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Senior Correspondent

Fear of retirement is, very often, based on financial considerations. And given the sorry state of our economy, such fear is especially relevant today. The press reminds us almost daily that many would-be retirees fear that they’ll outlive their money. But financial considerations aren’t the only reason for fear of retirement. There are a number of important, non-financial reasons as well.

Its human nature to fear the unknown and entering retirement is certainly filled with unknowns. Considerations include where to live, whether or not to downsize, how much to travel, and more. Clearly, these many considerations can be overwhelming. Thus many would-be retirees are weighed down by this long list of considerations. While they may or may not be happy with their work-a-day life, they’re at least resigned to it. They find it more comfortable to simply “stay put” than to venture out into the unknown.

Some would-be retirees are afraid that they won’t know what to do with their time. “What will I do after eating breakfast and reading the newspaper?” is a question that all retirees need face. And many don’t have an answer to that question. During a recent conversation, a friend told me that he’s planning to retire at the end of this year. I said, “Oh, that’s great. I’ll bet you’re really looking forward to retiring.”  He replied, “Yes, but I’ve been so focused on work during the last four decades that I’ve hardly had time for anything else. So when I retire, I’ll have to find some hobbies.” Understandably, my friend is worried about how he’ll fill his hours during retirement.

Other would-be retirees have, throughout their working life, allowed their career to define who they are. Retirement, for them, would therefore mean their loss of identity. Workaholics clearly fit into this category. So do those whose profession has offered them an active, highly visible persona. They fear that retirement, for them, would mean that people would no longer notice them. They’d no longer be “special,” no longer receive “applause from the audience.”

Overcoming These Fears

Those fearing retirement’s many unknowns should realize that they don’t have to face all decisions immediately upon retirement. It isn’t necessary to immediately decide where to live as a retiree. A retired person, or couple, can certainly begin their retirement while remaining in their home. Any decision to move can come later — perhaps much later — or never at all. The same is true for the decision to downsize. Or to explore new hobbies.

For those concerned about what they might do with their time, they can take comfort in knowing that we all get to flounder around for a while. In most cases, it takes some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Even for those who’ve carefully thought through and planned their retirement, a series of trying “some of this and some of that” often follows. It simply takes time for each retiree to discover “their true retired self.”

As for the workaholics and others who define themselves through their profession, they’ve got a couple of choices. Obviously, they can continue to work while postponing retirement, perhaps forever. Or they can find some activity in which they can become highly active and visible. Volunteer work, perhaps.

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