When faced with retirement, virtually all the things to consider have either push or pull qualities.
Whether you’re pushed or pulled has a major impact on how well you adjust to the lifestyle.
As a general rule, pulls are good and pushes are bad. When pulled into retirement, you’re enticed by the lifestyle.
Being pushed means the decision is forced upon you—you're thrown out of the workforce regardless of how you feel about your job.
Financial security is a pull. Once you achieve economic critical mass, you’re no longer obligated to work, so you can retire because you see benefits.
Those who can't afford to retire, on the other hand, are pushed in that direction. Health is mostly a push.
While some might retire because good health allows them to live well, the reverse is usually the case. Individuals suffering from serious illness may no longer be capable of doing their jobs, and so retirement is their only alternative.
Personal issues can be one or the other.
They act as pulls if they have a positive tone, e.g., an opportunity to pursue new goals.
However, negative feelings, such as retiring because you dislike your job, is a push.
Escaping a bad situation to avoid pain is very different from moving into a new one because you expect benefits.
Retirees who are pushed into retirement often have difficulty adjusting. They typically have little advanced warning, leaving them mentally and emotionally unprepared.
They're not retirees in their heads, so they don't make the psychological break from their careers.
They’re likely to feel angry, resentful, and abandoned, and these feelings will interfere with their ability to build their identity around the retirement role.
Charlie, a police chief who was forced to retire, described how he couldn't come to terms with the events that led to it:
“I was consumed with the way my career ended. I was the chief! This was not just a job to me; it was my life and identity. I was running the work lives of a number of people and now I had nothing. I would dwell over and over about what happened to me. It took years to finally give all this up and start living again.”
What really differentiates pulled and pushed retirees are the kinds of thoughts that occupy their minds, and these affect their attitudes.
Pulled retirees have a positive frame of mind and that allows them to be proactive in developing a fulfilling lifestyle. But pushed retirees lean negative, and that deters them from seeing the benefits of retirement and limits their motivation to find something that's personally meaningful.
If you’re a forced retiree, you can best serve your own interests by coming to terms with your circumstances as soon as possible.
Assuming your finances are fine, the first step is to acknowledge that it's a done deal and you have to get on with your life.
Dwelling on how badly you feel serves no good purpose whatsoever. Anger and second guessing only leads to perseverating — negative thoughts produce other negative thoughts, and on and on.
That's a cycle that's hard to break out of, and it will inhibit your ability to move forward.
Once you’ve accepted your fate, embrace the idea of retirement. Break your emotional connection to your job by defining yourself as a retiree, not as a worker. At the same time, focus on the positives of your new lifestyle, such as freedom from stress and schedules. Turn your attention to how you will live -- think about future opportunities and make specific plans, because your success as a retiree is in the details.
Of course, none of this guarantees your retirement won’t have downturns or that it will be as satisfying as your career.
But your career also had it's disappointments, and even if it was perfect, you'll still need to put it behind you and adopt thought patterns that won't slow your adjustment down to a crawl.