Practice and Courage: Why Retirement Is like Learning to Dive

Do you remember when you learned how to dive? Do you remember how you felt when you saw others doing it and you wished, hoped for the day when you would have the courage and agility to take that plunge and know that you’d land gracefully in the water? Do you remember how ungraceful that first attempt was?

I have this vivid memory of learning to dive. We went to this pool every summer during childhood and there were older kids and adults who used to take turns practicing their dives. From my perspective, each of them was better than the last. They would walk slowly up to the edge, look down into the water, bounce once with two feet on the board, then with just one– shooting their knee straight up in the air, then one final time before they raised their arms high over their head, and traveled in a perfect arc, making the most peaceful splash as they landed– arms, then head then torso and lastly feet into the water. I so desperately wanted to be able to do as they did. My dad, was eager to teach when I asked him to show me the secret. But he explained that there was no secret at all. What was needed was precision, an understanding of gravity and physics and, most importantly, courage. He explained that courage was most important, not because it would improve your dive, but because it would empower you to keep going until you perfected it.


In our profession, we encounter many people who are transitioning from one stage of their lives to another. The transition to retirement can be challenging for a lot of people. They, perhaps, didn’t consider what their life would be like after ending their career and now, it isn’t as graceful of a landing than they thought it would be.

The reasons for struggling with the transition to retirement differs from person to person. Maybe it is the difficulty of discovering a new identity without work as your defining activity and social environment. Maybe it is the discomfort some people feel about having more time than they’re used to on their hands. Whatever the struggle, I believe that, just like a good dive, it takes practice, time and a little encouragement from outside sources to find comfort in your new journey.

A New Identity

In many cases, you have likely spent most of your adult life identifying yourself by what they do for work and as a parent and spouses. After all, for the last thirty or more years that is what has defined you. Now, entering retirement, your children have (hopefully!) flown the coop and you are departing from your daily routine as well as the intellectual and social fulfillment you get from your career. Not that work is sunshine and roses, and we all want a break now and again but, in most cases, your career is the most direct connection you have on a daily basis to who you are as an individual.

As with any big adjustment, there is some work you will need to do to cope with the change and then, hopefully, get to a point where you are actually enjoying your new normal. Discovering what your new identity is now can be challenging but, like learning to dive, you must start where you are in order to get to where you want to be.

  1. Consider things in your life, besides your career, that bring you a sense of fulfillment and stimulation.
  2. Take some time to explore something that you have always wanted to try.
  3. Do something that is slightly beyond your comfort zone for good measure.
  4. Take time after these types of exercises to reflect on the experience and take note of what made you feel good, what felt not so good, and what you were indifferent about.

Taking the time to think about your “new identity” and perhaps trying some things on for size can help you ease into your transition and help you get to know yourself a bit better. As with diving, it takes a little courage to make the first splash.

Hand in Hand

While having more time to spend with your spouse can bring wonderful experiences and reignite your love for one another, it can also come with its share of disruptions. In most cases, married people have spent, at the very minimum, 40 hours per week away from one another. Having more time together can awaken frustrations or pet peeves that you may have about one another that went unnoticed for many years.

In other cases, the strain can come from a difference in activity preference or the tendency to act the way you did at work at home, which is not always a transferable behavior profile. Add to this, your own personal emotions and thoughts about your new life and there is a decent recipe for some marital scuffles.

Communication and allowing for time apart from each other will benefit any couple through this transition and a healthy dose of patience and empathy for each other can go a long way too! It will be highly beneficial for those who are nearing retirement to communicate before the big day about time together, expectations, plans and how you are feeling in general. Most of our clients are happy together in their retirement and we worked with them and they worked together to develop a clear plan for how they spend their time together as well as how and when they will spend time apart.

Good Health, Good Life

“To ensure good health: Eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” – William Londen

The amount of physical, social and intellectual activity that you get post-retirement can have a direct impact on your health and well-being. According to a recent study, people who worked part-time or otherwise maintained an active lifestyle that included socially engaged situations like taking a group exercise class, volunteering or participating in a mentoring program, had a lower likelihood of gaining weight and developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. You don’t have to overdo it with activity, but don’t overdo it with sitting either.

It is not as though you should feel guilty about relaxing. This is your time to kick back a bit after decades of hard work and determination. It is all about finding that balance between enjoying the freedom to slow down and smell the roses without becoming sedentary in the process.

Here with You

Transitioning to retirement can be an exciting time that comes with a great deal to look forward to. But we understand that it can feel daunting too. As a firm, dedicated to enriching the lives of our client through careful planning and loyal support, we delight in having discussions about how people envision the next chapter of their lives. Getting a perspective from someone outside your day to day life can help you align your finances and goals with your thoughts and emotions. Remember, the first dive may not be graceful and there may be bumps along the way, but with a good plan, a lot of practice and a healthy dose of courage, you will find your arc sooner than later.

Contributing author Illuminated Advisors

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Neither the firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult with a qualified professional for guidance before making any purchasing decisions.

Investment advisory services offered only by duly registered individuals through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM). AEWM and Carolina Retirement Planners, LLC are not affiliated companies. 531260

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