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Transitioning to Retirement – What the Research Says

Transitioning to Retirement – What the Research Says

By Susan Williams

With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day in the US and approximately 9.8 million Canadian baby boomers also approaching retirement this means there are many people that are crossing over into retirement on a daily basis.

It also begs us to ask the question – exactly how are people preparing and transitioning into this new stage of their lives.

This is the question that Dr. Martin Hyde, Associate Professor in Gerontology along with a team of researchers from Swansea University wanted to better understand.

They conducted this research on behalf of the Centre for Aging Better and the team set out with the goal to uncover the research available for the following two questions;

  • What are people’s attitudes towards their upcoming retirement and what determines any variation in outlook?
  • What are people’s experiences of the period post-retirement and what determines any variation in those experiences?

Dr. Hyde spent some time with me to discuss the results of this research, what they discovered and how we can use this information as we plan for our own retirement transition. Here is our conversation:

These are some of the highlights of our discussion;

How the Research Was Conducted

  • This research study was commissioned by a commission in the UK called Centre for Aging Better. The primary focus of this particular research study was to synthesize research rather than develop new research.
  • The approach was to review the available research to find out how people who are approaching retirement what their expectations are and what their experiences are once they have transitioned into retirement.
  • There was a particular focus on those that possibly experienced difficulties so that the organization can develop practices and policies to help them have a better, healthier and happier retirement
  • Through conducting a narrative synthesis, they agreed on specific search terms and then searched studies and papers that had been published after 2002. The team initially discovered approximately 1,800 papers to review and then reduced it down to around 200 to 220 papers to complete a detailed analysis of.
  • The final report was extremely extensive – approximately 70 pages in length.

The Major Findings of the Study

  • Unfortunately, one of the significant findings was the inequalities within the retirement transition experience. Individuals in disadvantaged groups had a poorer expectation of retirement and once retired tended to have more problems adjusting to retirement
  • The biggest discovery was around the amount of control people felt they had within the retirement process and how this aspect contributed to the overall retirement transition process. It wasn’t just around their resources (ie financial or health resources), but whether people believed they had the ability to manage and control their lives.
  • For example, from a financial perspective, it wasn’t about how much money someone necessarily had but whether they believed they had enough to meet their retirement goals and were going to be in a position to manage it. Or another example was couples planning for retirement together and feeling that they were moving forward towards retirement in the same direction.
  • They also discovered that there are some gaps in this research. For example whether different ethic groups have different experiences. As well, research on the expectations before retirement compared with the reality of what actually happened after they retired and what gaps (if any) there were.

To read the full research study – go to the Centre For Better Aging Website

Recommendations For People Transitioning to Retirement

  • Start focusing on what you plan to do in retirement and what you want your retirement to look like and begin to prepare for this before you actually retire. Too many people are retiring without a plan in place.
  • Think much more broadly about your retirement. Of course there is the financial aspect that needs to be considered however the research discovered that the financial component played quite a small role when it came to the actual adjustment and transition into retirement.
  • Here are a few examples of things to consider before you transition to retirement;
    • If you previously worked and now are retired and with your Partner 24/7 – this relationship will change. How will this impact you / your Partner?
    • You will now have more time on your hands. How do you plan to fill your days? What are the things you want to do / what are the things you don’t want to do?
    • Where will you live? Will you stay where you are do you plan on moving?
  • Retirement can now be twenty to thirty years (or more) so you do need to give it some serious thought as to what you will do with this extra time.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.

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