3 Unexpected Emotional Costs of Retirement

Life is always what you make it, and never what you fervently want it to be.

That is the hard reality many Americans deal with when it comes to retirement.

About 75% of Americans say that the reality of retirement never matches their preconceived expectations.

Here are three emotional costs of retirement you should consider and what to do about them.

Loss of professional identity

Due to popular culture, many people think that the act of retirement occurs in a smooth, one-time motion like a well-executed Olympic dive.

Retirement can take years, in reality, to accomplish, like the start and stopping motions of someone sticking their foot in and out of a pool.

Careers enable people to have identities connected to those careers. Careers give people structure in life and relatable routines in everyday life.

It can be emotionally traumatic and psychologically taxing to rapidly go from working every day to doing nothing.

Since drastic change can be psychologically unnerving, it is important to focus on transitioning from one identity to a new one.

Instead of mourning over the loss of a decades-old identity, focus on what you will do in your new chapter of life.

Many retirees become consultants, work part-time, or develop new post-retirement identities.

Loss of support networks

When it comes to a professional working identity, you are who you know. Many people get their first job through connections or someone they know.

And they then spend a lifetime expanding, updating, and fostering a professional support network that benefits and enables their career.

Retirees leaving a career built over a lifetime can suddenly feel alone in the world post-retirement.

Retirement should be seen as an opportunity to update old contacts and to make new ones. A post-retirement life isn’t a loss of support networks but a chance to develop new contacts in post-retirement life.


Retired people are twice as likely to become depressed relative to elderly people who were still working.

It should take years or decades of preparation time for retirement. It may still be a shock once it occurs, but then it won’t be unexpected.

Retirement can be especially depressing for those who don’t strategically prepare for it or find themselves forced into retirement.

Banishing denial and accepting the life transition for what it is can keep denial at bay. Meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can also become new routines that stave off depression.

Retirement can also be a period of life for intense introspection and self-improvement. Use newfound free time to reconnect with a spouse, family, and friends.

Don’t treat retirement as something you must deal with alone.