How to Deal with the Five Top Retirement Worries

Everyone worries.

Sometimes retired people worry more than working people because they have more time for worry.

Everyone worries - photo courtesy of Gamma Man
Everyone worries – photo courtesy of Gamma Man

Research shows that retired people have worries that fall into five broad categories of concern — health, money, living arrangements, relationships, and maintaining a sense of purpose.

Short-lived periods of worry happen naturally and everyone worries — not just retired people.  Studies show that worrying may have positive effects if  the worrying results in people finding solutions to nagging problems, or taking action when faced with negative situations or exercising pre-cautions in dangerous circumstances.

Some retirement worries are real

It’s understandable for retired people worry about real-life issues confronting them.

Health worries that relate to chronic or life-threatening illness become more probable with each passing year. There are also worries about loss of energy or loss of capacity to maintain an independent lifestyle.  For example, losing the capacity to drive a car is often linked with true worries about independence and self-esteem. Declining health — one’s own health or the health of a loved one — is an inevitability of growing older.  Health concerns are understandable.

Next to health, anxieties about money rank high among the top retirement worries.  In the current environment of economic uncertainty and low growth on investments, many seniors worry that they have insufficient money for retirement.  If already retired, they fear that they will out-live their money. Worry about finances is real — especially for seniors who cannot rely on a good company pension plan. The media feeds financial worries with daily stories warning of people who are unable to retire comfortably as they have saved too little.

There are also concerns about where/how to live. Many people consider down-sizing as the family home may be too big or too costly to maintain.  Others consider re-locating — perhaps to a place with a more comfortable climate, to a different type of housing, or to live closer to grand children — but worry about leaving familiar circumstances.

With retirement and aging, relationships change.  Couples need to re-define how they spend time with each other as well as how they spend time alone when both are retired and sharing domestic space.  Families may make demands.  Adult children may expect help with baby-sitting/child care from a retired grandparent.  Elderly parents may need help with the routines of daily living and expect that their retired ‘adult’ child will assist.

The amount of free time that is suddenly available poses a difficulty for some retirees. Participation in the workforce brought a sense of purpose that can be difficult to replace.  When the job or career is over, some people feel they have lost themselves; they have difficulty connecting with interests, hobbies, dreams or passions.  Time passes slowly; life feels aimless and boredom prevails.

Constructive Ways to Deal with Worries

Prolonged periods of worry combined with negative self-talk can lead to unnecessary anxiety and/or depression.

Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating a healthy diet and having positive human contact are  common sense strategies for living well and minimizing worry.

no retirement worries
no retirement worries – photo courtesy of Son of Groucho

It’s also important to recognize that some worries have merit but some worries are groundless.   Try to keep a level-headed viewpoint about thoughts and worries.  A reality check with a family member or a trusted friend can offer objectivity and a fresh perspective about a persistent but groundless worry .

Recognizing that some things can’t be controlled helps to curtail unnecessary worry.  Aim to control what you can control and leave the rest to the gods.

With respect to worries about health, a good strategy is to understand your present state of health. As much as possible, seek to keep the health you now enjoy through sensible attention to diet and exercise. Rest when tired. Follow medical advice.  Use medications properly.  Aim for quality of life and hope that you will avoid the biggies — cancer, heart disease, dementia, etc.

Most retirement planning focuses on financial aspects of retirement.   Financial worries can be mitigated by working with a trusted financial advisor who will help to make a plan for using money during retirement including a budget that reflects spending needs and available resources.  The plan needs to be reviewed at least semi-annually and adjusted as the economic environment and/or personal needs change.  If your retirement income is insufficient, changes to life style, part time work, or down-sizing/re-locating to a cheaper living arrangement may be necessary.  Be realistic about income, expenses and lifestyle.

Worries about lifestyle and where to live are often related to other issues.  With failing health, options to get necessary support for daily living may be required.  Tight finances may require moving to a smaller or less expensive location. Making objective choices and taking action based on facts may require advice and help from a trusted friend or a family member — someone who can help you to make objective choices and to take action on facts rather than anxieties or external pressure.

Relationship changes are inevitable.  All relationships evolve with time.  Be ready to change some of your habits and be ready to accommodate some annoying habits from your partner/spouse. Managing conflict in a couple/family relationship is always challenging but it does begin with you.  Learn how to manage your own reactions.  Set reasonable boundaries with family relationships so that you can enjoy your postworksavvy lifestyle.

Staying involved with life and staying passionate about living helps to maintain a sense of purpose once career days end. Recognizing that a previous job title no longer defines who we are can be a ticket to freedom.  There is opportunity to create a new self-definition. Remembering what you enjoyed about your past helps you to re-connect with interests, goals, dreams and passions.   Don’t worry about making extensive plans — just take a few steps every day and keep moving forward. By living courageously, by helping others, by defining what you want from this stage of life you begin to take steps toward  the future you want in retirement.

Who knows what possibilities await?


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One Reply to “How to Deal with the Five Top Retirement Worries”

  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes–“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” Montaigne (also attributed to Mark Twain)

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