Are you experiencing retirement anxiety as your retirement date nears?
Do you find yourself constantly thinking about what lies on the other side of retirement?
It is completely normal to have feelings of anxiety about your upcoming retirement.
Moving into retirement is a huge life transition.
Any stress you are feeling about this transition is perfectly normal and should not be surprising.
It is a way for your body to signal that you need to take some action.
The fact that you are experiencing this feeling shows that you care deeply about your post-retirement life.
What is Retirement Anxiety
Retirement anxiety is a feeling of fear, uncertainty, and dread about your upcoming retirement. It can involve mild, severe, or obsessive worry about your post-retirement life.
Your anxiety score could lie anywhere from normal to severe.
Just like any stress you have felt about college exams or a business deal, anxiety about your retirement is driven by concerns about what it will look like.
The good news is that most people who transition into retirement can cope on their own by taking simple measures.
Before we move onto tips to cope with retirement anxiety it is important to understand what causes it.
The causes of retirement anxiety come from four broad areas which act as stressors.
Depending on your unique situation and personality one of these areas may be a bigger cause of anxiety than others.
A major part of planning for retirement involves the financial goal of getting a retirement corpus in place.
This retirement corpus needs to be large enough to support your living expenses in retirement.
Figuring out the size of the perfect retirement corpus is one of the most challenging topics in personal finance.
There is no exact formula to get this figure right.
This in turn can become a source of retirement anxiety. The fear of getting the retirement corpus figure wrong can be unnerving.
One more year syndrome is a classic manifestation of this feeling.
By the time you come to retirement, you may have more yesterdays than tomorrows left in your life.
There may not be enough time left to make amends if you get your retirement corpus calculation wrong.
You may struggle to get back into the workforce to make amends.
Add to that worries about longevity risk. Outliving your retirement corpus is one of the biggest fears for all retirees.
This is more so for anyone planning an early retirement.
Similarly finding the right strategy to generate a stream of regular income from your retirement corpus can be tough.
The wealth distribution phase of retirement planning comes with its own set of challenges.
The psychological impact of eating into your retirement corpus can cause feelings of unease.
Unexpected health expenses that are not covered by health insurance can be another drain on your retirement corpus.
This is another big worry for potential retirees.
All these financial concerns can trigger retirement anxiety.
After working for 3-4 decades in a career, your job becomes your identity.
It is the first information you exchange when meeting anyone new. Your job title and you as an individual become inseparable.
Retirement is going to tear away this bond by taking away your job title. You will no longer be a VP of Operations, a Technical Director, or a Client Manager.
Who are you then if not your job title?
Having to confront this situation becomes a cause of retirement anxiety.
How will you define yourself when you no longer have a job title? What is the purpose of life when there is no longer an office to go to?
These questions can cause emotional upheaval as this is the first time you confront them.
And there are no straight forward answers since the right answers are personal to you.
Apart from giving you an identity, your workplace also provides you with social bonds.
You attend birthday parties of your colleagues or their kids. And then as the years go by you may even attend their weddings.
Your co-workers become your friends.
Sharing a common disdain for the latest human resource policy or Corporate HQ directives is great for social bonding.
You share the industry jargon and work jokes that only people in your workgroup can relate to.
You become part of a tribe and tribes are powerful for social resilience.
Once you retire, you leave these social bonds.
You will be retiring but your co-workers will continue at your work-place.
Slowly but surely, they will drift apart. With no common experiences to share, relationships will get harder to maintain.
This upcoming social isolation can lead to retirement anxiety.
It can be especially tough if you retire from a senior position.
The privileges associated with a leadership role can mean that the higher you go, the harder you may fall.
Your retired life will coincide with a decline in your physical and mental health capacities.
Things that were easy to handle become increasingly challenging as the years go by.
A niggle here, a pain there start to become common with the passing years.
Will I be able to manage myself? Or will I need a nurse to take care of me?
Will I be able to go to the toilet unassisted?
All these questions can lead to overthinking and cause retirement anxiety.
Going from a peak health condition to a visible decline becomes a source of stress.
Now that we understand the causes of retirement anxiety it is time to look at some simple tips to cope with it.
Simple Tips to Cope with Retirement Anxiety
The tips below cover the 4 broad areas outlined earlier that are the causes of retirement anxiety.
They may not eliminate your anxiety completely.
They will however ease your anxiety and help you manage your stressors.
Consult a Fee Only Financial Advisor
You can start off by using online retirement calculators to assess the resilience of your retirement corpus.
It can also help you to stop playing the game if you have already won. You can stress test your retirement corpus to give you additional comfort.
Thereafter get the services of a good fee-only financial adviser.
Someone who can gauge the suitability of your retirement corpus and serve as an independent source.
A professional adviser can also help you draw up a comprehensive plan for your health insurance requirements as well as generating regular income from your retirement corpus.
Retirement gives you the opportunity to spend more of your time doing the things you love.
Re-discover yourself by finding out what gives you meaning and purpose as an individual.
You can do this by joining groups that interest you, doing volunteer work, online research or talking to your loved ones and close friends.
We are much better at noticing others than we are at noticing ourselves.
People close to you can help you find out what makes you happy.
They can tell you what gets you into the “zone” and what comes naturally to you.
Think about what made you happy when you were in your teens. What used to pique your interest?
Revisit those ideas now.
That is what you were as a person before your job became your identity.
Once you know the broad area of interest, dig in deeper. Try out diverse ways to get involved in things that interest you.
One thing can lead to another. It can open a new chapter in your post-retirement life.
Expand Your Social Circle
You can get involved in activities in your local area.
At the same time, you can look for opportunities to contribute to a group or a cause that you believe in.
Doing any activity in a social group can spark new friendships without linking it to your job title.
Look for ways to do things for others.
Although the corporate world makes us selfish, there is more joy to be had in giving rather than taking.
You are not the first person who is at this stage. Find people who have already retired and are now living a post-retirement life.
Ask them what worked for them and what did not. Apply those learnings to your own situation.
There is a lot of help available for other life transitions. For some reason, we don’t give the same importance to retirement transition.
Therefore, the transition to a post-retirement life needs a more active effort from your side.
The more actively you take charge of this transition, the less anxious the experience will turn out to be.
The decline in your physical condition with age is normal but you don’t have to suffer the ageing process.
You can take charge of what is happening to your body and focus on preventing lifestyle diseases by being physically active.
You can focus on eating healthily. There will be no morning management meeting to rush to once you retire.
You can slow down and take time to consider what you are eating.
Aim for healthy ageing by getting involved in low-impact sports and physical activities.
There will be plenty of time for these physical pursuits with a job no longer tying you down.
Focus on getting at least 8 hours of sleep.
Once you are in retirement you do not need to wake up to an alarm clock.
You can let your body guide your wake-up time.
Get Professional Medical Help
Discussing your feelings about your upcoming retirement with a close friend can be helpful.
Expressing yourself can help you better visualize your fears and concerns.
Someone who knows you well could suggest specific things that can ease your anxiety around the retirement phase of your life.
If even after doing all the steps outlined above, you continue to experience a severe level of anxiety you should consider talking to a mental health professional.
Your anxiety could be driven by something much deeper than the generic causes of retirement anxiety outlined in this article.
Getting timely and proper medical intervention can be extremely helpful in ensuring your smooth transition into retirement.
The key to coping with retirement anxiety ultimately lies in knowing the secret of retirement happiness.
With good preparation, things are rarely going to be as bad in retirement as we make them in our imagination.
We suffer more in imagination than in reality.Seneca
Dushyant Choudhary is the founder of dushyantnomics, an early retirement blog for professionals. Dushyant retired early from his 9-5 corporate life after a successful international career. He brings his knowledge and experience to his current role where he’s dedicated to helping professionals achieve a fulfilling retirement.