My wife and I are both working from home, something we haven’t done before. Like most couples now, we’re together about 24 hours a day. I think the coronavirus is giving us a taste of what retirement might be like.
I have heard this same idea from several people in the past few weeks. Yes, couples and individuals who are approaching retirement—and who suddenly find themselves sequestered in their homes—are getting a crash course in Life After the Office.
And that’s a good thing. As we have noted several times in this space, many people think about, and prepare for, the financial side of later life, but fail to consider how they wish to spend their time in retirement, what the average day might look like.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying you can, or should, use this time to pick the path you plan to follow after you walk away from work. (Clearly, it’s difficult to try new pursuits or join new groups at a distance of 6 feet.) But sitting at home can give you a preview of—and, ideally, help you sidestep—some of the shocks that people experience when they first retire. Among them:
Too much togetherness. You might be seeing this already: Some newly retired spouses end up tripping over each other. Both are adjusting to new routines and roles, and the kinks aren’t necessarily worked out in the first weeks—or months.
“For some [retired] couples, just the fact that they’re both at home all day, every day, is difficult,” one psychologist told us. “And to expect that there be no frictions about how to fold the clothes or how to put things in the dishwasher—all the trivial stuff of life—just isn’t realistic.”
Losing yourself. So…you’re home. Do you miss friends from the office? Do you miss being part of a team, part of a mission? It’s a problem new retirees face: losing a sense of one’s value.
“Having burned both ends of the candle for 40 years, it was a shock to the system to suddenly find myself and my calendar no longer in demand,” one retiree told me.
Bored and restless. Chances are good you’re wrestling with cabin fever. Something similar easily can happen when you first retire: You take your dream vacation, you spend time with your grandchildren, you clean out the basement—and you wake up one morning and ask: What do I do now? (I have heard the same, sad story countless times.)
Fortunately, there are two ways to cushion yourself from these shocks. First, as we have urged readers many times, talk with your partner about your particular vision for retirement. The mistake comes in assuming that the person across from you shares the same dreams. And second, at some point, find the things—the activities, connections, relationships—that will get you out of bed each morning. Difficult? It can be. Important? More than you know.