We all want to thrive in life, and being healthy physically and emotionally is a huge first step. An important issue that often gets overshadowed by other wellness concerns is how we deal with the stresses in our lives.
The human brain is designed to keep us alive. An area called the amygdala constantly searches for potentially dangerous stimuli to avoid and problems to solve. But the brain isn’t great at sorting what we need to resolve from what we should let go. Instead, all that fear and worry gets lumped together into one “silent killer,” stress, that can take years off our lives.
Think about a pilot trying to guide his plane through an emergency. The only way a pilot can cope with such overwhelming stress without getting overwhelmed is to "focus through” on how to address the task at hand without having a meltdown. Staying calm will save lives.
Today, I’d like to talk about four big stress factors common to retirees. I think that going through this list will help prepare you for some common retirement challenges, and maybe also provide some reassurance. As you’ll see, if you’ve mapped out a good financial plan, you’ve already gone a long way towards reducing stress.
1. Will I run out of money?
This is one of the most frequent questions we get from our clients at Keen Wealth. It’s such a big point of stress because it’s such a loaded question:
Your health care costs will change once you transition to Medicare. Your income and the way you report it to the IRS are going to change once you stop collecting a paycheck. And any time there’s an election, people stress about how the political landscape will affect their pocketbooks.
All of these money issues, plus your personal vision of what you want from retirement, factor into that question, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. That’s why it’s so important to meet with a fiduciary financial advisor who can help you put a plan in place that will fund the retirement you want.
2. What do I do now?
When you’re working, the stress of your daily grind often gets released after hours, or on the weekend. Unwinding with co-workers, weekend golf and Sunday service – these things become part of our stress-relieving routines even if we’re not conscious of it.
But once you’re retired, finding ways to fill 40 hours every week can create a whole different kind of stress. We get used to our weekly work routines. And then, suddenly, that comfortable routine, and your work social circle, are gone.
When I look at people whom I consider successful retirees, one common trait they share is that they all found ways to stay active. Take my good buddy Dick Blaisdell, who made a whole new routine for himself by moving to a new community, pursuing his hobbies more, volunteering, and trying new things, like zipping around a NASCAR track. Following your passions in retirement is a great way to reduce stress, and stay engaged with your friends and family.
3. How will retirement affect my family?
Home life can become stressful for couples who are used to spending eight hours apart every day. Finding routines that keep both people active is a big help. It’s also important that you and your spouse are on the same page as far as what retirement is going to be like. If one person expects to spend every day tending the garden, and the other is expecting to travel a lot, that’s going to create conflict, and stress. Once your paycheck stops, supporting children and grandchildren could take a toll on your retirement security as well. Talk to your partner so both of you know what the other expects from retirement, and let your financial advisor in on those conversations so you can plan accordingly. If you’re in a care-giving situation, make sure your loved one’s specific health care needs are addressed in your health care and financial plan. Finally, make sure you’re clear with your beneficiaries about your legacy planning. The more detailed the plan, the easier settling your estate will be for your loved ones.
4. How do I handle all this information?
Research shows that the number one predictor of someone’s anxiety and fear is how much time they spend watching TV talk shows and news. But in 2017, that’s just the tip of the multimedia iceberg, especially for retirees looking for ways to pass the time.
In his book “One Spirit Medicine,” Dr. Alberto Villoldo writes, "From television and Internet alone, we’re exposed to more stimuli in a week than our Paleolithic ancestors were exposed to in a lifetime.” Our brains weren’t designed to keep up with the 24/7 stream of cable news, Facebook timelines, and constant Tweets.
In fact, not only does the brain have trouble sorting all this info, it has trouble deciding how to respond to it. Author Kelly McGonigal tells us that, “Stress caused by the news, as opposed to stress caused by your life, is unique in its ability to trigger a sense of hopelessness.” Since we can’t do anything to fix a flood, or a terrorist attack, the stress sticks with us, even if it’s “only” on TV. One study found that people who watched six-plus hours of Boston Marathon bombing news had more PTSD symptoms than people who were actually there that day.
Stress expert Dr. Heidi Hanna cautions that if you don’t unplug regularly -- especially for at least an hour before bed -- you might experience an information overload that leads to its own kind of stress.
The next time you meet with your financial advisor, ask about these retirement issues, and any other tax, health care, family, or legal concerns that may be causing you stress. Reviewing your financial plan with a fiduciary advisor might clear away some tension, improve how you feel, and get you focused on all the good things coming in your retirement.
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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