by Sally Trase
I Experienced Retirement Anxiety. Here’s How You Can Conquer Yours
I always looked forward to retirement, but not in the best way. Everybody tells us to “save for retirement,” and frankly, it’s felt like a constant pressure. You need enough money by the time you end your work career to provide for yourself for the rest of your life. What if you don’t?
I battled thoughts like these in the years leading to my retirement, which took a toll on my mental health. Retirement anxiety can happen to any working individual. Here’s what retirement anxiety is all about and some of the things I did to eventually overcome it.
What is Retirement Anxiety?
Retirement anxiety is the worry of retirement by those yet to retire. Are you terrified by the idea of no longer working and not getting paid? Many of us are. It further feeds our fear of financial instability and old age. When I turned 60, I decided to retire earlier than originally planned for a variety of reasons. It was the best thing for me. But it was not without fear.
As soon as I made the decision to retire soon, I started having these fears. I worried about money and my future. I worried about illness in old age. How will I keep up with expenses as I grow older?
According to the Mind over money survey by Capital One and The Decision Lab, 77% of Americans are worried about finances. A good chunk of respondents feel insecure about having enough money for retirement. While these worries are normal, they can escalate to mental health issues like anxiety or depression. While emotionally challenging, there are a variety of ways to overcome retirement anxiety.
How to Overcome Retirement Anxiety
Speak With Your Loved Ones
Talk to people your trust about your concerns. It can be a relative, a friend, or anyone. I remember first airing my worries to a coworker during lunch break. When the thoughts persisted, I spoke about it to my loved ones. I even reached out to former coworkers who were already retired to understand what life is like as a retiree.
Acknowledging and accepting your retirement fears is the first step to overcoming them.
Seek Professional Help
Retirement anxiety looks different in different people. For some, it’s a lingering thought that lasts just a few days. For others, it causes concern that negatively affects their daily lives. If you fall into the latter, a seeking advice from a professional may help.
Worrying about retirement is one thing, but worrying about it constantly is a different story. Do you worry to the extent that it consumes your thoughts on a daily basis and you are scared of the future? This type of emotional distress can cause you to underperform in the job you haven’t yet left or to behave irresponsibly with your finances.
In the years leading up to my own retirement, there were times when such worries overwhelmed me to the extent I didn’t notice when I made mistakes at work. There were also days when I worried so much about the future I regularly worked overtime to make more money. I did not perform well with the additional work and it took a toll on my mental health. I signed up for counseling at the request of my superior who expressed concerns about my change in behavior.
Mental health professionals listen to your troubles and provide assistance to help alleviate your anxieties. Do not hesitate to contact one if you feel like you need intervention.
Seek Financial Advice
Money was my main worry with retirement. Would I have enough savings to retire comfortably? What if everything gets more expensive? These thoughts went round and round in my head constantly. I realized there is a lot I didn’t know about finances.
With this realization, I sought ways to learn more about what I could do to make the most out of my finances. I looked for information online and spoke with a financial advisor. I learned about what I could do to make the most out of my retirement money. Then I decided to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan and got a government flex card for seniors to help cover my medical costs. A Medicare flex card is a preloaded debit card beneficiaries can use on eligible expenses like over-the-counter medications and dental, vision, and hearing benefits.
Working with a financial adviser and/or a trusted and knowledgeable colleague or relative can provide you with insight about your financial situation. They can also give you advice about what else you can do to stretch your money to go further.
What feeds our fears are uncertainty and the things we don’t know. Gaining a clear understanding of our financial situation can help alleviate those fears.
Plan Future Activities
Once you figured out the state of your finances, it’s a good idea to plan what your day to day will look like in retirement. Anxiety about leaving a career isn’t just about money. Your daily routine will look different from what you did when working full-time. The transition to retirement can be a challenging.
I never thought in a concrete way about what how I would spend my time once I retired. The image I had in my head was me staying at home idly, perhaps with occasional visits from my family. When younger, I thought of retirement as a relief, but as the time got closer, I became more and more anxious about it.
A friend told me that no longer having a career didn’t mean I couldn’t fill my time with meaningful and enjoyable activities. This was an eye-opening conversation. Thought it sounds like common sense, I hadn’t thought of this phase of life as a time to do all the things I didn’t have time for when working. He advised me to plan out how I wanted to fill my days moving forward.
So, I created a bucket list, keeping in mind factors like finances and health. My list was full of fulfilling endeavors that I became excited about. The two items at the top of my list were to start a small home-based business and to travel. How do you think you want to fill your time in retirement? Make a list – you may be surprised at how many interests you have once you put them down on paper.
The Bottom Line: Retirement Isn’t As Scary As You Might Think
Retirement is essentially a transition from one stage of life to another. It’s not unexpected that many feel anxious about it. So, how to overcome retirement anxiety? I overcame my fears with support from my family, a mental professional and a financial advisor. Then I sat down and came up with a plan as to how my life would look in retirement. I recommend you think about these suggestions and find what works for you.
Cover Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from pexel.com