5 ways to lower retirement stress levels

Wide eyed European male with beard experiencing stress

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I was surprised to discover that retirement was ranked as number 10 in the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory list of 43 life stressors. If you’re not aware of the inventory, it ranks life events and allocates points for the amount of stress they produce.

For instance, the death of a spouse is the number 1 stressor and is given 100 points. Divorce is number 2, with 73 points. Retirement, at number 10, is given 45 points.

Change brings stress. That’s a given. And although retirement will (or should) eventually lead to less stress, it is a change.

Here are five ways that could help you with your retirement stress.

1. Recognise that not all stress is bad stress

On the inventory, marriage is listed at number 7, with 50 points. Marriage is a positive event. There’s the build-up of a relationship; the proposal and acceptance; the ceremony and promises; the support (usually) of family and friends.

A positive change can cause stress because of the adjustment to a new situation. In a good marriage, there’s a settling into the roles as the relationship grows and matures.

So it is with retirement. The change will bring stress, but there will be a settling into the new role. The new reality.

2. Preparation helps with change

Using marriage as an example again, there’s often a lot of change in a relationship—particularly if the couple has not been living together before marriage. But there’s normally a lot of discussion about how this relationship is going to work.

Things like where they will live; where they will work; and what kind of life they want to build together are discussed and decided. That doesn’t mean there aren’t changes after marriage, but there are adaptations to the plan.

In retirement, there should also be a lot of discussion and planning. Much of the discussion will be similar to that of a couple preparing for marriage. Where will we live? What will we do? What kind of life do we want to build in our retirement?

3. Have a plan for the first three months

While you may have long-term plans, there’s an advantage in planning intentionally for the first three months. And it’s certainly better than sitting on the couch for several weeks wondering what you will do for the next 20 or 30 years.

The first three months could include travel. It could include renovations. It could include working on that hobby. It’s whatever you plan.

The advantage is that while you’re doing these things, you’re adjusting to the change retirement brings. Some of what you do may well be long-term and could start from the beginning of your retirement. That’s not important. What’s important is the deliberate beginning.

4. Couples need to support each other

If you’re part of a couple, you will be entering this new adventure together. This is a time when you can be there for each other. It’s a time when your relationship can grow as you set and achieve your retirement goals. Together.

Together. It’s a good word. It’s a great concept. It means you’re not alone. There’s someone to turn to if you’re finding things hard.

If you aren’t part of a couple, hopefully you have someone or can find someone you can talk to—confide in—who will support you during this process. It really does help.

5. Stay in contact with friends

The good thing about friends is that they’re already a part of your life. They know you—warts and all. And they still see something in you they consider worthwhile.

They’ll not only want to know how you’re going but will help you keep in touch with the past while you face your future. In fact, they could be a welcome touch of reality as you adjust to your future. A good friend has earned the right to tell you if they think you’re losing the plot as you transition into your new life. That’s helpful.

Yes, retiring can be stressful. But with the right approach, it can be positive stress.


Robert Laura piqued my interest in the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory and retirement in his recent Forbes post, ‘Why is retirement so stressful?

He also considered other stress points on the inventory that impact on retirement. It’s a worthwhile read.

He concludes with an important point: ‘What’s interesting is that if you look at the list of stressors, only a handful are financial whereas the majority of the list hits on mental, social, physical, and spiritual issues.  It’s a valuable insight into the direction retirement planning needs to go.’

Bruce Manners is the author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

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Category: Emotional Health, Planning

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