The Emotional Side of Retirement

Retirement planning tends to focus primarily on your finances, how much to save and how to invest. However, according to Eileen Gallo, Ph.D., a psychotherapist who counsels folks on money-related issues, retirement also brings a host of psychological and emotional issues we need to deal with. That’s particularly true today when there are so many retirement lifestyles to consider.

In her article, Counting Snowflakes: The Emotional Side of RetirementGallo mentions the Harvard Grant Study, the most comprehensive longitudinal retirement study that has followed the lives of 268 Harvard men and their families since 1938. Gallo writes, “In Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, George Vaillant, the director of the study, observed, ‘There was a time when I thought that after the college men reached 65 and retired, there was nothing more to do but watch them die.’ Yet today, the men of the Grant Study are in their 90s and the study is ongoing, in the words of Vaillant, ‘to teach, to surprise, and to give.’”

According to Gallo, whenever retirement occurs it will be a dynamic process consisting of three phases. The first is the pre-retirement phase when you begin to think about retirement. The second is the retirement phase itself which can involve a sense of loss and uncertainty about the future. It’s not until the third phase that she says you will adjust to your “new life under different social and psychological conditions.”

Thinking about retirement as a process rather than a single event can reduce the stress involved in this transition and help you to embark successfully on the next phase of your life.

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