With many people starting a career post-retirement, one ending can be just the beginning, but planning is crucial. Anne Marie Crowley is a programme leader for the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPC). Her career as a freelance coach and trainer in behavioural change, provides clients with huge insight into how work-life balance can impact their overall quality of life.

RPC’s highly interactive courses on retirement planning, provide expert guidance on planning for retirement, with all aspects of your retirement fully covered, including social, economic, personal and legal aspects, she says.

I also cover other areas of key interest such as social protection entitlements and legal issues like making a will

“My role is to run courses which help ensure that everyone in the room comes away with a plan for their retirement. My speciality is behavioural change. I facilitate the parts of the programme that deal with what changes in retirement such as routine, identity, relationships and social connections.

“I also cover other areas of key interest such as social protection entitlements and legal issues like making a will and enduring power of attorney. Other industry specialists deliver the financial, tax and health parts of the course.”

Planning ahead

Preparing for retirement takes time. Deferring the task until weeks before your final pay cheque will only add to the stress and fear, Anne Marie adds.

“I’ve had course participants tell me that retirement for them is like standing on the edge of a cliff. That is usually because they did not plan for it.

“The key to a fulfilled and healthy retirement is to start planning early – and I mean from age 60. If you have left it to the last minute, it is not irretrievable, but it can make this milestone in your life feel scary.”

Some people just cannot wait for their job to end

While this is the closing of one chapter, the finish of the career you have known for maybe 40 years, it is not the end. Anne Marie continues.

“Some people just cannot wait for their job to end, so that they can get on with the things that they love doing, but didn’t have the time to do before. And then there are many people who loved every part of their job and dread the last day. However, people can replicate what they loved about their job in part-time work, self-employment or in voluntary projects, when retired.

“You can take the best aspects of your work to the next phase of life and get the same amount of fulfilment. Just because you have retired from full-time farming, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring your skills to something different. Many retired farmers walk the land every day, as they always did, keeping an eye out for animal welfare, or give back to their communities through voluntary work, such as doing jobs for people who may be isolated. They often become mentors to younger farmers or agricultural students. You no longer have to get up at 4am in the cold to deliver a calf, or worry about the farm accounts. But this final stage of life isn’t the end, it is the start of a new chapter.”

Remember that, according to research, you might live to be 90 years of age. You don’t have to sit all day long at home in the corner of the room

While farmers are often praised for their vocation to the land and animals, with the proud identity of ‘I am a farmer’, Anne Marie and her RPC colleagues encourage people to try on new identities, by finding other interests or hobbies. Whether it’s pulling a vintage car asunder at night time with a neighbour, or learning new IT skills, doing so before ‘hanging up the fork’ provides a reason to get up every morning, after retiring. This is so important for our mental and physical health, Anne Marie says.

“Remember that, according to research, you might live to be 90 years of age. You don’t have to sit all day long at home in the corner of the room. In my RPC courses I often share the story of a Cork farmer, who became a sculptor artist after retiring. Over the years, while farming he collected pieces from his bogland.

“He kept them all thinking to himself that one day, when he finally retired and had time on his hands, he would do something with all those lovely pieces of bog. That’s exactly what he did and he proudly opened his first exhibition at the age of 83. It is ultimately your choice.”

Taking the time to transition from your full-time career, to retirement is highly recommended by all at the RPC. Anne Marie explains why.

“It is not advisory to work long hours on a continuous basis and then suddenly stop one Friday evening, to step into retirement.

“It makes the transition to retirement way more difficult for you, especially psychologically. At RPC, we highly recommend that if possible, well before your retirement date, you reduce your working hours, or take part-time hours and transition into this final phase of your life.”

Idyllic v realistic

The romantic idea portrayed to us in films of retirees relocating to the coast with a new-found love for golf is often unrealistic. Addressing the “honeymoon” period of retirement, Anne Marie encourages retirees to celebrate this new stage of life, but also look beyond the temporal and material, for long-term fulfilment.

“I would hate to dampen anyone’s retirement celebrations, it’s important to mark the significant milestone with joy and pride. People should enjoy the things they couldn’t do before retiring, like extending their holidays, or relishing a midweek daytime TV programme.

[...] you will struggle to find long-term fulfilment in your retirement

“But remember that this final stage of life could last for more than 25 years and if you whittle away all of your time and money on holidays and shopping sprees, you will struggle to find long-term fulfilment in your retirement; not to mind the discovery that your finances have quickly run out.”

While joy comes in many different forms, lasting contentment is found in meaningful activities that bring us close to other people and to what we love, Anne Marie explains.

“Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and to nurture new relationships. Learning something, like a language can be fulfilling and has the added bonus of keeping your brain active.”

Work-life balance

With farm families renowned for hard work, we often belittle our own health, relationships and wellbeing. Confronting this unhealthy habit, Anne Marie urges programme participants to live a balanced and integrated life.

“Irish people spend way too much time working; whether that is on a farm or in a tech company. It is OK to work long hours sporadically, for example during the calving or harvesting seasons, but these spurts need to be temporary.

“After all, athletes do not run races all the time nor do they train 24/7, or else they get injured. If you decide to work long hours without sufficient breaks, you are neglecting your heath, relationships and wellbeing. Even in your 40s, you need to ask yourself, ‘Is this how I want to live my life to my last days?’ and make the necessary adjustments, sooner rather than later.

“In my work as a life and executive coach, I often meet people who have made work their whole life. At the RPC courses we look at the ‘wheel of life’.

“Each spoke contributes to long-term fulfilment. Work and purpose account for just one spoke; with key relationships, health and much more, all on their own spokes. If you put all of your time and energy into one area, your life goes out of balance.”

If an unhealthy work life balance rings a bell with you, Anne Marie appeals for you to make changes straight away, with many supports and programmes on offer.

“When we reach the end of life we regret things like not having spent enough time with family, or not reaching our potential or dream goals.

“ According to palliative care nurses, people never ever say that they wish they spent more time working. I would encourage you to invest in retirement planning. Make contact with the RPC with any questions, or queries regarding your retirement plan.”

Visit www.rpc.ie for more information.

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