns are often the motivation that drives us to take the first steps toward retirement planning.  Although financial security is of primary importance, considerable thought should also be given to the quality of life.

          Barring a major accident or illness, most Americans live to age 78.   Beyond 78, approximately 50% of all people will live another 20 years.  The fastest growing age group in the US are people over the age of 80. Experts estimate that by the year 2040, the US will have one million people over the age of 100.

          Studies show that satisfaction in retirement is directly related to the ability to replace meaningful aspects of one’s career with pursuits that hold similar meaning or value.  For those who unfortunately found little satisfaction in their jobs or career, simply maintaining an element of structure in retirement can bring a sense of meaning and accomplishment.

          According to research by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), maintaining a semblance of structure similar to that in one’s work life is key to the smooth transition from work to retirement. These aspects include maintaining a regular schedule of tasks, having well-established goals, maintaining relationships that are meaningful, and maintaining a sense of challenge. In practice, these four aspects help provide stability through the inevitable changes that occur in later life, such as decline health or the loss of a spouse and close friends.

          At the opposite end of the spectrum from maintaining is the ability to change. Several studies also point to adaptability as central to the quality of life as one ages.  In a study of centurions, those who adapted well to situations of stress shared dominant characteristics such as the ability to respond creatively to change , to adequately cope with anxiety, to remain inquisitive and creative and to successfully incorporate new situations into their lives. 

          The AARP also points out several other important factors in retirement satisfaction:

- Prepare new system of support to replace those previously provided through employment. Understand that there is likely to be an adjustment period upon retiring and that it is natural to mourn the ending of a career.

          – Don’t lose sight of the fact that health, relationships and interests will change. Take note of resources from which to draw when these changes occur. New expectations often develop within a relationship, for instance when working couples retire at different times.

- Give considerable thought to the standard of living you would like to maintain in retirement. Calculate costs for travel and leisure pursuits, keeping in mind that work-related expense, such as clothing and meal costs, will go down or be eliminated altogether.

- Redirect time and energy to new careers, part-time work, self-employment or volunteer opportunities.  You may or may not gain another paycheck but you will certainly gain new friends and the satisfaction of taking on a new challenge.

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