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Mention the word retirement planning session to most HR Directors and most of us will point to a workshop covering company and government pension options, health benefits after work – basically anything financial. While these are all essential to the soon to be retiree, on their own, they are insufficient to ensure a successful transition into work-optional life.

 For most, there is a larger challenge effecting, and in many cases harming, the newly retired. That challenge? If I tell you that in as little as two years it can cause significant physical and mental deterioration, restricting their ability to enjoy that financial nest egg, does that give you a clue?

 You already know what it is. When your team member walks out of the door for the final time much of their identity, life structure and social connections are left behind. They are stripped of much that gave them purpose and daily balance – they are walking into a chasm. The deception is this chasm is usually masked by several months of a ‘honeymoon phase of retirement’ – travel, visiting family, shopping, sports, etc. But soon afterwards, these items become similar to a favourite dessert – and you can only eat so much before you have had enough. We all need something purposeful and substantial or our physiology starts checking out early, and UK studies have shown this deterioration can become visible in less than two years.

Where we are seeing employee retirement programs evolve is in helping their soon to be retirees begin planning their work-optional lives one or two years out so when they are ready, they will have their own roadmap to follow. Helping employees explore volunteer or part-time work opportunities, hobbies and educational interests, starting a lifestyle business, improving their health, and helping them prepare for a life that will have significantly less structure, are key areas almost everyone needs help with. And this shouldn’t be a surprise – previous generations didn’t have 2, 3 or 4 decades of time and opportunity to do whatever they wished.

Retirement is a legitimate, long term phase of life, and just like our educational and career paths, we should give it the time and focus it deserves. This is the time when many have more resources and freedom than another time in their lives. Retirement is a winning lottery ticket that should be cashed in.