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10 Common Retirement Challenges

Written by Nancy Stampahar

Retirement Life Coach Nancy

for Village Neighbors Magazine

May 2023

Sand traps on the golf course are challenging. Learn how to get out of the sand traps when playing golf in a retirement community.

Life is a journey. Retirement is a journey too. With older adults living longer than ever before, today’s retirement journey can last 10-30+ years. There are many twists and turns full of fun, joy, and sorrow. There are sand traps.

Learning how to navigate the retirement journey takes awareness and planning for the unexpected challenges. With a play on golf, the common retirement challenges are known as sand traps. Whether you do or do not play golf, you can imagine the dreadful feeling when your golf ball lands in a sand trap. You must walk into the messy sand to reach your ball. You may even get thrown off balance. You hope to rise above the mess and hit your ball onto the green near the pin. Getting stuck in a sand trap is not fun!

Here are the 10 common retirement challenges known as sand traps:

Identity Sand Trap

The identity retirement sand trap may be one of the most challenging traps to overcome. You are no longer asked, “What do you do?”. You are now asked, “Who are you?”. Retirees who were forced into retirement, can go through an increased levels of an identity crisis compared to those who voluntarily retired.

Structure-Routines Sand Trap

Pre-retirement life of working and raising a family provided familiar structure and routines. When retirees enter the full retirement stage, there is a huge and unexpected void. Structure and routines provide a blueprint for motivation and momentum.

Partner Alignment Sand Trap

Once the retirement honeymoon ends, couples may find they are not in alignment with how they will live their lives together over the next 10-30+ years. Their visions of retirement may not be compatible, or their roles may change. Couples may also discover they have grown apart.

Overwhelmed Sand Trap

As exciting and wonderful retirement can be, the transition can be overwhelming full of anxiety and stress, especially when there is an abundance of free time. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming. For those who are extremely busy with full-blown schedules, prioritizing values and interests can reduce feeling overwhelmed.

Solo Sand Trap

Many older adults are living solo, whether by choice or unexpected circumstances. Living solo can be an empowering way to live more authentically and free. However, COVID identified the detrimental effects of social isolation. According to the CDC, 14 million seniors age alone. As you age, are you prepared to live independently?

Plan B Sand Trap

What’s your plan B when plan A comes to an end? What will do when you can no longer enjoy interests and activities you once enjoyed? Who will take care of you if you can no longer take care of yourself? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Boredom Sand Trap

Even with an abundant amount of freedom and time, retirees can get bored. There are many reasons for an onset of boredom. For some, there may be health conditions affecting their ability to explore new interests. For most, an individual has not discovered an activity or hidden talent that sparks their interest.

Purpose Sand Trap

In a 2021 study by Edward Jones and Age Wave, 92% of retirees said having purpose is key to a successful retirement. Individuals with a connection to purpose have greater reasons to get up each morning. They are more engaged and productive; and their relationships are more fulfilling.

Housing Sand Trap

Housing effects an individual’s well-being. When people retire, an important question to answer is where will you live for the next 10-30+ years? If your health declines, will you have easy access to health care providers and services? Will you be able to keep up with maintenance and unexpected home repairs? Will your neighborhood provide you a sense of community?

Comfort Zone Sand Trap

As we age, our bodies become less strong, sharp, and flexible. We tend to seek the

safe and comfortable. To not give in to the aging process, it takes greater mental fitness. It takes discipline. The more we do what we know we are supposed to do, the more we can enjoy our retirement journey.

Everyone who starts their retirement journey dreams of all the fun and joy they will have along the way. The more you can learn about how to stay out of the retirement sand traps, the more fun and joy you can have on your retirement journey. This is your time. A time of freedom. A time to thrive. Enjoy the journey!

Village of Sanibel resident, Nancy Stampahar, is a life coach for seniors and an instructor for The Enrichment Academy. Nancy helps pre-retirees or retirees plan for smooth retirement transitions and get reoriented after experiencing retirement challenges. Visit: or e-mail

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