For most people, life can be simplified into two stages: career and retirement. But while we've been told that retirement is the ultimate goal, the most-prized reward, for a professional, many workers have a much different perspective and opinion on the matter.
A recent study conducted by Zety revealed some hard truths about the reality of retirement for the American worker. Here's what they discovered, why professionals feel this way, and what you can do to fill the void after leaving your career behind.
For Americans, Retirement Is More Frightening Than Death
When asked about their opinions on the subject, a shocking amount of Americans are frightened of retirement. For 40%, it's a fear worse than death, and 47% fear it more than poor health.
Not surprisingly, the percentage of individuals scared of retirement differs between genders. Men are more likely to fear retirement more than death (44%) than women are (36%). This is probably due to traditional societal expectations of men and the role they often assume in the family unit. A hardworking, successful man is glorified in our society; without the work, a man may have a more difficult time finding his purpose in retirement. Although much has changed in our country over the last few decades, gender roles are still very much alive, and the psychological toll of these gender roles could explain the discrepancy between men and women's fear of retirement.
One of the most interesting statistics from this study is that younger people are more frightened of retirement than their elders. While 33% of the respondents aged 39 and older feared retirement more than death, a whopping 52% of those younger than 39 agreed with the statement. It's impossible to explain why this is the case for younger professionals, but the issue of student loan debt could be a factor.
Why Are We So Scared Of Retirement?
As it turns out, being scared of retirement is common, and that fear is completely valid. The study mentioned above found that the most frightening aspects of retirement are a lack of income (87%), losing employment and medical insurance (73%), and inability to stay mentally active (71%). These three things influence a person's quality of life. Additionally, 25% of Americans say they won't claim Social Security, 53% have no access to other pension plans, and 20% have nothing saved for retirement at all.
The idea of retirement, understandably, is very frightening for many people, and the origin of this fear is rooted in complex issues that aren't easily resolved. If you won't be able to maintain your standard of living in retirement, is it worth it to retire at all?
Everyone deserves to retire, if that's what they want to do once they reach a certain point in their life and/or career. But the reality is many Americans simply can't afford to. If you're fortunate enough to retire, you still may struggle with finding your purpose and keeping yourself busy with things that bring you joy and satisfaction. Luckily, there are many ways you can fill the "work" void in retirement.
How To Fill The "Work" Void In Retirement
1. Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies
Retirement is a time to take up new hobbies and devote more time to your existing ones! What are you passionate about? What do you like to do? What makes you feel alive? Now that you have all the time in the world, don't waste it!
A great way to find your purpose in retirement is to be an active member in your community. What causes are you passionate about? What skills or expertise can you offer? Volunteer at an organization or two. Give back. Just because you're not working anymore doesn't mean you're not a part of society or a valuable member in your community. In fact, you could become an influential member in your community by being involved and trying to make a difference.
3. Take classes at a local college or university
There's no better way to keep your mind sharp than to learn new things, and one of the best places to do that is at school. If you've always wanted to study or research a certain subject, and you have some extra money to burn, don't be afraid to take a few classes at your local college or university. Nowadays, you can take online classes or opt for the traditional in-classroom experience. Either way, you'll be expanding your mind.
4. Become a mentor
Like volunteering, becoming a mentor can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. You'll have the opportunity to connect with others and help them achieve their goals through offering support and guidance. After acquiring so much knowledge throughout your life from experiences, successes, and failures, it may be a good idea to share what you've learned with someone else who could use the wisdom.
5. Try new things
What's something you've always wanted to do? Do it. Don't hesitate. After all, you only live once, and retirement is the perfect time to do the things you haven't been able to do before. Don't worry about failing. You can teach an old dog new tricks. And when you try new things, you also meet new people. Become the coolest retired person around by embracing life to the fullest. You won't regret it.
6. Get a part-time job (if true retirement isn't for you)
After retiring, some people never work again and others work a part-time job. If true retirement isn't for you, there are plenty of part-time jobs with flexible hours available for older professionals. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have another source of income.
7. Don't isolate yourself
Whatever you do, do not isolate yourself in retirement. Loneliness can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. It's okay if you're not as social as you once were while working a job, and some people are actually more social once they retire since they have more time on their hands to visit friends and family. But if you're struggling to maintain that connection to other people, don't wallow in that feeling. Get out of the house, and try doing one of the things we recommend above. You'll be much happier, we promise.
Retirement isn't something to be afraid of, but many people do fear it for completely valid reasons. The good news is that you can prepare for retirement and fill the "working" void after leaving your career behind. It's all about staying connected and finding your purpose. So, get some hobbies, volunteer, take a few classes, become a mentor, try new things, and get a part-time job—just don't isolate yourself!
Life is so much bigger than our career. It's time we let go of our fear of retirement and embrace the possibilities of a new chapter. The only thing we should be scared of is not living life to the fullest. So, what are we waiting for?
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