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The Personal Stuff We’re Made Of: What Matters in the Retirement Transition?

The Personal Stuff We’re Made Of: What Matters in the Retirement Transition?


I am Dr. Sue Hutchinson, a leisure researcher at Dalhousie University interested in the science of retirement planning. As mentioned in my last post, unexpected obstacles to valued activities can sometimes lead us to reconsider our overall approach toward life in retirement. However, it’s important to understand other factors we have control over that can also shape retirement living.

Personal Retirement Resources

Despite the overwhelming focus we might place on finances and health as essential resources for retirement, researchers have found that people’s psychological resources (e.g., our mental attitudes and thoughts) can have a huge impact on successfully managing the transition to retirement. One example is our attitudes toward retirement. Researchers have found that people with more positive attitudes toward retirement are more likely to:

  • feel more prepared for retirement
  • engage in more planning for retirement (e.g., discussing/reading about retirement)
  • have fewer concerns and higher satisfaction, and
  • live longer in retirement.

Its useful to (re)evaluate our attitudes.

Another example of a psychological resource is our self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is simply our confidence to take action on things that matter to us. Our confidence that we can manage situations is associated with how we cope with life stresses. Some researchers suggest that our leisure attitudes and leisure self-efficacy could be primary resources for managing the transition to retirement.

Leisure Attitudes & Self-Efficacy

Our attitudes toward leisure come from our knowledge and awareness of leisure (e.g., its benefits for health and well-being), as well as the things we do. Leisure self-efficacy refers to our confidence to take action on leisure pursuits that are important to us.

Even though leisure does not guarantee positive outcomes, it not only contributes to health and well-being, but it also helps retirees manage both time and negative life events.

I reviewed a recent article by leisure researchers in the United States (see reference below) who conducted an online survey. Study participants (n = 423) were fully retired and ranged in age from 55 to 75 (average age of 65).

The researchers found people’s confidence to manage situations and attitudes toward leisure were both significant in determining their attitudes toward retirement.

These researchers suggested that leisure attitudes and leisure self-efficacy “could be vital resources for people to consider as they plan for retirement….how individuals view leisure and their beliefs about their ability to engage in leisure activities could significantly shape their global orientation toward life.” For example, having a positive leisure attitude could help retirees reduce uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, such as not feeling worthy or productive when leaving a valued work role.

Thinking about Your Own Retirement Lifestyle Planning:

Have you thought about your own attitudes toward leisure? Taking time to identify the physical, social, emotional, or mental benefits available to you from your enjoyable free-time activities might help you shift your attitudes toward leisure. Also, taking time to develop a new leisure skill can increase your leisure self-efficacy. If you want to discover your attitudes toward and self-efficacy for leisure there are two short self-assessment quizzes on the Retired You website.

Participate in a Research Study!

Also on the Retired You website is a short anonymous online research survey focused on lifestyle planning in retirement, approved by Dalhousie University’s Research Ethics Board. The survey is a chance to think about what planning you have done – or could be doing – for your own retirement life, and to contribute to the science of retirement planning. If you have comments or questions, or a story to share, please feel free to contact me: Susan.Hutchinson@dal.ca.


Lee, C., Payne, L. L., & Berdychevsky, L. (2020). The role of leisure attitudes and self-efficacy on attitudes toward retirement among retirees: A sense of coherence theory approach. Leisure Sciences, 42(2), 152-169.



About the author

Everything Retirement is passionate about creating stronger relationships with our members, clients and communities to improve their financial well-being and enrich people’s lives. We provide retirees and pre-retirees with the practical tools necessary to embark on a life of retirement with knowledge, insight and optimism.