Preparing your mind for retirement

19 Mar 2015

By Shadforth Financial Group

Barry LaValley, President, The Retirement Lifestyle Center​

Bruce and Marianne had planned for their retirement about five years before Bruce was ready to leave his job as a school principal. Many of their friends were either retired or facing retirement and provided the couple with good examples of both what to do and not do when it came to making the transition from a regular work life.

"I was amazed at the number of my friends who reached their retirement and basically had no idea what they were going to do once they got there", Bruce commented. "Marianne and I told ourselves that we are going to take this opportunity to get everything out of this new life—we were going to make it an adventure."

For the past five years, they had taken a month in the summer and 'practiced' retirement. "We were initially concerned that we might find it difficult to change our mindset once we actually retired", said Marianne. "I knew from my work as a psychologist that making a major life change such as retiring is a lot more stressful than most people realise."

What is your mindset when you think of retirement? Our experience in working with retirees has shown us that being happy in retirement does not have much to do with whether or not you are working, or whether or not you have money. It is more about a positive state of mind and attitude towards life. Since many things shape our perceptions—media, our beliefs, and observations of the ever-changing world around us—it is critical to sort through our perceptions of retirement in order to identify and create an accurate and realistic picture that can serve as a positive guide for a thriving next phase of your life!

Successful retirees are generally optimistic people who believe that they can control parts of their lives.

They seek out new opportunities to learn or experience new things—they refuse to give in to an attitude that focuses on ageing as negative or that retirement means that you are 'near the end.' The key is their attitude towards whatever life has dealt them, including their ability to control their attitude!

False assumptions

Financial planning clients and their advisers often assume that there is a template for the 'ideal' retirement. It is usually that you want to walk away from work with enough money to do all of those things that you always dreamt of doing when there was never enough time! This is one of the reasons why retirement planning often becomes a financial planning exercise. The false belief is that as long as you have enough money, you can happily retire.

The problem with that is that people focus on having enough money and ignore figuring out how they want to feel or think.

With this model in mind, many pre-retirees that we talk to tend to see their retirement future as a series of weekends strung together over a period of thirty years. We advise them that the keys to retirement success are actually no different than the keys to life success—that is the way you view yourself and your place in the world will determine whether you are able to maintain a happy retirement life.

Five keys to a happy retirement

PERMA is an acronym that describes five conditions that positive psychologists say will lead to 'authentic happiness' at any age. Think of PERMA as the values that you should have that result in a happy retirement.

Positive emotion.

We know that optimists do better in retirement than pessimists, and that 'other directed' people do not fare as well in retirement as 'self-directed' people. As you look at your retirement, are you excited or are you apprehensive? As someone once said, happiness is the way you live your life and not a desired state of being!


In retirement, it is easy to become disengaged from day-to-day life if your concept of 'being involved' comes from your day-to-day work. Those people who are more likely to go out with friends, undertake activities and to remain mentally active feel more like they are 'alive' and enjoy more successful retirements.


Human beings are not meant to be on their own; we need other people who we can care for, have fun with and expand our horizons. However, relationships need to be positive to have the most impact on our overall retirement happiness.


There is a big difference between 'fulfilling' activities in retirement over 'time-filling'. Retirement is the time to look at the meaning of life and to focus on living a life of value.


Self-image has a significant impact on our mental outlook, our relationships with others and our desire to continually feel good about ourselves. It is easy to reflect on our success at work that has disappeared now that we are retired. We need to win small and large victories no matter how old we are.​

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