What’s your retirement style is important to understand for future planning. There is an interesting study by the APA(1) that examines how retirement is approached and how the experience is different for men and women. How people approach retirement was studied with six different styles emerging.
CONTINUERS who stay with existing skills and interests
ADVENTURES who start something entirely new
SEARCHERS who try new out new things using trail and error
EASY GILDERS who enjoy going from day to day without a plan
INVOLVED SPECTATORS who care, but engage less
RETREATERS who socially disconnect
In evaluating the above styles, I’m retired 7 years and I have experience each one of these variations. So, I don’t believe you get stuck in any one style. The two above styles that produce the most stress are the Easy Gilders and the Retreaters. The problem with easy gilding is that once you get bored or feel too isolated, you have no plan to grow. Some people then get anxious and depressed. The Retreating style is common to some extent since we are out of the working world. However, too much retreating socially also leads to isolation and depression.
It’s no surprise that they found the happiest retired folks were involved in a variety of activities. I always felt the best experience of life is through doing, not watching, as this confirms. That’s why I strongly recommend writing a retirement plan with a ton of interesting options for yourself. I can only recommend coping styles that involve social engagement because that is so important after work contacts diminish. Social engagement is considered vital for a stimulating and rewarding retirement.
The second half of the study focused on the different retirement experience for husbands and wives who retire at different times. They found that recent retired women are more depressed when compared to the not yet retired or continually retired. This is even more pronounced if the husband is still at work. Of course, if you are recently retired, then you are starting your adjustment to your new lifestyle. During this adjustment period it’s common to experience mixed emotions.
They also found the recently retired men have more conflict with their partner compared to working men. This becomes even more pronounced if their wife is still working. If the men decide to become re-employed, their morale is higher with less martial conflict. This is the same recent retirement adjustment and when they go back to work, the adjustment reaction stops.
What is the COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION here? First, this martial conflict or unhappiness is an indication of a stressful initial adjustment for both men and women. It’s not a mistake in your retirement. It is always difficult doing something new for the first time. Some retirement adjustments may take up to three years especially if you don’t have a plan. There are ways to anticipate your partner’s reaction and design a plan before it occurs. That’s because retirement adjustment occurs in phases.
Second, they note that women tend to become more depressed and men more conflictual or angry. I view this as a historical gender specific coping style. That is, it seems men and women are predetermined to respond in these ways when stressed. Once an adjustment is made, of course, your emotions become more stable and your return to your contort zone.
Third, if men are happier when re-employed, this may be the best retirement style for that group. It’s true that some people cannot adjust to retirement. Some people have found their passions in existing work to be so profound and satisfying, there is no desire to retire. This is the style of the Continuer above and many life long dedicated people fall into this category.
It is certainly helpful to have a guide or plan on past involvements to anticipate the future adjustments in retirement. If you take the time to develop a detailed retirement plan, then you can replace what you lost from work. This will dramatically cut down on your adjustment time and your emotion reactions. I hope this article helps you identify your retirement style, encourages you to develop a detailed plan based on past interests, and convinces you of the importance of social engagement in retirement. L. Johnson www.creativeretirementforwomen.com
(1)American Psychological Association, 4-14-2005, “Thinking About Retirement? Time to Think About Your Psychological Portfolio.” Retrieved on 4-15-2015 from http://w ww. apa.org/research/action/retire.aspx