Suddenly, the world seems to have slowed down, you wake up in the morning and there is no job to go rushing off to, no traffic to fight, no huge project to finish or meeting to prepare for…now what?

Some men adapt very easily and have no trouble finding things to do and ways of filling their days. They don’t understand how anyone could be bored. They’ve waited their entire work life for this. They’ve embraced it fully and life is good!

Other men struggle tremendously with this even if they don’t realize it (just ask their wives). They wake up at every day at a loss of what to do or they do something that takes a few hours and then they are bored the rest of the day. This can lead to many problems, especially between the couple.

Women, on the other hand, for the most part, adapt better to change. They reach out, look for options and solutions, and ask for help. As they join their husband in retirement, many did not have a job outside of raising the children and have adapted to the “empty nest” situation 10 or 15 years prior. Typically, she has already built a “retired” life; since her job ended many years before, so she already has her interests, activities, set of friends…and she isn’t bored.

This scenario isn’t always that different for the woman who did have a career and then faces the life style changes that accompany retirement. They are usually more comfortable seeking out new activities and friendships than men.

Retirement challenges

Retirement definitely requires adaptation to a new and different lifestyle. This is often dictated by a decrease (sometimes drastic) in monthly income. Budgeting may be a new concept and one that meets a lot of resistance. Whether money is an issue or not, finding friends that have the same interests or are of similar education or professional background, or who have similar economic situations so that they can afford to do the same things, is quite a challenge. This is especially common when groups of people start to break up, because they move away or spend the winters somewhere else. The gang may come back together every summer, but that’s not enough.

Some people have not maintained good physical health and are not even capable of participating in the same activities or degree of difficulty. Because of this, many cannot even travel the same way, walking and going up and down stairs is painful and limited, so how can this person join you on a trip touring the Greek ruins, for example? This happens among friends and within couples where one is much more limited than the other.

Now what?

No matter what set of circumstances applies to you or your relationship, you must tackle this new chapter in your life with determination and enthusiasm and most of all an open mind. Things do not need to and probably should not stay the same. So now, how do you adapt?

The retirement phase of your life will probably consist of 20 years or more, so it is a significant amount of time, which deserves and requires careful consideration and planning. At around age 18, most people set themselves on a very intentional path that may have included four years or more of university education and then a very specific job search. Imagine putting that much time into figuring out your retirement years! Hopefully that isn’t necessary. I’m sure you’ve asked yourself “what will I do when I retire”. Now that it’s here, how have you prepared for it?

Create a new life

Make your bucket list. Start by asking yourself what you have always wanted to do, dreamed of doing, never had the time for. Keep that list and as you make a budget based on retirement income and expenses, you can refer to it and see what’s possible and realistic and then put your dreams into action. Set goals.

Consider everyday activities as well. What are you going to do to stay active or become more active? Is there a gym membership, a bike riding club, a yoga class? How many times a week or month can you eat out, go the movies/plays/concerts? Is there a class you want to attend; ceramics, photography, cooking, Spanish?  Don’t be afraid to explore new areas of interests. Leave your comfort zone!

Consider where you want to live. Can you afford a 2nd home? Do you need to down-size? Are you going to live 6 months somewhere else? What kind of lifestyle are you looking for: laid back or city-life busy, the beach, the mountains, foreign country or not? What is the culture like, are the people friendly, accessibility, medical care, etc? Most of you reading this have chosen Vallarta. Is it working for you? Are you happy? Do you need to reconsider?

Consider what will give your life meaning. What is your new purpose? Are there charities or causes you’d like to be involved in? Whatever your desires, now you can do it, now is the time! Retirement is a beautiful new beginning of a very important chapter in life. Make it great!


Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW  (psychotherapist) Available for appointments in person, by phone, or by skype webcam. Contact info:, Mex cell: (322) 138-9552 or US cell: (312) 914-5203