4 Reasons You Should Stop Panicking About Retirement


Retirement is one of the biggest adjustments any of us may ever experience. We spend a lifetime building a career until, one day, it’s no longer part of our lives. Even if we’re not shaken by the loss of identity or the new gaps in our schedules, we must adapt to a new financial reality.

If you find yourself looking toward retirement with more anxiety than excitement, this article is for you.

1. Anxiety is a sneaky snake

Some of us experience a little anxiety when we think about retirement finances, and who can blame us? Think about the last time you saw an article about retirement. Was it good news? Probably not. Hair-on-fire stories tend to draw more interest. If we’re not hearing or reading about how many Americans have too little put away for retirement, we’re watching experts fixate on the “safe” amount of money to withdraw from retirement accounts.

Even if you’re cool as a cucumber and rarely get worked up about anything — including personal finances — it would be natural for all the negative talk about retirement readiness to get under your skin. There are some situations in which feeling a little anxious may actually be good. For example, if you have an unusual mole and anxiety leads you to make an appointment with your doctor, that’s a good thing. If you cancel plans because the idea of driving on an ice-covered highway leads to anxiety, that’s a smart move.

However, feeling anxious because other people (who don’t know you or your situation) say you should be anxious can be downright harmful.

2. Panic leads to poor decision-making

You can’t panic without experiencing anxiety, and anxiety is the enemy of rational decision-making. A 2016 research study published in The Journal of Neuroscience discovered the following:

  • Decision-making occurs in the prefrontal cortex — the front of your brain. When you’re anxious, activity in this area of the brain decreases. Anxiety slows down and disengages the area of your brain needed to make good decisions.
  • This slowing down of the prefrontal cortex may cause indecisiveness, or it could have the opposite effect. It may cause you to make quick, rash decisions in an attempt to avoid the feeling of anxiety.
  • Anxiety can also lead you to make the “safe” choice, which may not always be the right choice for you. For example, you may be tempted to use a friend or family member’s recommendation for your stock broker rather than look for an option with user-friendly features and a strong track record that is a better fit for you.

Putting a stop to panic is easier said than done. Just know that when you’re feeling anxious, you may be in no condition to make decisions that will impact your future.

3. Anxiety can lead to health issues

The impact of anxiety on the human body can cause both minor and major health issues, including:

  • Sense of doom
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Breathing problems
  • Pounding heart
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Decreased libido

If you’re concerned about retirement, anxiety is the enemy. After all, you want to spend those years feeling good. As long as you’re as healthy as possible, there are ways to figure out any financial problems you might be experiencing.

4. One size does not fit all

All the doom reporting about how ill-prepared Americans are for retirement doesn’t take into account that we’ll all have different needs when the time comes to retire. For example, while one person may dream of traveling the world, another may dream of spending long days fishing with a friend. While one will need $1 million to be comfortable, another can get by on guaranteed income and an individual retirement account (IRA).

According to Annuity.org, asking yourself these questions will give you a better idea of how much money you’ll want available in retirement:

  • Do I want my retirement lifestyle to be like my current lifestyle?
  • Am I interested in moving to a lower-cost-of-living area?
  • Do I expect to face costly medical issues?
  • Am I hoping to travel more extensively?
  • Do I want to spend more money on my family?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be closer to knowing how much money is “just right” for your situation.

One last tip

Eventually, we’ll all be in (or floating somewhere around) the retirement boat. Rather than stressing about it now, we can take control of our futures by hiring a fiduciary financial advisor. A fiduciary is someone who is held to the highest standard of conduct and is legally obligated to act on your financial behalf rather than their own.

Fiduciary financial advisors are not just for folks who expect to retire rich or people who’ve already spent decades saving and investing. They’re for everyday people, too — people whose real lives might have left them with a wee bit less put away than they would like.

One of the best things about working with an advisor is this: You can put your anxiety to bed with the reassurance that you’re doing everything possible to prepare for the future.

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