Challenges and opportunities in retirement

Derek Bell, Retirement Planning Council

Derek Bell, Retirement Planning Council

It’s ironic but while Derek Bell is counselling those ready to retire, he himself is relishing his new role with the organisation.

In the first of a two-part series, Derek Bell highlights the challenges and opportunities for those ready to give up the day job

While financial and money concerns are often the first thing prospective retirees think of, the other more emotional adjustments can have just as much of an impact.

New retirees can expect a change in their:

  • routine
  • identity
  • relationships.

Family and friends are often the ones most affected. This new reality needs to be considered carefully and preferably before doing the actual deed.

Talk to your partner or spouse!

Talk to the person you are with! As noted earlier, retirement is going to affect more than you. Your partner or spouse will have to adjust to having you around in what was often their ‘space’.

  • How will being at home all day impact on their established routine?
  • Are you both in danger of cramping each other’s style?
  • How can you best manage a new routine to everyone’s satisfaction?

Imagine, discuss and plan a typical week and a typical month – consider separate as well as joint activities.

If you are the one in the office environment you will have developed a certain work persona – remember to leave it there. It is unlikely that acting the part of CEO, administrator, nurse or sales representative at home will be much appreciated. It takes patience, diplomacy and self-knowledge to ease out of roles that feel very familiar and to adopt perhaps a more relaxed unhurried style.

Social network

If you are not in a relationship, then you may need to work harder to maintain and grow your social network. It will probably require some thought, direct action and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone to replace the work ‘crowd’ with others.

The 9am to 5pm time can be awkward. Many of the people you currently socialise with will still be working. You can socialise with them in the evenings and at weekends, but who is available during the daytime?

Derek advises that you think about leaving the workplace gradually, if possible. Maybe reduce the number of days you work each week rather than simply quitting in one go. Think about what time of year you might leave – facing into retirement is not so easy in the dark days of November compared with the lengthening days of spring or summer.


Take a look at your hobbies, what do you enjoy doing?  Is there something you have always wanted to do? A week is a long time, (typically 50 hours per week, every week), to fill. You may need to take on more and new pastimes. Think about pastimes:

  • you do on your own
  • you do with a group
  • that exercise the mind
  • that are physically challenging
  • you can do in the summer
  • you can do in the winter.


Volunteering can be very beneficial for you and for the organisation or charity that can now access your skills and expertise. This might take various forms including mentoring or event management. Essentially anything that allows you to put your life skills to good use while at the same time keeping you active and busy.

It’s a win win situation if you approach it right – start small and add on rather than jumping in too quickly! Volunteer with an organisation whose aims and values you identify with.

Set boundaries

Derek cautions that it is very important to set boundaries particularly around family commitments and responsibilities. There can be a tendency for others to assume that the newly retired have unlimited time to dedicate to the needs of others.

Helping family members can be rewarding and the chance to spend more time with grandchildren is one of the big pluses. However, you need to be careful that you don’t become the solution to everyone else’s childminding, pet sitting and shopping problems.

Learning to say ‘No’ politely but firmly is a very important lesson.

Be disciplined

Other potential traps include letting the self-discipline – something that the workplace really demands – slide a little. With no work to get up for in the morning, it’s easy to have that extra glass of wine or graze a little too much on food during the day. It all adds up in terms of developing bad habits!

Visualise your retirement project

Your retirement is a project. It is very important to visualise your new life:

  • what time will I get up each day?
  • what will be my routine?
  • what activities and hobbies will I commit to each week?

If you do this, you are more likely to stay:

  • occupied
  • mentally engaged
  • physically fit.

Enjoy your freedom!

That said; enjoy your new found freedom! Life expectancy continues to rise in the developed world. The chance of living to beyond 90 is 47% for a man and 55% for a woman. Retirement is potentially as long as your previous working life.

Retirement training is a worthwhile investment

Planning your future requires optimism, enthusiasm and a bit of know how. This hugely transitional period can be daunting for some.

RPCI provides training courses that help you set smart and achievable goals for a happy and fulfilled retirement.

In Part 2, Derek considers some of the financial issues facing those approaching retirement.