Friendship holds a special and powerful place in our lives and is instrumental in shaping a healthy, fulfilling retirement plan.
How can intentional friendships enliven your retirement experience?
Relationships Shape Us
We all remember the moment we made our first “friend.”
It may have been your next-door neighbor, someone you met at summer camp, or a person you ran into at the local park that shared your love of swinging from the monkey bars. Our relationships have taken a leading role in shaping our personal stories throughout our lives.
Think about if you never went to that coffee shop and met your spouse or didn’t dare to say “hi” to the person sitting next to you in class that wound up being your best friend.
You might be thinking, “While I’m enjoying reminiscing about past friendships, what does this have to do with preparing for retirement”?
Good Company Wards Off Isolation
Isolation in retirement is so common, and it can take you by surprise! While relationships and friendships add so much light and color to our lives, they can be challenging to maintain.
When you move away, start a new job, have children, etc., it can be tough to keep in touch with those people since you no longer see them regularly. To make friendships last, there has to be conscious effort driving them.
Being lonely can harm your physical and mental health. As humans, we are social and require genuine human connection to survive! There’s an unfortunate trend of retirees being more likely to suffer from depression once they retire—this number can be as much as 40%. The truth is, it can be easy to become socially isolated during retirement.
Social isolation is the state of having a smaller number of social contacts, which may contribute to loneliness. Interestingly, the World Health Organization shares that social isolation and loneliness have a similar impact on mortality to smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
To combat these things, it’s critical to remain socially connected during retirement. Let’s explore ways to identify your friends, define what it means to be a good friend, and some strategies on how you can make new friends.
The Power of Friendship
Healthy friendships are critical for long-term happiness. The Mayo clinic even notes that long-term friendships can make you healthier! By having friendships, you benefit in the following ways:
- Increased sense of belonging and purpose
- Reduced stress
- Increased happiness
- Heightened self-confidence and worth
Cultivating fulfilling friendships becomes even more critical as you age, as researchers from MSU discovered. The most unique finding was that among older people, the only significant link between relationships and good health was people who said that they shared strong bonds with friends. Further, those that reported toxic relationships with their friends showed a higher rate of chronic illness.
Whether it is regarding the number of reps you do of an exercise, the number of cookies made for a bake sale, or how many friends you have, the importance stems from quality over quantity. However, before you can begin evaluating the quality of your relationships, we first have to identify who your friends are.
Who Are Your Friends?
A great tool to help visualize your existing group of friends is the friend’s list. Spend some time to think deeply and write down the names of the lovely people who make your life enjoyable.
Create as long or as short of a list as you like!
A few things to consider while making this list are:
- Who do you enjoy spending time with?
- Which people in your life are joyful?
- Which people in your life give you energy?
- Which people make you laugh or smile?
- Which people share mutual interests with you?
This list will help shape your community of friends as you head into retirement. As we mentioned earlier, maintaining friendships can be tough. Who out of your friends do you want to make an effort to stay connected with? Who do you see yourself continuing to be friends with long-term?
Now, if your list feels a little short to you, that’s okay! Retirement is an excellent opportunity to make new friends. In addition to having wonderful existing friends and making new friends, being conscious of your efforts to be a good friend in return is just as important.
Being (And Making) “Good” Friends
Que “You’ve got a friend in me” from Toy Story!
We are all likely familiar with “the golden rule,” “treat others how you want to be treated.” Use this rule in your relationships by being the friend that you’d want to have in your life. Do you need someone to pick you up when you’re down, attend an event with you, or have deep discussions over a cup of coffee? Try to be that person for others!
Remember, you learn things from each relationship that you’re in. Good or bad! Looking back on your previous friendships and what you’ve learned, what do you think makes a strong friendship? It could be:
- Mutual interests, etc.
Who would you say is your BEST friend? Think about that person. Why do you enjoy having them in your life? Maybe they make you laugh, share your love of mystery novels, challenge you on your opinions, or push you to take risks by trying something new.
Now, think back to “the golden rule.” Do you treat your best friend the same way in return? It might not be in the same ways, but are you their BEST friend too?
If you find yourself unsure, don’t feel bad! We all go through times when we might become complacent in our friendships. After all, you’ve likely made it through some challenging situations together!
Even if you think you follow “the golden rule,” think deeply about how you can be an even better friend. Knowing your friends, what means the most to them? Things like:
- Staying in touch, even if you live far apart.
- Reach out first – ask them to get a cup of coffee once in a while!
- Make an effort – show your friend that you care by making time to see them regularly. (Zoom is an excellent alternative to an in-person meet-up!)
Like the “Friend’s List” tool we utilized earlier, you can use this scale to evaluate your current relationships. The scale serves as a working model to give concrete evidence as to why some friendships might be blossoming or naturally more long-lasting than others, and its approach is two-fold.
First, it asks you to examine the category of the relationship. For example, some of your best friends might be family members, while some are people you met and spent time with in a professional work environment.
The scale isn’t trying to tell you that one category is more important than the other. Instead, visualize who you have in your circle and maybe some areas where you can grow!
After you have your categories set, the second step of this tool is rating the depth of the relationship on a five-point scale. This scale ranges from a simple acquaintance all the way to intimate relationships with your best friends.
For example, a friend you might have coffee with after church service might rank as a one or two on the scale, while your close cousin that you’ve grown up and had many meaningful life experiences with ranks a four or a five.
It’s also important to consider if the people you put on your friend’s list would include you in theirs. This ranking system invites you to be intentional about the role others play in your life and the role you play in theirs—friendship is a two-way street.
Now that you’ve finished your list. Where do you see gaps? Are most of your friends in your immediate family? Do you have a large group of former co-workers or professionals that you’ll no longer see regularly?
In addition to helping you evaluate your current friendships, this tool may have also shown you where you have opportunities to spread your wings and make new friends!
Don’t Be Afraid To Make New Friends.
Retirement is a transition, and in growth periods, you’ll likely meet and be exposed to new people. Think back to your first day of the new school year or a new job. Have a little extra courage to say “hi” and strike up a conversation. You truly never know where a conversation might lead!
If you’re moving to a new location as part of your retirement lifestyle, you’ll likely have to make some new friends.
Now, don’t let this scare you!
You’ve likely met friends in the past at places or activities that you enjoy. It could’ve been a local concert, book signing, fitness class, volunteering, or many other possibilities!
Intentionally set your sights on meeting new people by doing what you enjoy. Then, strike up a conversation with someone. Who knows, the person next to you could end up being a new lifelong friend.
The Best Ships Are Friendships
We’ve learned from extensive research that friendships are critical for a fulfilling retirement. Not only will it give you exciting and meaningful ways to spend your time, but it’ll also keep you healthier!
By taking the time to take inventory of your relationships, you’re setting yourself up for a successful retirement lifestyle. Having a sound financial plan for retirement opens the door to new opportunities. What you do with it and who you do it with is what makes retirement exciting and special.
Having a plan for your retirement lifestyle can ease the transition to retirement and the transition to an exciting new season of life. We’re excited and happy to help you along the way so you can have a fulfilling retirement. Set up a time to talk with us today.