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  • Writer's pictureNoel Watson

Retiredentity™: Overcoming your ‘retirement identity crisis’

Retiredentity™ (noun): The characteristics determining who or what a person is in retirement.



As complex and social beings, our identity is integral to our lives. Part of our identity is created before birth, a predetermined part based on our parents, where we live and the genetics we are given. However, most of our identity is formed by our environment and evolves with our experiences throughout life.


Your Journey to a Retiredentity™


At each new stage of life, we tend to adapt to the linked social norms and constructs and be influenced by new people and the communities we come across and get involved with. From an early age, as we enter the formal education system, our identity evolves with personal relationships, academic performance and preferences, extra-curricular activities, and physical and material appearances. You might have been the musician, the A* student or the sportsperson.


We then enter the workforce and forge our way through a career. After years of hard work, we may be leaders of industry, respected professionals, business people or successful creatives. Our identities are intrinsically linked to our roles. If we have children, we become mum or dad. Still, we may also have a professional identity and a home identity.


In developed nations, during these life stages, our typical days can be very well prescribed; we attend school from 9 am to 3 pm, and when we enter the workforce, this can extend to 9 am to 5 pm. Our lives are formed around these routines: work, personal, family and social, but when we retire, there is no such routine. We typically have all the time in the world, which, on the one hand, can be freeing and, on the other hand, becomes a challenge.


Retirement and your Retiredentity™


We often retire our work identity and our last prescribed routine at retirement. We may no longer be that industry leader or respected professional and must create our new 'Retiredentity', a common challenge amongst the clients we have supported through the retirement transition. The so-called 'retirement identity crisis' is alive and well. It is essential to prepare well before retirement to ward it off and lead a fulfilled and happy retirement on your terms.


As retirement can account for as much as a quarter of a lifespan in the developed world, academia is researching the area more and more. Recent research[1] suggests that there are two broad forms of role identities, work role identities and non-work role identities, which significantly impact a retiree's transition process and their fulfilment in retirement. This research found that possessing multiple strong and well-developed identities served to smoothen the transition. Still, singular work role identities, or those without a clear role identity, required significant work to adjust to retirement. This research also suggests that the 'retirement identity crisis' is linked to those who have singular role identities and are forced to make changes, leading to a negative impact on well-being.


Conclusion - Taking control of your Retiredentity™


So, what can you do to ease into your Retiredentity™ and improve your well-being and fulfilment in retirement?


  • You can gradually transition your work role identity or non-work role identity for some time into retirement rather than the 'cliff-edge' transition. In that case, you will likely have a smoother adjustment into your Retiredentity™.


  • Start exploring and investing in a diverse portfolio of role identities pre-retirement to reap well-being and fulfilment rewards in retirement.


  • When thinking about retiring, those who make deliberate, conscious plans tend to adjust far better to the retirement transition, avoid the 'retirement identity crisis', provide meaning and purpose, and promote well-being.


  • The discrete resources (financial, health, social and psychological) available for the retirement transition allow agency and control over the form and timing of role exit, making the Retiredentity™ transition palatable. The requirement to understand these discrete resources further strengthens the need for planning.


Here are a few questions that might help with your retirement transition:


  • What does my ideal Retiredentity™ look like?


  • What role identities do I have?


  • How will the retirement transition impact your role identities?


  • How might I fill any gaps/differences?


  • What options do I have for a gradual retirement?


  • Can you define your resources for retirement?


  • What has to happen to achieve your successful retirement transition?


  • What’s the first step that I must take?


If you want to understand how we help clients with these questions give our One-Page Financial Plan article a read or for those interested in a deeper dive, consider reading Noel’s book.


Get in touch


We hope that this article touches a chord. Please let us know your thoughts about your Retiredentity™ and the areas where you'd like more content. We will be writing more on this topic very soon.


If you want to learn more about how we can support you with your Retiredentity™, please get in touch with us.

About us

The team at Pyrford Financial Planning are highly qualified Independent Financial Advisers based in Weybridge, Surrey. We specialise in retirement planning and provide financial advice on pensions, investments, and inheritance tax.

Our office telephone number is 01932 645150.

Our office address is No 5, The Heights, Weybridge KT13 0NY.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

[1] Bordia, P. (2020), Role identity processes in retirement transition, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Volume 41, Issue 5, p.445-460.

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