Life in Retirement Can Take Adjustment


Cary Sweeney
November 2021

Life in retirement can take some adjustment. Prior to retirement, most eagerly count down the days and once retired feel a blissful release from the intense pressure of the forty (or more) hour work week. Most people are happy at the beginning. Then for some the giddy glow wears off as they try to adjust to unstructured days. 

Although most welcome this new flexibility, many of the retirees who I speak with describe unexpected feelings of being at loose ends, which typically take from six months to two years, or sometimes longer, to sort through. During the time immediately following retirement, retirees vary greatly on whether they see this open space of time as a blank canvas on which to paint, or as a dark scary void.

A central question is: Should they fill their days with travel, meeting friends for breakfast, playing golf, or mentoring and being active in civic organizations? During this pandemic, physically distancing ourselves, life in retirement as you planned may look quite different, at least for a brief time.   

However you fill your days, it’s important to take some steps to ease the transition into retirement. The following are some tips to help with your transition: 

1. Talk with your family and with other retirees. Find out what your family expects, or how your retired friends have managed to negotiate the transition. 

The Retirement Center has been working with UCB Psychologists Phil and Carolyn Cowan and Shelly Zedeck to learn from spouses/partners about their retirement transitions. We found that for most, this new time together created some unexpected negotiations of physical and psychological boundaries. For some people it is important to carve out physical spaces in the house. For others, they had to make a concerted effort to make time together and apart. (For more on retirement and your relationship, click here).

2. Reflect on what you love most about life and use that as your focus of what you might do.

If you’re not sure, or this has changed since you last considered it, try out one or two things that you think you might be interested in. 

3. Consider your care

Many are likely to become caregivers and most will likely experience a time when you need extra support. Think about how this fits into your plan and talk about it with your loved ones. 

4. Consider your home or where you will live – will this fit your needs as you get older?  

These are some basic considerations in determining the financial resources and social support you will need.

5. Last but not least, look for resources that can support you. 

We partner with the Retiree Associations who organize fun gatherings and outings. The Retirement Center offers a number of programs and activities to keep you connected with other retirees. Visit to learn more. Maybe there is something you are interested in, but you're not sure how to get involved.  Volunteer Match is a website where you can set up an account and choose some basic preferences based on your interests (e.g. working with kids or animals, dance or gardening), select your location, and it will provide you with a customized list of volunteer activities.

If you’ve just retired, remember to try different activities - rediscover yourself a bit - and realize whatever you choose, it’s not forever. The beauty of retirement is that you choose!

Publication date: 
November 2, 2021
Publication type: 
Journal Article