I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but retirement doesn’t always turn out the way people think. Primarily because this stage of life can intersect with an avalanche of activity that causes a massive amount of stress, worry and anxiety. As a result, people can often suffer in silence as they try to figure out what’s going on.
Therefore, I want to share some scientific evidence to help you make better sense of it. This research is a major reason why traditional retirement planning needs to be revamped to include more non -financial training and knowledge.
The foundation for this work comes from what is referred to as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Back in the late 1960's psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe studied how stress can contribute to illness. They surveyed over 5,000 medical patients and asked them if they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.
Each of these events is referred to as a Life Change Unit (LCU) and is given a different "weight" in the scale, meaning some events are more stressful than others. The larger the number of LCUs for an individual, the more likely the patient was to become ill.
As a result of their work, this scale identified 43 of the most stressful life events. While I don’t want to list all 43 items here, you can view an online copy of them here. Below, I want to draw attention to several that are commonly associated with those in or near retirement.
#1) Death of a spouse (harsh reality that you may live alone for some portion of retirement)
#2) Divorce (grey divorce rates continue to climb)
#5) Death of a close family member (as we age we tend to lose more family and friends)
#6) Personal Injury or illness (Think cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or other diagnosis)
#8) Fired at work (in terms of retirement, forced into retirement)
#10) Retirement (Yes, the 10th most stressful event in life is retirement all by itself… without these other factors)
#11) Change in health of a family member (Aging parent with Alzheimer or spouse with cancer)
#13) Sex difficulties (as we age, things change
#16) Change in financial state (No more paycheck and on a fixed income causes lots of retirement arguments)
#17) Death of a close friend (impacts social network)
#18) Change to a different line of work (Retirees with part-time jobs aren’t always happy with the gig)
#19) Change in number of arguments with spouse (they tend to go up with more time together in retirement)
#20) A large mortgage or loan (Not having your home paid off can add stress in retirement)
#23) Son or daughter leaving home (Hardest part of raising kids is when they leave)
#26) Spouse begins or stops work (Changes the routine, roles, and expectations)
#28) Change in living conditions (more time together, aging parent moving in, adult kids coming back home)
#29) Revision of personal habits (personal activity will change and if married can disrupt partners routine)
#32) Change in residence (downsizing or re-locating)
#36) Change in social activities (while people think they will do more, they often do less with friends)
#40) Change in eating habits (in the refrigerator more and other stresses can cause snacking)
As you can see, retirement can bring about almost half of the most stressful events in life, often with many of them taking place at the same time. Think of someone who is forced into retirement who gets a part-time job and decides to downsize to save money and be closer to their aging parent. Or the wife whose husband retires at the same time she is diagnosed with breast cancer, while her youngest heads off to college, and her mother recently passed. In some cases, these would be the lucky ones based on other situations I have come across.
Can you imagine a TV commercial for retirement including this list? No happy couple walking on the beach, applauding at their grand kids graduation, or writing their first novel. Just sad people, suffering in silence, unsure as to why retirement didn’t turn out the way they thought it would.
On the surface this entire article can appear like a giant buzz kill and make you consider working forever instead of retiring. But that’s not the point. This information is important to raise more awareness about retirement planning and what people need to be prepared for.
It’s not just about the money and needs to include some form of vaccination to these factors. Similar to the way we vaccinate our children, we have to start vaccinating those near and in retirement by introducing small amounts of negative things into the mind and body so that it can build up its defenses and fight them off.
In other words, we have to stop paining this perfect picture of retirement and start sharing what can happen if people don’t have a plan for the non-financial aspects. We have to teach people that there is always a positive message in the mess that they are going through, and that a successful retirement isn’t one without problems, but rather one in which they learn to overcome them.
Any one of those stress factors mentioned above can serve as an anchor around someone’s retirement… and for good reason. Many of these things are difficult to deal with. But it’s also why we should be teaching people about resilience and positive psychology instead of just asset allocation and stock market returns.
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. A valuable insight into the direction retirement planning needs to go.
1) Share your feedback.
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3) Develop A Plan For The Non-Financial Aspects Of Retirement
4) Consider Making An Impact As A Certified Retirement Coach
Did you know there is a growing group of people who have been trained to help people plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement? Too often, new retirees learn things the hard way and waste some of the best years trying to figure it out, which is why we created the Certified Professional Retirement Coach designation. It’s a certification that positions you as a retirement expert, equipped with skills, tools, and resources to help people make a better transition. Click here to learn more, and take the first module free with this link.
About the Author:
As the Retirement Activist, Robert Laura created the Retirement Coaches Association and RetirementProject.org. He is the leading voice for the retirement coaching industry and has pioneered many tools and resources to help people prepare for the non-financial aspects of retirement including the Certified Professional Retirement Coach CRPC training and designation.
He is the author of several books and guides including Naked Retirement and Retirement Rx. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist for Forbes.com and Financial Advisor Magazine. Robert is a sought-after corporate trainer, speaker, consultant, and financial expert witness. He can be reached here