When the time comes for us to retire, we might imagine throwing off our caps like we did at graduation and living life. While many of us see liberation, others are unsure about their future when they leave the workforce. Fortunately, the people around those who are struggling can offer the support they need to start enjoying retirement to the fullest.
What Causes Pre-Retirement Anxiety?
For those of us just getting started with our careers, the idea of being uncomfortable with retirement can be bewildering. In reality, retirement isn’t a total lack of obligations or endless days on the beach.
Humans find purpose in projects, passions, and direction, so many lose that sense of purpose when they leave the workforce. Retirement can feel isolating without daily interaction with multiple people or a routine that passes the time. The unknown is frightening and is at the forefront of many retirees’ minds if they’re vocalizing discomfort over leaving their job.
On top of concerns about maintaining a sense of purpose, there is often a question of whether we’ve saved enough to make it without income. Financial anxiety is fairly common for new retirees, as they now have to intensely budget every single dime to ensure that they can afford expenses without having to return to work later down the road. Many worry that they are retiring just a few years too early, that they need to save just a bit more, and that they’ll regret leaving the company they’re with.
With all the questions about the future that pop up for people facing retirement, it makes sense that soon-to-be retirees are unsure about taking that leap.
How To Help
Family members, peers, and management can all play a role in helping someone who is uncomfortable retiring through the tough process. Ultimately, being present and offering assurance when needed will help them through the most, but there are choices you can make as a team to help change someone’s outlook about retirement for the better.
Celebrate Their Accomplishments
One of the best ways to take the weight of retirement off of someone’s shoulders is to remind them how much they’ve accomplished. Reflecting on the years of service and effort while emphasizing all of the amazing outcomes they made possible will make moving forward feel like the clear next step for your co-worker or loved one.
Depending on the industry they’re retiring from, you can focus on the metrics they met, the initiatives they started, charities they funded, or the people that they had an impact on. You can also ask them where they started and let that conversation help carry them to the point of feeling they’ve earned the opportunity to retire.
Use Positive Language
For any kind of anxiety or depression, the language you use will be essential to helping someone who is struggling get through the rough patches. If you stick to positivity through language, you can take a bright side approach without failing to acknowledge their concerns.
Using terms like “accomplished,” “earned,” and “reward,” you can do your part to shift the internal dialogue your loved one is having to focus more on the positive aspects of moving forward. If they voice concerns to you about financial worries, or even existential ones, don’t hesitate to be honest, but try to keep your own speech optimistic.
Throw a Retirement Party
One last send-off won’t fix the issues at the heart of pre-retirement anxiety, but it will leave a lasting impression. When all the co-workers or loved ones show one big sign of support, it can be the push towards acceptance retirees need. Everyone who is present and supportive can assuage any sense of guilt your co-worker might have about leaving the company behind, while the company itself can organize the party and emphasize their pride.
Depending on the preferences of the retiree, you may or may not want to put them in the spotlight. An opportunity to give one final speech to all their friends can be empowering for some, but quite embarrassing for others. The choice to coordinate ahead of time instead of putting someone on the spot is always a welcome one.
Give a Customized Award
A customized award is the cherry on top of any heartfelt conversation or exciting celebration. In presenting a personalized retirement plaque, you can give a physical representation of your pride in the individual and a tactile form of encouragement to enjoy life moving forward. These stunning trophies would be especially meaningful when given by a team lead, manager, or mentor who has had a hand in helping the retiree get where they are now, or by someone who has learned the most from that co-worker’s help.
Words of appreciation and mentions of accomplishments can all be engraved into a customized crystal award alongside the company logo, dates, and other decorations that create a beautiful display for the retiree to take home.
What To Avoid
Some things that we might try to do, like lighten the mood with jokes or give a more practical take, can make things more embarrassing for your co-worker instead of helping them. Here are a couple of taboo topics to avoid at the retirement party.
Negative or Humiliating Language
If you’re inclined to answer an anxious situation with jokes, take caution. Making light of someone’s fears as they face them can be humiliating to experience, especially in the workplace. Instead of commenting on age or other aspects that your co-worker is self-conscious about right now, try to keep it positive.
For many, retirement is the ideal, so it can be hard to empathize with someone who is uncomfortable retiring. Try to avoid dismissing their concerns or giving the impression that their anxiety is overblown. When we’ve worked our entire lives, the idea of suddenly having no daily obligations can be a confusing mix of liberating and frightening for anyone.
Choosing to retire can feel like a huge risk for those finally facing it. Listening and understanding are two of the best things you can do to support someone who is uncomfortable with retirement. Celebrations of their efforts and a positive outlook about the road ahead can make it that much easier to move forward.