Retirees face a different kind of identity theft

By Features Consumer Reports

For most of your life, your job has been a primary factor. You may even define yourself by that job. Or others you know may define you by that job. More often than not, a casual conversation will navigate to that most common of questions: What do you do? 

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Maybe you remember the character in the NBC comedy program"The Office" who always introduced himself as “Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration,” as if his occupation was an appendage to his name.  Not everyone is that tightly connected to a job, but our recent retirement survey of Consumer Reports subscribers found strong bonds forged over a lifetime of working.

No one should be jolted, then, when those bonds unravel on retirement. Have you ever received an e-mail from a retired colleague or boss who seems a bit unmoored without access to his or her old office? In our survey, we asked readers to look through a list of 12 possible feelings they could have once retired. The three most common they selected among those people who plan to retire within the next five years, all reflected favorably on their jobs. So a major takeaway from our survey is that you’ll miss your job more than think.

Consumer Reports Retirement Planning Guide offers tips, strategies, and expert information to help you live a satisfying life in retirement.

What can you do about that?  Well, first prepare yourself. Here are four sentiments expressed by our survey sample that may well apply to you.

• I will miss being involved in the profession, business, or field I love. Nearly half of respondents—48 percent—agreed.

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• I will miss the challenges of the job that made life interesting. Forty-seven percent felt this way.

• I will be sad to leave behind some close friends at work. Forty-three percent concurred.

• I will miss the opportunities my job has given me to expand my knowledge. More than a third of those surveyed agreed with this sentiment.

To the extent that you identify with these responses, you can deal with them preemptively. Staying abreast of developments in your area of expertise may give you a sense of satisfaction even if you are no longer an active participant. Don’t expect to walk away from those aspects of the job that excited you—whether it’s following new developments in the refrigeration business or novel discoveries in cosmic theory. 

That may mean holding onto subscriptions to trade or professional publications, investing in software that allows you to monitor developments in your field, or continuing to take part in professional groups or trade associations that allow you to maintain awareness of cutting-edge trends. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of those idyllic small town settings where morning coffee at the diner serves as the information crossroads, keep attending.

Finally, retirement from your job doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with friends from the workplace. To that end, even the least gregarious among us can claim friendships that have endured long after leaving a shared work environment. In fact, our survey found that the happiest retirees have been those who have established friendships that endure outside the workplace.

—David Gopoian

David Gopoian is a research program director in the Consumer Reports National Research Center. He designs Consumer Reports' national retirement survey.

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