So, you made it to retirement! Life is smooth sailing from here on out, right? This is the era of your life you’ve been diligently working towards since you got your first job. Now you have exited the stage of 9 to 5 employment, and you’re ready to enjoy the good life. As you should! But, while you won’t have the responsibilities and stress of the job you’ve happily left behind, you may be in for a bit of a surprise at how not working may affect you in retirement.
You may not have realized how much working every day contributed to your overall happiness. We aren’t talking about the stressful deadlines or the anxiety involved trying to score that big client your firm is courting. And we certainly aren’t referring to that one co-worker we have all encountered—the nemesis who never ceases to irritate you to no end. Nope. You’ll gladly be rid of all that drama. Instead, we are talking about the simple socialization and interaction with others we encounter in our work lives.
Resting and relaxing in retirement can be a good thing, don’t get us wrong. But, don’t take that ideal too far, either. Entirely too many older individuals wake up one day to find themselves isolated and lonely from lack of social interaction. This isn’t necessarily by design, but when you retire you aren’t just leaving a job—you’re leaving an entire network of friends behind. Let that sink in for a minute. These are people you may have spent a good portion of your adult life with if you were employed at the same place for a while. When you don’t have that daily social interaction anymore, if you don’t find other social outlets, it can be detrimental to your mental health, which, in turn, can impact your physical health.
In fact, retirement comes in at the number 10 slot on the American Institute of Stress’s list of the 43 most stressful life events. (Who knew?!) But, with that in mind, we encourage you to be prepared and plan your life in retirement as carefully as you planned your financial retirement strategy.
Plainly put, we are telling you to keep in touch with your old friends and plan to make new ones when you retire! Just think how simple exchanges between friends can lift your spirits and give you hope when you’re down. A good conversation, a lively game of cards, or taking in a movie with a loved one or friend can make you laugh. Lunch or dinner with your gal pals keeps you engaged. A friendly but competitive round of golf can also keep your spirits high. Volunteering promotes socialization and also gives you a renewed sense of purpose.
If you need further proof that staying connected with friends makes for a happy, healthy retirement, we’ve got it for you. While social integration is not the only factor in ranking retirement as stressful, an article published by the American Society on Aging states:
Social relationships have as much impact on physical health as blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, and obesity, as demonstrated in 1988 by House, Landis, and Umberson. Their meta-analysis of 148 longitudinal studies found a 50 percent increase in survival of people with robust social relationships, regardless of age, gender, country of origin, or how such relationships were defined. Just as obesity has taken center stage in our cultural self-awareness, social relationships belong on the list of potent risk and protective factors for morbidity and mortality.
So, saving money for retirement isn’t the only investment you should make when planning for retirement. You should also invest in your social relationships and commit to cultivating new relationships in your golden years. Strong social relationships in retirement are crucial to your health and wellbeing at any age, and the strength and happiness you draw from these relationships is as important as the withdrawals you take from your retirement plan to finance a comfortable life.