Planning for Retirement in the Middle of a Global Crisis?

Jun 11, 2020 by Mary R. Donahue, Ph.D

In the middle of a pandemic, a book about retirement?  What??? My co-author, Alexandra Armstrong, CFP®, CRPC® and I had been writing our book about retirement for quite some time. We were getting ready to publish when all of our lives were turned upside down by something no one could have predicted; something called the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of publishing as we had anticipated, we were now at home social distancing and self-quarantining. We decided to postpone publication.


However, as time marched on, I found myself cooking more, reading more, cleaning my closets,  and finally going through those old boxes of family keepsakes in my basement, which was long overdue. As I sorted through the boxes, reminiscing about my life over each forgotten treasure, I realized the time was now! This was actually the ideal time to launch Your Next Chapter.

Being quarantined at home, rapidly becoming part of the #whatdayisit crowd; got me thinking more seriously about my retired life. Perhaps this was the perfect time to publish our book on retirement? Due to the pandemic, Alex and I found ourselves in semi-retirement, which gave us a real opportunity to think about our own lives, both emotionally and financially. 


Whether the prospect of not working and being at home has terrified you, or you’ve been loving every minute of it, I have a few more suggestions to add to the 101 things you can do at home list. We decided to publish Your Next Chapternow because we think that right now is a great time identify what you’re feeling about retirement and review your retirement plans. If you don’t have any retirement plans, why not think about putting some in place?


Here are four things we discuss in Your Next Chapter that you can start to do today.


  1. Understand your financial situation

I am a clinical psychologist, so this does not appeal to me at all. However, as I discovered many years ago, burying my head in the sand was not a solution. What I found out, albeit reluctantly at first, is that as a woman, it is an empowering experience to understand your financial situation and know that you are in control of your future. Take some of this time at home to review your current financial situation and how it fits with the retirement life you envision.


  1. Adjusting to life with a new identity.

Adjusting to life without our former professional or domestic identities can be scary. For many of us, our professional life is how we defined ourselves. If you were a professional wife and mother, that role became your identity. Living without these roles leaves us feeling adrift and unsettled. After all, the majority of our adult lives have centered around building careers, professional networking, socializing with colleagues, fighting for causes, and getting our children and partners through each day. Being quarantined at home has given both retirees and those nearing retirement a true glimpse into this new reality. Retiring does not have to negate all that you have achieved, but it is a new phase of life. Take some time to develop a list or create a vision board about what you want your “ new identity” to look like. 


  1. Identify what you are feeling and how it impacts you

This is something that is easy for some, but daunting for others. There is no one right way. As a psychologist, I am the type of person that easily identifies what I’m feeling, and how those feelings impact my thoughts and actions. However, I understand all too well that many women feel they did not have time to identify their feelings while breaking the glass ceiling or juggling family life. However, as a mental health professional, I can assure you that you do have feelings in there, and they will inevitably come out in one way or another. For example, many women we interviewed while writing Your Next Chapter expressed that they resented having to take care of an aging or ill family member or spouse. Others expressed frustration with themselves for not taking a more active role in planning for their own retirement and leaving the financial decisions to their partners. Many women looked surprised and even ashamed when they said these things out loud to us. Yet these were two of the most common emotions women shared with us. You may be surprised that several of your friends have similar feelings. Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone. Once you identify what you are feeling and how it is impacting you, start talking about it! We don’t make too many guarantees to our readers, but I can guarantee that you will feel better once you address these feelings head on. 


  1. Develop a plan of action to meet your emotional needs.

Hopefully, you’ve now identified some of the things that you’re feeling about retired life. Next, try to determine what you can do to help meet those needs. I suggest that once you’ve identified four or five emotions you have about retirement; you should create a plan of action to address those feelings. Remember, this is just a starting point. For example, if you are one of the many women that feels burdened by caring for a family member, maybe you can designate one day a week that is dedicated to YOU! Make a concrete plan, including who can take over your caretaking responsibilities for that day. The goal is to create a way to spend some time doing something for you. Perhaps it will be spending time with your friends, exploring the outdoors, going to the gym, taking a class, or joining a book club. Once you put your feelings on paper, you are living in the solution, and you are on your way to becoming the author and creator of YOUR NEXT CHAPTER