Dealing With the Fear of Retirement

This is a composite story of my clients who are near or in retirement.

I’m not very worried that I won’t have enough to do. Most of my retired friends are finding themselves busy. I’m worried that I’d be filling my time with things less important than my work as a vice-president.

Also, my wife and I are nervous about spending much more time together. We get on each other’s nerves even though we’re away from each other all day. When I retire, even if I get involved in a lot of activities, we’ll likely be together more.

Finally, while I still feel almost as good at 65 as when I was 35, I know that the human highway’s direction is a one-way street to disease, pain, dying, and death. I try not to think about it but it’s hard.


Here are my suggestions:

You imply that your VP job was quite meaningful. But there are myriad ways that a person can find meaning in retirement. The following ideas may resonate with you:

Mentoring employees, being a guest lecturer at a college, being an ongoing, wise presence in your grandkids’ and other family members’ lives, volunteering time and money to one or more nonprofits that you find meaningful. Because you were an executive, you probably have some money, and such people are often welcome on boards of directors, especially on smaller local nonprofit boards.

Yes, spending increased time with a spouse can be a challenge but also an opportunity. Has your relationship grown stale? The following ideas may help: A trip of a lifetime. A relationship summit in which you review aspects of your marriage and agree on baby steps that each of you wants to take to improve them.

Remembering that you needn’t do every social activity with each other. A getaway weekend with a friend or three. Joining a local community sports team, for example, senior softball, or joining a golf, tennis, or ski club, participating in tournaments.

Setting up a reading or movie club, or card game. A creative outlet: Painting, writing, or music. Even if you don’t think of yourself as artistic, you may find photography rewarding.

Regarding the fear of physical decline: act and distract. When a worrisome thought comes to mind and there’s nothing you can do about it, distract yourself with something constructive or fun.

As I’ve written previously, I’ve reduced my fear of dying by realizing that if the pain of living is too great, I’d ask my doctor to pleasantly send me to the Big Sleep. And regarding death, I’m comforted by reminding myself that I won’t be aware of being dead any more than I was of life before I was born. One more balm: After we die, all of life’s stresses and worries are over.

That all said, from what you relay, it seems that you have a long time before any of that. Just use your fears constructively, to wring plenty of contribution and pleasure from your life.

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