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Retirement: an abyss or opportunity?

Facing up to retirement can be a challenge for people who have spent the majority of their life in structured work. Structured work provides the security of knowing the pattern of our lives...

09 May 2018

Facing up to retirement can be a challenge for people who have spent the majority of their life in structured work. Structured work provides the security of knowing the pattern of our lives on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. We have planned our social and holiday activities to fit with work.

Impending retirement can be a time for reflection and re-focusing. We tend to focus our minds on our identity, which has mostly been formed in the workplace, and on our professional achievements and disappointments.

Reflection is common during this period, and we begin to ask ourselves questions like:

  • Am I happy with the career path I chose?
  • Have I fulfilled the goals I set myself in my career?
  • Have I developed satisfying relationships outside work that will sustain me in retirement?
  • How can I balance my ongoing commitments with the opportunity to change my own direction and lifestyle?
  • What will I do with the rest of my life?


This re-focussing can create personal challenges as we move into this next life phase. And for those of us who are single and living alone, we face the additional challenges of no-one at home to provide companionship, sustenance and entertainment to make the transition easier. Awareness of these feelings and a positive attitude will help us to avoid falling into an abyss and to seize the opportunities instead.

If we have had secured paid employment and been healthy throughout our life there is a greater chance we have secure housing, accumulated superannuation benefits and are overall financially secure. This provides a great basis to explore a new version of ourselves and find out what it is we value or would like to do now that we don’t have to work.

If however, health problems, periods of unemployment or child-raising have interrupted our working life, the choices available to us can be limited. Or perhaps we have done all the right planning but unexpectedly we now have care-giving responsibilities towards elderly parents, children and/or grandchildren. Discussions with our families, counsellors, and government agencies like Centrelink, can help us better manage our finances and our feelings as we consider moving towards retirement.

Life in the twenty-first century is kinder to people considering retirement than in the past. These days we can choose to gradually cut back our working hours and ease out of the workplace in a way that suits our particular form of transition into retirement.

It is becoming more common to choose to move into part-time work, set up as a consultant for our particular industry or business requirements and generally to become ‘transitioners’.

For those of us who have made work our life, we should be finding new interests and developing social networks.

If we have been single for some time we can rely on the fact that we have been making decisions and taking responsibility for ourselves on a daily basis and have a well-practiced skill to take into this new phase of life.

'This article originally appeared on the My Life Change website and has been reproduced with permission from Paul McKeon of Baby Boomers Life Change Pty Ltd'

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