For most of our clients at Keen Wealth, the end result of hard work and diligent financial planning is a happy retirement. A big reason for that is how our process helps clients to plan for not just financial security, but for their daily lives in retirement: the things they want to do, the hobbies and interests they want to pursue, the people they want to share this new stage of their lives with.
But no amount of planning can prepare you 100% for what you’re going to feel emotionally when you wake up that first morning as a new retiree. I’ve seen folks with substantial nest eggs who were excited about their travel plans and weekly volunteering schedule before they retired suddenly sink into depression once they do retire. Losing your familiar work routine, your close connections with work friends, and your professional responsibilities can be a bigger shock than you’d planned for.
Here are some warning signs of retirement depression that folks should address as early as possible, as well as some tips on how to maintain a positive mental attitude and enjoy the fulfilling retirement you deserve.
1. Changes to your sleeping and eating patterns.
Even mild depression can mess with your body’s natural chemistry. Some depressed folks feel groggy all the time and nap their days away. Others feel like they can’t “turn off” their brains at night and worry themselves into an anxious and sleepless state.
Depression can also cause changes in your appetite. You might not feel hungry at all. Or, without your old lunch hour at work regimenting your eating, you might spend too much time grazing in the kitchen, returning again and again for a quick hit of satisfaction when you do notice yourself feeling down.
New routines for how you start and end your day can help you find a new, healthy daily rhythm. Try taking a long walk in the morning. Some folks like to start their days with meditation, yoga, or prayer. Vegging out on the couch should be avoided, but there’s nothing wrong with a “power nap” if it helps you recharge for the rest of your day. And at night, try unplugging from TV and the internet for an hour before bed to give your brain a rest and let your body know it’s time to power down.
If you are going to be spending more time around the house, try to reduce or eliminate any snacks that might be a little too tempting and a little too unhealthy. Some retirees avoid higher-quality grocery stores or farmers markets because they’re worried about spending extra money on groceries. But if you budget properly, a little extra investment in your diet and health will be worth it.
2. Physical aches and pains.
The mental toll that depression takes on folks can manifest itself in small ways, like headaches or minor back and joint pain. But if these emotional and physical symptoms persist, doctors have found that depression and physical pain can create a perpetuating cycle of low self-esteem and discomfort that makes it difficult to determine which started first.
When you transition to Medicare, you’re eligible for a free “Welcome to Medicare” visit that establishes a baseline for your health. Take advantage of this! The best medical care is preventative, and the sooner you get to the root cause of any persistent aches and pains, the better your chances are of recovering.
Medicare also provides retirees with a free depression screening. Talking about your feelings is never easy, but an outside professional perspective on how you’re handling the transition to retirement could help get you back on track.
Does it seem like your car keys are running off and hiding a bit more than they used to? Are you having trouble remembering important dates? Names? Faces?
Many retirees get very defensive about these kinds of issues and try to ignore them. They worry forgetfulness could be a symptom of serious mental or physical decline. And in some cases, it is – which is why using Medicare’s preventative health care screenings is so important.
But mental fog can also be your body responding to depression and a lack of stimulation. Get your blood pumping with regular exercise or sports. Keep your mind sharp with volunteer work or a part-time job. Take an afternoon coffee break to read your local paper and work through the crossword puzzle.
4. Feeling emotionally numb.
Sometimes depression can feel like it’s just sucking the life right out of you. Things that used to bring you joy lose their magic. Events that normally would rouse your empathy and generosity don’t register. Rather than feeling excited to get out of bed and have a purposeful day, you find yourself sleeping in, eating too much, and wondering what your purpose is now that you’re retired.
Life-centered planning expert Mitch Anthony, a previous guest on my podcast, says that, “Retirement is a mental-health consideration,” not just a financial consideration. All the money you’ve earned, saved, and invested is not going to buy you a happy retirement by itself. So, if you’re struggling with the emotional and mental aspects of retirement, talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling – hopefully before your depression becomes so all-encompassing that you might need professional help.
And if you think tying this piece of your retirement back in with your financial situation could be helpful, my Keen Wealth team is always happy to help facilitate important conversations that take place where your life and your money intersect.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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