How to Avoid the Retirement Blues

A recent WebMD article mentioned that almost one in three retirees become depressed after retiring. It’s most likely because they are feeling what is known as retirement blues. What they anticipated would be the best time of their life often becomes a time of restlessness, anxiety, and confusion. Relationship issues can crop up, along with emotional, mental, or physical problems.  

And why?

Those feeling blue typically had unrealistic expectations or beliefs about this long-awaited phase in life. Isn’t retirement supposed to be that greener grass on the other side of the career fence? That is not always going to be the case. 

Here are a few examples with tips on how to avoid the retirement blues.

Expectation: A life of bliss awaits 

Reality: The beginning phase of retirement, the “honeymoon,” is terrific! And like other life transitions, reality sets in, and retirees may feel let down and restless. This feeling is normal. It is the “messy middle.” Coming to terms with this new lifestyle is a day-to-day process. It requires self-awareness and finding ways to address and get to the other side of the “messy middle” and on to the “new normal.” 

Preparation tip:  Research what it means to prepare for the non-financial side of retirement. How will you remain mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy, happy, and fulfilled? 

Expectation: Work will be left behind

Reality: Retirees who never imagined returning to work may want to start working again, either part-time or full-time. This experience happens because they miss the structure and routine, engagement with others, and feeling valued. Others will go back to work out of necessity. The same WebMD article presents that one in six retirees have considered returning to work.

Preparation tip: Consider what satisfied you at work and what you will miss. Are there opportunities for you to replace that satisfaction either through paid or non-paid work or volunteering on an ongoing basis?   

Expectation: Stress will no longer be part of life  

Reality: Living on a fixed income and budget, experiencing unforeseen health issues for oneself or a partner, and experiencing other potential expenses such as insurance, home repair, and caregiving costs can create unexpected stress.

Preparation tip: Ask friends or family for referrals for a trusted advisor who can help put a plan together to prepare for and minimize these risks.  

Relationship expectations (to name a few) 

Grandparents look forward to spending more time with grandchildren. One partner wants to retire, and the other partner disagrees with his or her plan. Also, one partner in a relationship looks forward to spending more time with the other. Some retirees expect to continue to have lunch and socialize with former colleagues.  

Reality: These expectations don’t always work out, which can cause ripples in relationships. 

Preparation tip:  This is an aspect of planning for the non-financial side of retirement. Have conversations with others about what you are hoping for and agree on expectations before you retire. Communicating about these expectations is critical so all parties are on the same page and clearly understand what to expect and not expect from each other. 

Expectation and Belief: A retirement ‘expiration’ or ‘best by’ date exists 

Reality: Historically, careers “expired,” or it was “best” to retire between 62 and 65. Now, more employees are retiring younger, while others will continue to work beyond their 60s and 70s.

Preparation tip: Let go of the belief about a retirement expiration date. If you love what you are doing, don’t retire. If you are tentative about retiring, talk to your manager or HR about a phased retirement plan going from full-time to part-time. It also helps to talk to friends and family members who have retired and ask them about their retirement experience — the good, bad, and ugly. 

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Enjoying retirement with family

Making the transition into retirement doesn’t have to be complicated. Like any other new experience, adjusting may take longer than expected. Having realistic expectations and how to prepare for the financial and non-financial side is essential to avoiding the blues. You can do it! Good luck!   


Sue Mintz

Sue Mintz, Founder of Retirementhood™, is a coach, speaker, writer, and facilitator. She educates and guides soon-to-be or current retirees on becoming the best version of themselves in retirement by planning a lifestyle that is purposeful, healthy, fun, and one that fulfills long-awaited goals. She has been certified through Retirement Options, a division of Career Partners Intl, LLC., and is an Authorized "Now What®" Coach/Facilitator. She is not a financial adviser. For more information about Sue and the services she offers, visit or contact her at

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