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More than 50 years ago, two researchers created a list of the top 43 life stressors.

Retirement came in at #10.

While not as high as the death of a spouse, divorce or incarceration, retirement ranked well above other significant stressors in the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

That’s not too surprising given the usual timing of those other stressors. During retirement, many people downsize or move to a facility that can support their aging needs. Moving to a new residence ranks #32 in the stressor list. Retirees are also more likely to lose a longtime partner and close friends–the top two stressors on the list. Add in the need to adjust to financial changes, such as no longer receiving a steady paycheck or learning to live on a fixed income, and you have a perfect formula for stress and anxiety.

The fact that retirement tends to causes so much stress underscores the need to prepare fully for the transition. It means not falling for the misleading ads for retirement that show older couples blissfully strolling along sandy beaches or happily socializing with a large group of peers at luxury retirement communities. Because while such experiences are certainly within reach, they remain a reach for most, especially if they have avoided serious advance planning that includes:

  1. Preparing for the inevitable consequences of aging. Some people are blessed to experience only minor physical and mental deterioration during the retirement years. But counting on that happening is a fool’s bet. More likely, as people get older, their bodies weaken and break. Making sure your retirement plan has a safety net for medical expenses is critical to prevent a stressful experience from spiraling.
  2. Preparing financially for a long retirement. Lifespans have increased, while medical expenses have risen. A financially sound plan will account for extra years to assure you security for your entire life, not just for the first decade of retirement.
  3. Accepting reality. Depression is common among older people. But it’s not inevitable. Preparing for later life by accepting the fact that social and professional relationships will change, and physical and mental declines will happen, can help build resilience and coping skills.

The scale was identified to help demonstrate a link between stress and illness. Preparing for retirement requires a realistic and multi-prong approach. With older people already more vulnerable to illness, focusing on limiting stress from the transition itself can do wonders to prolong and preserve quality of life.

At Silverman Financial, we strive to create retirement roadmaps that are personal and comprehensive. We guide our clients towards secure financial futures that account for all their needs and wishes.