HAPPY RETIREMENT: Clinical psychologist Dr Bob Knight says we should think and talk about life after work much earlier than we do.
HAPPY RETIREMENT: Clinical psychologist Dr Bob Knight says we should think and talk about life after work much earlier than we do.

Five tips to make your retirement a happy one

RETIREMENT is different for everyone, but few of us put enough thought into what we hope to get from it.

That's according to clinical psychologist Dr Bob Knight, himself retired ... to a point. He officially retired from the University of Southern California, but is now Professor of Psychology and Counselling at USQ and runs a part-time practice focused on older adults at Houston House.

"I grew up in cities the size of Toowoomba and even smaller, so it felt a bit like coming home," Dr Knight said of his move from Los Angeles 18 months ago.

He said under the right conditions - when retirement is voluntary, you have good health and "enough money (not necessarily a lot)" - life satisfaction generally goes up after retirement.

Too often it is seen as "a later-life stressor" but that is not necessarily true unless you are forced into retirement by either your employer or poor health.

There can be a sense of loss and depression if you haven't got the work-life balance right and work has become your identity.

It can also take couples a while to adjust to retirement, of one or both. Suddenly they are thrown together far more than before, without the structure of a work day.

"The secret to success is to continue to have some things you do on your own as well as things you do together," Dr Knight said.

However, Dr Knight wishes that we did more as a society to prepare for retirement, which can last almost as long these days as our careers, which we spend years considering and working towards.

"The education system should be teaching people a lifetime perspective and introducing students to healthy, active over-60s as role models.

"They need to be thinking in lifetime terms, not just what jobs they want to have but life beyond that."

So, here are a few of Dr Knight's tips for a happy retirement.

  • Plan ahead - think about what you enjoy in life, what you would like to do if you weren't working, and make it part of your life even before you retire.
  • If you have a choice, perhaps think about phasing out work rather than just going cold-turkey. People who do volunteer work also report greater life satisfaction.
  • As a couple, talk about how you want to arrange your time together and apart post-retirement. It's not good for either person to be totally dependent on being together all the time.
  • Discuss what it will be like not having a work structure in life and what you want to do with that time.
  • If you are considering moving to be closer to the kids/grand-kids or to a favourite holiday spot, try before you buy. Often living somewhere full-time can be very different to visiting.

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