Social media. Social networks. Social Security. “Social” seems to be everywhere, doesn’t it? For most of us, especially men, most of our social contact comes from work. Even if we don’t socialize with colleagues outside of work, we interact in staff meetings, communicate about projects, and talk about football or the Oscars with our co-workers. Most of this feels like the normal give and take of working life. It doesn’t feel organized or orchestrated. It just happens.
And yet, when we stop going to work every day, it doesn’t just happen. Without a plan, it won’t happen.
Loss of Social Connections at Work
Agewave is a company dedicated to understanding issues related to aging. Check out this quote from a report they issued in 2006: “Loss of social connections at work . . .is the most unforeseen challenge of retirement. While 13% of pre-retirees say that they think this will be the hardest thing to deal with in retirement, almost twice as many retirees say that this is the single biggest hardship in their retirement years. This may come as a surprise. Most of us are likely looking forward to putting the stresses and hectic pace of our careers behind us, without realizing the true value of the friendships and social networks we have developed through the years among our workplace colleagues.”
The investment data firm Morningstar asked retirees “What do you wish you’d known when you first retired?” Here are a couple of the responses posted in their forum:
I was not prepared . . . for the distance of becoming disenfranchised from my working circle of friends. After working steady all my life, I was unprepared for the newfound freedom of not having that daily job to govern me. REDDn2
When I first retired, we chose to live where I had been working for the last 14 years. During retirement, we realized we would be happier where some lifelong friends and family were living. I wished my wife and I had made that relocation decision much sooner after I retired. dtconroe
These respondents were surprised by their need for social interaction that came from work, and the impact of the loss of that “natural” social interaction. I know that some people don’t want to plan to have friends. That seems unnatural or forced. However, dtconroe completed his post with this sentence: “As I approach retirement, it strikes me that this [being connected to friends and family] may be at least as important as proper financial planning, and probably more important.”
Create Your Own Social Network
I want you to have an awesome life after you stop working full time. For virtually everyone I have ever met, accomplishments and success are interpreted through a social filter. If we have good relationships, a failure or stumble is not so bad because the people around us help to pick us up. If we experience professional or financial success but don’t have good connections with other people, the success can feel hollow and lack meaning. Please check out the blog and podcast called “How to make friends in retirement” for ideas on creating a great social network. I believe you can have a great life after work ends. Maintaining relationships is one of the key elements to making it happen.
Here is our podcast on Social Contact! Take a listen and let us know what you think!