Joe Brown

Brown Advisory Group, LLC

A New Identity in Your Golden Years

Retirement marks a significant milestone, anticipated as a time of freedom and enjoyment. Yet, it can also usher in profound psychological and financial changes, particularly the challenge of identity loss. 

Brent Forester, holding the position of president at the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry and overseeing the geriatric psychiatry department at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, addresses the various mental health issues that may emerge during the period of Retirement. He notes, "Retirement often involves significant losses — of identity, purpose, structure and social contacts — that can trigger depression and other psychiatric illnesses. Getting depressed is not a normal part of aging. But one of the risk factors [for depression] is loss, and the loss of one's professional identity, the loss of one's job, is a big one."​

Understanding the Psychological Impact of Identity Loss in Retirement

The end of a career may trigger an identity crisis. Work, often a core part of our identity, provides purpose, routine, and social interactions. Without it, retirees might face:

  • A void in purpose and meaning: The absence of work-related goals and routines may leave retirees feeling directionless.
  • Decreased self-esteem: Losing a key role often leads to diminished self-worth, particularly for those who tied their identity closely to their profession.
  • Social disconnection: Retirement can sever work-based social ties, leading to feelings of isolation.
  • Mental health challenges: The stress of this identity shift can aggravate or trigger mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Financial Repercussions of Identity Loss in Retirement

This psychological shift can have tangible financial consequences. Retirees might curtail spending on activities that enrich their lives, like travel or hobbies, due to a lack of engagement or purpose. This change may adversely affect their lifestyle and financial health. Additionally, searching for a new identity might prompt impulsive financial decisions, such as risky investments or unnecessary spending, jeopardizing financial stability.

Strategies to Overcome Identity Loss and Its Impacts

There are effective ways to manage these challenges:

  • Pursue new interests: Retirement is an opportunity to explore hobbies and passions that work previously overshadowed. Engaging in fulfilling activities can help forge a new sense of identity.
  • Maintain and build social networks: Through volunteering or joining clubs, active community involvement can provide a sense of belonging and prevent isolation.
  • Seek financial advice: Professional financial planning can guide retirees in making informed decisions to secure their financial future.
  • Address mental health: Professional counseling can offer support and strategies to cope with psychological distress during this transition.

Retirement should be a rewarding chapter filled with relaxation and pursuing personal interests. By recognizing and tackling the challenges of identity loss, retirees can smoothly transition into this new phase, fully embracing the opportunities it offers.

If you're approaching or in your retirement years and facing challenges with identity loss, it's crucial to seek guidance. Contact a trusted financial advisor to help you navigate this transition smoothly and secure your financial future. Your Retirement should be a fulfilling and rewarding chapter; the right advice can make all the difference.


  • Retirement Changes: Retirement brings significant psychological and financial changes, including losing a sense of identity.
  • Expert Insight from Brent Forester: Forester, a geriatric psychiatry expert, explains that Retirement can cause depression due to losing one's work identity and social contacts.
  • Issues Faced in Retirement:
  • Loss of purpose and routine from not working.
  • Lower self-esteem for those who identified strongly with their job.
  • Loss of social connections from work, leading to isolation.
  • Increased risk of mental health problems like depression.
  • Financial Effects: These psychological changes can lead to less spending on life-enriching activities and risky financial choices, affecting retirees' lifestyles and savings.
  • Ways to Adapt:
  • Find new hobbies and interests.
  • Stay socially active in the community.
  • Get financial advice for better decision-making.
  • Seek counseling for mental health support.

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Joe Brown picture

Joe Brown

Brown Advisory Group, LLC

2445 Darwin Rd.

Suite 105

Madison, Wisconsin 53704

(608) 241-4425

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