After last week’s question about the husband who anticipated retirement, seemed very happy at first  then after six months began to feel depressed and a little lost, I heard from several readers. The topic seemed to resonate.

Q:  What does it mean to have a “good retirement”,  how can we prepare ourselves not just financially but psychologically?

In the past,  retirement simply meant a time to travel, read, rest,  tinker, and slow down until you died (hopefully peacefully in your sleep).

But now, we live much longer, healthier lives.  Many retiring boomers can look forward to 20-30 relatively healthy years of living.  Practically another lifetime.

For  a while now, I’ve been curious about “life after of work” and I’ve been observing  different retiree lifestyles.  Some fare better than others.  Why?  Well because so much of our identity is tied up with our job.  If that’s how you define yourself and you lose that when you retire without preparing for it, it can mess with you head.   Let’s look at two retiree lifestyles,  one doesn’t stay connected to the job, the second does.

First, the “High Achiever” retiree.

These are the folks who were in charge of million-dollar projects, or responsible for hundreds of employees,  who made important decisions; whose phone calls were returned asap.  Then they  retired to a comfortable life of leisure.  A year later, they find that deciding whether to have a muffin or croissant for breakfast will be the biggest decision they’ll make that morning.  No wonder they might feel depressed or a little lost. These retirees couldn’t or didn’t want to stay connected to their old jobs and now need to redefine who they are or want to become when the job is not defining them.  This can be terrifying if you’re unprepared or super fun if you’re ready.

Now let’s compare, the “I’ll never stop working” retiree.

These folks are resistant to quitting, and  usually continue in a pared-down version of their old jobs.

Think of the doctor or attorney with a part-time practice;  the professor emeritus; the old handy-man still driving his truck, the shop-keeper that doesn’t want to sell.

I envy folks in this category because I think they stay healthier physically and mentally and aren’t troubled by questions about who they are and what they should be doing.   They’ve figured out how to keep doing what they love.  But not everyone wants, can or should go this route.

So how can we prepare better for a well adjusted retirement?  Tune in next week.

©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to

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