You’ve been avoiding the topic, changing the subject when friends bring it up over lunch, your colleagues make jokes that aren’t really jokes and your kids drop hints about all the things they want you to do for them when you’re no longer working. You’ll admit that you get a little too defensive when you are innocently offered an OAP discount. So it’s time to face the facts. 

Retirement is coming and you don’t feel good about it. We can work with that. I work with people who feel the retirement dread all the time. Here’s my advice. 

But Is Retirement Truly the Dream We Imagine?

The reality is that not everyone looks forward to retirement. On paper, not having to work sounds good. Only when faced with the prospect of ending your career after decades of working hard, do people realise it’s a massive lifestyle change that can provoke a wobble in the most put-together people. 


There are six emotional stages of retirement that people ride the wave of when transitioning from employment to retirement. So feelings such as fear, resentment, confusion and disbelief are just as common as relief and excitement. The reason why it’s such a big deal is because your job is more than your paycheck. Your career contributes to so many other aspects of your personal and professional fulfilment, from the social aspect as you work as part of a team to the learning and growth aspect as you rise to new challenges. 

You’ll feel a lot better about retirement when you know how you are going to replace the fulfilment you get from your career. That’s just one retirement preparation activity I do with my soon-to-be-retiree clients. 

How To Ease The Retirement Dread

As someone who has coached many people through retirement, of various ages, financial situations and industries and roles, here are the steps you can’t forget to go from dread to excitement. 

#1 The sooner you start planning, the sooner you’ll feel better

There’s no need to postpone non-financial retirement planning until you are eligible for your state pension. In fact, I recommend you start planning your retirement 5 to 10 years before you think you’re going to retire. Firstly, it will help you with your financial planning because you’ll have a better idea of the money you need to live out your ideal retirement lifestyle. Do you need to increase your contributions or will you be financially ready sooner than you thought?

Secondly, you can start to put all the other pieces in place to retire happy. From succession planning at work to looking for new properties, if you’d like to retire in the country but you live in the city, give yourself the time to get ready. Your plans may change. That’s fine. The point is that you’ve started to think about what you actually want. 

#2 Reflect on what you actually want

‘Shoulds’ plague people’s career decisions from when graduates go for their very first interview to when they go for a promotion at the midpoint in their career to when and how they retire. Shoulds don’t matter because there is no one way to create a fulfilling career and there is no one way to retire. 

Just because your parents worked until they physically couldn’t anymore doesn’t mean you should. Just because your friend retired at the first opportunity and now spends their days playing golf doesn’t mean you should. Of course, you’ll take into account the needs and wants of your colleagues, friends and family but your retirement is your retirement. Don’t forget that!

#3 Don’t hide from emotional processing

The end of your career and the start of a new stage of your life is an emotional time. That’s why I dedicated a whole section of my Retirement With Purpose Toolkit to understanding the emotional and psychological impact of retirement. I provide exercises for saying goodbye to your job, figuring out what else you might need to let go of and finding a new purpose. 

Letting go of your career is saying farewell to a significant chapter, but it’s also creating space for exciting new experiences. Whether it’s lounging by the pool or diving into volunteering, retiring is about closing one door to open another. It’s a whirlwind journey, and I’m here for extra support when you need it.

#4 Come up with options and plenty of them!

One thing you definitely want to let go of is the expectation that you’ll know exactly what you want for your retirement straight away. That’s not realistic. Take the pressure off yourself by focusing on coming up with options for what you could do post-work. It could be helpful to start by noting what kind of fulfilment you got from your career and would like to prioritise in retirement. Then you can look at ways to find fulfilment post-work. 

You may want to continue working in some capacity. You could volunteer, work part-time, switch careers or go self-employed so you have complete flexibility. Retiring doesn’t equate to doing nothing. You have plenty of skills and experience you can use in new ways. 

Where To Go For Help

No one tells you how to retire happy. As a careers coach who has worked in this industry for decades, I know that retirement is a massively overlooked career transition. That doesn’t mean support isn’t available. 

For a free way to get started with planning your retirement to ease the dread of the transition, download my guide on the six emotional stages of retirement.

If you want to go deeper, check out my Retirement With Purpose Toolkit. When you buy the programme, you also get access to monthly group drop-in sessions for 12 months. 

To benefit from personalised guidance and support, sign up for one of my 1:1 retirement transition coaching packages.

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