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Am I Ready to Retire?

Am I Ready to Retire?

by Mark Driskill, LICSW-S

For most of our working life, retirement planning is about money—how much do I need and when will I have enough? While money is key to successful retirement, there is so much more to consider. In addition to income, our professional life is often a significant part of our identity and work provides purpose, structure, social interaction, and mental challenge. Proactively planning new ways to have these elements in our lives after work ends helps to ensure our mental health and wellbeing through the transition and beyond.

I have a friend who retired a few years ago. She told me she went to a therapist before she made the decision to stop working. She had saved and had a financial planner to assist with a retirement budget but felt she needed to talk to someone about how she would spend her time when she was no longer working. That surprised me at the time, but working at CJFS with an older population, I see both how important that proactive planning can be and also how people get stuck when they skip considering these things. Did I mention my friend is very smart?

Identity and Purpose   

It is common when we work for many years to identify ourselves with the work we perform or the title we carry in our jobs. We may be eager for the day when we no longer have to face a commute, report to a boss, or get dressed in work clothes on a daily basis. But when we are no longer that attorney, salesperson, clinician, or mechanic that we were for so long, who are we? Just retired?

It is critical that we maintain and bolster the other roles we play in our lives—partner, parent, friend, community member etc. Some people seek to create new roles for themselves, such as volunteer, student, or mentor, to expand ways that they share the values that are important to them. Through these actions we find purpose, self-efficacy, identity, and self-worth.


When life is rocky, work can provide a sense of stability and structure. Having a reason to get up and a place to go creates structure in one’s life. How do you see yourself spending your time? Perhaps you haven’t had time for hobbies. What sounds appealing to you—gardening? Golf? Bridge? It is never too late to learn something new. Having a grandchild to care for, a volunteer job to go to or a reason to execute something one is good at is an invaluable part of a good “retirement plan.”

Social Interaction

For many people, much of their social interaction is in the workplace. For people who are not partnered, or those who live far from family, colleagues may also be their social circle. It is important to think about how you might carry these relationships forward into retirement. It might also be a time to reconnect with friends from earlier in life or seek out opportunities to find new connections with people who have similar interests and values. There is immense value in that group of ‘old codgers’ having coffee at the local coffee shop every morning!

Mental Challenge

The discipline of work keeps us mentally sharp and offers ongoing opportunities to learn and grow and be challenged. Retirees often express surprise and frustration over this loss. If you tend to become bored easily, it will be vital to consider how to remain mentally challenged when you no longer are expected to meet a deadline or complete a report on a regular basis. Perhaps consider taking a class at the local community college or university or even teach a class at the J! Playing games, using your creativity, traveling, and even taking up a new sport like pickleball all support our brain health and mental health.

Enjoying Life      

For most of us, retirement is about having more time to enjoy life. It takes much more than money to find joy. Being intentional about these other aspects of retirement are just as important as meeting with your financial advisor. If you are interested in exploring/planning how to live a fulfilled and meaningful life in retirement, CJFS professional counseling can help. Contact us at 205-879-3438 or