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Dear Louanne: ‘I’m nearing retirement but I’m not ready to stop working’

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Retirement can be a time of new adventure

Retirement can be a time of new adventure

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Retirement can be a time of new adventure

Dear Louanne,

It’s getting near to my retirement age and other people I know have been very keen to stop working after so long. I don’t feel the same. I don’t really want to stop working, because I don’t know how I’ll fill my days. My wife wants us to enjoy time together, which is, of course, lovely, but I’ve spent decades working and don’t know how to suddenly have very little to do.

ED

Hello ED,

‘Retiring’ is a significant life event. Many people look forward to this stage of their life after years of working. The change in the pace of their lives can come as a shock, though. You are being very insightful in thinking about what life might look like in advance.

This is a new adventure in your life. It’s a chance to get to know yourself differently. When you’re working full-time, perhaps have family commitments, there isn’t a lot of time left for you.

You can consider the interests you never had the time to pursue. Perhaps there are courses you might like to enrol in, a new language to learn, a musical instrument to take up.

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This can be an important time in your life when you ask some profound questions: what is important for you in your life? Who is important to you in your life?

You’ve been working for decades, so you have skills and expertise that means you can continue to contribute.

Research indicates that those who are happiest in their lives are the people who use their talents and passions to make further contributions to their community.

The unsettling contradiction is the impact on time — you mention that you wonder how you will fill the days, and you may also be starting to think that those days are coming to an end in due course.

We all know intellectually that we are mortal, but the commitments to developing a career and looking after a family keeps us busy enough that we do not reflect on how temporary our existence is.

The growing awareness that there are more years behind us than lie ahead can cause feelings of anxiety.

Leaving the working world can cause a sense of loss, especially if your self-concept is closely linked to work. There could be a period of mourning, over lost sense of importance, the loss of friendships and purpose.

As you mention in your letter, this impacts your wife, too. It’s important for couples to talk to each other about their hopes. Your wife is looking forward to more time together, and for couples this can provide deeper connections.

It will be helpful to have conversations about the changing roles within the relationship. You have been used to working and it is important to remember that your wife is your partner and not to accidentally start treating her like an employee.

Talk together as a couple and find agreement on how much time you share and the time you spend apart.

Remember that living is for now. Try not to be seduced into remembering only the past.

‘I find too much comfort in buying things’

Dear Louanne,

My spending habits are getting out of control. It’s not that I have to buy something every day or spend lots of money each time, but I find a real comfort in buying things. They really do cheer me up and I’m trying to justify it by saying I’m still saving, as well as spending, which I am. But it’s beginning to overtake my space and parcels keep arriving that I’ve forgotten I’ve ordered. How can I rein in my spending? Do I have an issue?

BS

Hello BS,

Taking the time to understand your spending habits can help you to gain some control. Spending is often connected to emotions: people will spend more if they are feeling sad or lonely. They use shopping to feel better. It’s a short-term fix that has the potential to be a long-term problem.

While you can afford the items you are buying, you are finding that you really have no use for them; you forget what you’ve ordered. That sounds like the pleasure in the spending comes from making the purchase, not needing or wanting the items.

It also sounds like impulse buying. To help with immediate gratification you can put some delays in place to slow down the rate of spending online. For example, leaving the items in the trolley for 24 hours before you go to checkout. This could give you some extra time for the shopping impulse to subside.

Shopping online and always using your card can mean that spending feels the same irrespective of the actual amount — a £5 purchase doesn’t feel any different from the action of spending £500.

The use of cash has fallen during the pandemic, but if we return to using actual money more often again, you have to count out the notes and there is a much more tangible sense of how much is being spent.

A helpful tip is organising your expenses at the beginning of the month and setting aside cash in separate envelopes. For example, you would have one envelope for groceries, another for travel, another for entertainment, and when the money runs out the spending stops.

Compile a shopping list in advance. Start thinking about the money in terms of the hours spent earning it. Converting the money into hours takes time and helps make the purchase more real — thinking about how long it took to earn the cash, is the item worth the energy it took to buy it?

If you find that, after putting these in place, you continue to spend compulsively, it may be helpful to look into the behaviour.

Compulsive spending can be used to self-soothe feelings of pain, stress, trauma. Working with a suitably trained and qualified counsellor can help gain an understanding of the emotional meaning of the behaviour. Through understanding triggers the behaviour can be addressed.


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