Retirement and Relationships

You’ve got a financial plan for your retirement, but do you have a relationship plan? If not, you probably should.

“Retirement brings a lot of emotional changes,” says Baltimore-based life coach Barbara Harman. “Some people are prepared for them, but most are not.”

Pamela Worthington, a recently retired psychiatric nurse, can relate to that. She’s wondering why she’s not feeling as “ecstatic” as she had been anticipating and thinks it might have something to do with the sense of loss she feels regarding her former co-workers. “Our relationship at work was more organic,” says Worthington. “When we were on a break or passing each other in the halls, there was an opportunity for a quick conversation, even if only to say hi and ask what was new. Now I feel like I have to have a reason to call them.”

In “The Friendship Blog,” Irene S. Levine observes that the workplace is an important source of friendships, especially for women. Before you actually retire, she advises, determine if any of your workplace friends are good prospects for remaining in your life once you no longer share your workday.

Sharing activities–from golfing to Scrabble games to book clubs–is a good way to keep relationships intact, or form new ones, according to AARP. So is volunteering or taking a class.

“And don’t fall prey to the myth that everyone already has their friends,” writes Levine. “Many people are in the same situation as you, and would welcome a warm smile, hello, compliment or invitation to chat that says, ‘Let’s be friends.'”

It’s not just friendships that have to adjust after retirement. Marriages and even relationships between parents and their adult children can be affected.

“Your aging parents might think that you have nothing else to do and want you to be more available to them,” notes Miriam Goodman, San Francisco-based author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement As a Couple and Reinventing Retirement.

“So, too, may your adult children, who want you to be more involved with your grandchildren,” Goodman adds, observing that they all may “turn a deaf ear to what’s going on in your life.”

And if your spouse is also retired, he or she may have expectations of how you’ll both be spending your time.

Goodman notes that honest communication between partners is key and it helps to begin before one or both of you retire. “Don’t make assumptions that you know what your partner wants to do after retirement,” says Goodman. “You need to discuss issues like where you want to live, whether you want to travel, and how much time you want to spend together.”

Dale and Maria Springer credit their open communication to navigating retirement successfully. Dale has retired twice, while Maria has worked from home as a cooking instructor, caterer, and pastry chef for most of her career.

Dale took his first retirement at just 51, which took a bit of adjustment on both their parts. “Maria didn’t want me sitting around all day,” Dale laughs, “but I didn’t want to either. That really wasn’t a problem anyway because both of us have always had our own interests and activities.

“The only thing Maria did make clear was that she wasn’t going to cook me lunch every day!” says Dale.

Even after his second retirement, Dale continues to volunteer–“I want to do something good,” he says–while Maria is occupied with her blog, writing a book, and her social activities.

“We enjoy each other and accept what each other is doing,” says Dale, explaining how they have avoided the difficulties other couples might face after retirement.

Philadelphia financial and lifestyle coach Steve Cordasco suggests”visioning” your retirement. “What do you want your retirement to look life?” he asks. “What are your goals? What are your reasons for those goals?” If you’re looking for ideas, try starting a board on Pinterest, and filling it with projects, vacation ideas or personal goals. No matter how you you want to get organized, plan talking to your spouse and perhaps talking to a coach (which can be done in person or, in many cases, through technology such as Skype).

Retirement is a change-of-life event and one that, you hope, will leave you fulfilled. But it’s important to realize that “change is hard and adjustments are not easy,” says Barbara Harman.

“That’s why planning for retirement means more than keeping an eye on your investments,” she says. It means looking at how you want to spend your time, with whom, and how to accommodate the other person.”

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