Overcoming the Downside of Retirement: Loss of Routine and Structure

by Lisa Downs | Nov 11, 2021

This is the third in a four-part series addressing issues of retirement life that may not be thought about pre-exit as part of your plan. Tending to these issues prior to leaving your CPA career will set you up for a fulfilling and successful “third act.”

Part 3: Overcoming the Loss of Routine and Structure

When you look back on your career to date, how many days have you awoken to an alarm, whether on a clock, watch, or phone, to get up and ready for work? How many hours have you spent commuting, in client or staff meetings, or attending work-related holiday parties, happy hours, board meetings, or networking events? Probably too many to count at this point, right? While in the moment, many of these activities may seem like a grind, when they’re gone, it can create a void that can be difficult to replace, at least to the extent you’d like in your life.

Once past the thrill of not having to wake up to an alarm anymore or engage in any other work-related activities or tasks that you’re happy to leave behind, the loss of routine and structure to your days in retirement can feel heavy over time. This can also lead to feeling unmoored and unfocused, contributing to a downward health spiral if nothing is done to fill the void. When it comes to retirement transitions, there’s a distinct time when the risk of not having any structure to your days comes into play more distinctly and when it’s critical to establish new routines: the “post-honeymoon” phase.

For a bit of context, here are the phases of retirement transitions:

  1. Pre-Retirement: when you do all of the planning leading up to exiting your career, financial or otherwise, including succession planning and how you’ll transfer your clients and work;
  2. Goodbyes: when you take your leave of clients and colleagues (this is when the traditional “gold watch and a cake” retirement party happens);
  3. Honeymoon: when retirement life is all sunshine, roses, and lollipops that can last as little as two or three months or up to a couple years;
  4. Disillusionment: the post-honeymoon phase when the reality of all the time you have ahead of you sets in and you turn around and ask questions like, “Is this it?” or “What have I done?”
  5. Realignment: when you accept your situation and resolve to figure out what you’ll do with yourself and create a plan and goals to have a fulfilling third act.
  6. Moving Forward: Taking actions toward your new life plan and goals to live the rest of your days with purpose and meaning.

It’s in the Disillusionment phase when the wheels can come off, so to speak. It’s when those with no plan for how they’ll address the life pillars mentioned in the previous post or replace the routine and structure they once had with something different can struggle mightily, sometimes so much that it leads to clinical depression or worse.

Instead, consider what you can do to capitalize on the gain you’ll have of freedom of choice and possibilities. Leverage your vision and goals mentioned in the last article to drive how you’ll ensure you stay active, engaged, and have some semblance of structure to the degree that appeals to you and still avoids your becoming too sedentary or rudderless.

While we don’t necessarily have to be as routinized or structured as during our careers in retirement, we do tend to be overly optimistic that we’ll figure it all out on our own with no support. When travel is out of your system or the grandkids are grown, what then? This is where a bit of routine can help.

How? By deciding what can be consistent activities spread out during the week, ideally for at least half of each day. For example, maybe you do some form of exercise three afternoons a week and volunteer two or three times a week (either in person or time spent doing an online volunteer project). This provides a bit of routine that still allows for spontaneity without a lot of structure. Or you spend time with friends for a portion of three days a week and work on a project of interest a couple days.

What you decide to do doesn’t really matter as long as you’re meeting all of your needs and aren’t idling the days away. Having time to relax and rest is a good thing. When it’s all your days consist of, however, that’s when it gets worrisome. This can be a great time of your life to enjoy more freedom. Choosing to still have some structure in retirement will help ensure you take full advantage of all that it offers.

Next Month: Part 4 - Overcoming the Loss of Your Professional Network

Lisa Downs headshotLisa Downs is President of New Aspect Coaching and host of Reigniting You® a podcast offering career transition support for age 40+ professionals. You can contact her at lisa@yournewaspect.com.

You are not allowed to post comments.