Retirement Transition Struggles and How to Handle Them

The core idea behind retirement is to relax after working hard, but you may be surprised to experience some newfound sources of stress. Retirement is a huge life transition, just as marriage, children, and starting a new career. With any of these transitions comes uncertainty. This major milestone may leave you caught up in a whirlwind of emotions. Understanding these struggles and how to combat them will help you transition into a happy, fulfilling retirement.

Feelings of Loss

Retirement can shift your sense of self and cause feelings of identity loss. We tie much of our identity to our profession, and to our relationships. One of the first questions that comes up when getting to know someone is, “What do you do?” Even after retirement, the standard answer to this question is, “Well I worked for Company X for 32 years and retired 2 summers ago; then, my wife and I moved here to be closer to the grandchildren.” Our professions define us more than we think they do, until it is no longer a core piece of our daily routine. Once you can no longer define yourself by what you do, you may experience a sense of identity loss.

Furthermore, moving from the work world to an at-home routine can be a struggle. Habits and a set-routine are comforting, even more so if you enjoyed your work and coworkers. Finding yourself at home without anything to do can seem relaxing at first, but cause anxiety and depression after awhile. You can overcome this challenge by finding a daily routine you enjoy. This routine can be as simple as having lunch at the same cafe on Tuesdays, or watering your flowers every morning at the same time. Establishing a new routine will help your retirement transition go smoother by giving you purpose.

Marriage Strain

After retirement, couples find themselves spending much more time together than they have for the past 30 years. This can cause strain on a marriage because of a shift in roles and lack of space. Couples sometimes find their spouse is not the same person with the same interests. You find you don’t have enough to talk about and you need something to fill the space. Or you may find there is too little space and your partner’s quirks can turn into annoyances. Roles may be shifted as the recently retired spouse takes up more household responsibility. The key is to communicate. Discuss your plans for retirement and hobbies with your spouse. Finding new hobbies to do together will create a common ground, and individual hobbies will allow you both some space. It’s all about balance.


Retirement can signify the end of an era. You may start thinking about what’s next, and how to spend your new free time. What are the next major milestones you get to look forward to? You will now have time to think about what YOU want to gain out of life. People that actually take the time to plan for their retirement experience the most joy during their retirement transition. This doesn’t mean planning, as in saying you’ll take a trip to Italy so you take up sailing as a hobby. Planning for retirement means creating an actual budget for your Italy trip and booking the tickets, as well as communicating with the seller of the sailboat you’ve thoroughly researched. Building and maintaining relationships will also fight boredom. Studies have found that friendships can lower the risk of cognitive decline. Strong relationships also heighten self-esteem and the opportunity to get out of the house.

Financial Struggles

Many seniors are finding they are retiring with less money than they anticipated. Debt, helping adult children, and unexpected medical costs contribute to the financial struggle of the retirement transition. Although Medicare pays a partial cost of senior healthcare, you could be responsible for some out-of-pocket costs. Some Medicare Part C plans may have a $0 premium, but a higher MOOP (maximum out of pocket) or deductible that must be met. Parents are finding themselves helping their adult children or grandchildren with their financial burdens, including loans. Mortgages, and even student loans for seniors can cut into fixed income and not allow you to enjoy your retirement fully. Learn to maximize your Social Security benefits and control healthcare costs before retirement.

The key to avoiding these struggles is to prepare!

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