Many people think they will no longer have stress in retirement. Safely crossing the finish line into retired life is the end goal of years spent working and saving, and we deserve to leave our troubles behind and be happy. But preparing for retirement is no guarantee that your retirement will be exciting or relaxing. Throw in the recession, the challenge of managing our own investments and the potential for health problems and retirement could be downright stressful. Here's what might cause you stress in retirement:
Will you have enough money? We work diligently all our lives to save for retirement, but we'll never know if we have saved enough because we can't predict how long we will live. There's a scary gap between the $77,300 average Fidelity 401(k) balance and the nearly $1 million necessary to deliver $40,000 per year in retirement income. There's plenty of financial worries that could keep you up at night including the possibility of outliving your savings, your investments taking another 20 or 30 percent hit or being unable to afford the retirement lifestyle you want.
Will your health hold out? Good health in retirement is not always in the cards. Regular exercise, a good diet and avoiding bad habits and excesses all can have a positive impact on your health, but they don't guarantee that you will remain healthy long enough to enjoy your retirement years. We cannot always fight the effects of time and the genes we are born with.
Will you be bored with retirement life? As a retiree, I hope to wake up in the morning excited about the new day ahead. My planned activities include hobbies, exercise, travel, new restaurants and new discoveries. But not everyone enjoys unstructured free time in retirement, and it's up to you to fill your days. Don't wait until you retire to figure out what you will do to stay engaged and active. It is important to try new things now to find some passions and interests before you retire.
Will you lose your independence? As we age, we all face the potential loss of our independence. What could be worse than relying on others to help us through basic daily functions, let alone anything remotely challenging or interesting? Some retirees will need to leave the home they have happily lived in to head to a safe place where they will be told what to do for their own good. No one wants to be a burden on others, but sometimes we may not have a say in the matter.
Will you be lonely? Being with others is natural, healthy and fun. And the special relationship with our significant other is, for many people, a reason to go on living. But what if we do not have a special someone to accompany us into old age? Or worse yet, what if our dearest companion exits this world before we do? Going solo is a reality that many of us will face.
Retirement won't necessarily be the happy and carefree time that many of us are hoping it will be. In some cases, watching your life savings dwindle and coping with serious health issues can be more stressful than working ever was.
Dave Bernard is the author of I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.