Bob was a mechanical engineer, working for more than 40 years, when his employer offered him an extremely attractive and tantalising severance package at the age of 58. He took the package, retiring seven years earlier than he had planned. His wife Sue works as an account manager, and wouldn’t retire for several more years. Besides that, there was no way the couple could live on just the retirement package Bob was given.
The couple, who had been married for 35 years and had two grown children out of the home, decided to enjoy a long-extended holiday. It also pushed them into the next phase of their life – one retiree, another full-time employee. The problem is that neither party were prepared for the changes that would occur for both.
Bob’s problem was that he had no plan in place after retirement. Work is all he had known, and he loved his job. Most of his friends were work colleagues and would socialise out of work on a regular basis. As time passed, Bob didn’t see his co-workers as often. They were busy at work, and he began losing contact with them. The socialisation invites dried up, and Bob had no real friends outside the work network.
Bob enjoyed the freedom in the beginning – getting to do what he wanted when he wanted without being asked why. The problem is that Bob was started to become bored by it, having problems keeping himself entertained. In fact, he started to regret his decision to take the early retirement package.
He was lonely. He was frustrated. He was bored!
Still, he had his wife, and they had a loving relationship. They enjoyed doing things together on the weekend with Sue’s free time. However, things were changing on this front as well because the relationship’s dynamics were changing.
Sue’s Frustration With Bob’s Retirement
Her husband may have retired, but Sue still had to get up every morning and face her work life. She had to deal with the traffic jams while he got to enjoy sleeping in. Sue was frustrated by her husband’s decline in vitality. She noticed he wasn’t himself, coming home to find him slumped in the chair, watching TV.
Some days, Bob, who was desperate for human interaction, questioned her nonstop about her day. To her, it felt like an interrogation. Other days, she’d come home to a grumpy, depressed Bob, who barely said two words to her.
Before his retirement, Sue would arrive home before him, giving her a chance to relax before he came home. Now, she always felt anxious and didn’t really want to get home. Sue had no idea what to expect when she got home from work.
Their relationship, which was once very loving and romantic, turned into one filled with arguments and resentment. Fights were much more commonplace than ever before. Sue was clueless as to what was happening to Bob and their relationship.
What Happened With The Couple?
How did their relationship, once so loving and full of life, become so riddled with bitterness and acrimony?
The problem was the lack of planning and foresight that came with early retirement. Bob still had seven good years left before he could retire. His mind wasn’t really ready to retire, which is why he made no plans beyond a financial one. What he learned was that retirement is much more than a financial issue – it’s a human one too.
With human longevity increasing, Bob’s retirement could last 30 or more years. He wasn’t prepared in the least for the social implications that came with the early retirement package he was presented with.
What most of us don’t understand or fail to take into consideration are the benefits working has on us. Yes, you get a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paycheck, but there is more to working than financial rewards such as:
- Time management
- Sense of purpose
It’s these aspects of working that have become so important to us beyond the monetary needs. And, it’s those benefits that still need to be met after retirement. Most people, when they work, get their identity from work, introducing themselves to strangers by talking about their occupation.
The Depression Risk in Retirement.
Bob’s problem is that he retired with no sense of purpose or status. His meaning of life all but disappeared. He had nothing to do with his time and lost the social connection he had. When this happened, he also lost his self-worth and began suffering the early stages of depression. He had no idea why this was happening because he thought retirement would give him immense joy.
It didn’t, and it’s a problem that millions of retirees have.
According to research from the Institute of Economic Affairs, depression risks increases 40 percent more in retirement. What people don’t get is that retirement is like any stage in life. In order to work for you, you need to have a plan in place. Nobody wants to have a sedentary, unproductive and mundane life after they stop working. It only happens when you fail to make plans on how to handle your life after retirement.
So, What Happened To Sue and Bob?
Sue was able to convince Bob to visit a retirement transition life coach and, through those sessions, were able to understand Bob was missing a sense of purpose and structure. He then set about replacing his missing work benefits of purpose, status, time management and socialisation. Which eventually led to him going back to part-time consultancy work in his previous field and joining the local golf club to expand his social network.
By visiting the retirement transition life coach and getting back out, Bob’s self-worth, self-image and vitality came back, and the couple once again had a loving relationship that wasn’t riddled with resentment and disdain.