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Retirement May Not Be Good For Your Health

Retirement may not be good for your health – mental health, that is.

Most people looking forward to retirement have a very unrealistic vision of what life will be like after their career. Strolling down a sun-kissed beach and travelling around the world are great bucket list aspirations. But a bucket list isn’t a plan – it’s a wish list.

The first year or two of retirement often feels like a wonderful vacation, and heaven knows it should! But retirement is not a 30-year vacation. Usually, after several bucket list items are checked off, the newness wears off, and reality sets in – and often so does disillusionment, unhappiness, and even depression.

Most of us don’t expect to get tired of doing the things we love to do. When people are looking forward to retirement, a common dream is to see themselves spending lots of time on the golf course or boating or fly fishing or travelling. In the beginning, it seems like a dream come true. 

But our minds have a nasty habit of getting used to pleasurable things; the enjoyment diminishes, and they begin to feel ordinary and routine. Part of the reason things like going on vacation and playing golf are so pleasurable when we are working is that they are special. We don’t get to do them as often or as long as we want. But they often lose their luster when we can do them every day.

When that happens, it feels like retirement isn’t what we dreamed it would be. Sometimes people feel something is missing in their lives and aren’t sure what is causing it. Other times, they get bored and struggle to fill up their days. Or worst of all, they sink into depression.

The reality is retirement is a new chapter of our life that needs to feel just as rewarding and fulfilling as the first two chapters. The first chapter is growing up (ages 0 – 30), and the second is making your place in the world (ages 31 to about 60). While bucket list things are pleasant, they don’t usually create the feeling of having meaning and purpose, which are essential components of our well-being. We need more than a bucket list.

You can enhance your mental health by creating a lifestyle plan that balances the eight non-financial areas of their life – professional, primary relationship, family and friends, leisure, self-development, giving back, health & ageing, and emotional & spiritual well-being. At Next Chapter Lifestyle Advisors, we call it your Happiness Portfolio®. It is a plan for balancing and diversifying our other valuable asset – time.

All good plans begin with a vision. Be sure yours is clear and realistic. Bucket list dreams should be part of the vision but can’t be all of it.

Written by Marianne Oehser, CPRC, MM, co-founder of Next Chapter Lifestyle Advisors