The cost-of-living crisis is impacting not only our current finances, it’s stoking fears about the future, according to a new survey showing that more than half (54%) of over-40s already feel anxious about retiring.
The research, conducted by asset manager abrdn, found that as well as financial concerns about rising bills, inflation and not having enough cash in their pension pots, some people were worried about being labelled as ‘old’ or losing their identify when they stop working.
And it’s not just those close to the end of their careers who are struggling – 61% of 40 to 44-year-olds also say they feel anxious about it.
“Retirement anxiety is an emotion of concern or worry, experienced by people yet to retire, about the prospect of retirement,” explains psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. “This could be a concern about how they will fill their time, financial worries or perhaps feeling a loss of identity.”
Now, with the ONS revealing that inflation hit 10.1% in July and higher household bills forecast into 2023, increasing prices are likely to be a problem for the foreseeable future.
So what can you do now to reduce your worries? We asked experts for practical and emotional advice on dealing with retirement anxiety.
Start planning now
No matter how many years or decades you are from retiring, it’s never too soon to start planning.
“The key to conquering any stressor is to address the issue by first acknowledging it, and then seeking constructive support to deal with it and create a plan to work towards,” says Papadopoulos, who recommends thinking about your financial health in the same way you would your physical health.
“It’s interesting that when it comes to our finances, we don’t take many steps to help protect our future self,” she continues. “I’d encourage people to think about their new beginning. What do they want to learn, what might they have not focused on due to work that they could now focus on?”
Seek financial advice
“Navigating retirement is no easy feat, especially with the rising cost of living at play, many are worrying whether they will be able to afford the retirement they want,” says Colin Dyer, client director at abrdn, which is why it’s important to ask for help when you need it.
“Speaking to a financial adviser could help ease this worry and give you peace of mind when mapping out your future. Or, if you’re unable to connect with an adviser, there are many affordable digital tools and platforms that can help you make financial decisions with confidence.”
Focus on the positives
While our minds are hardwired to focus on the negatives (in order to protect us from danger), reframing your thinking can help to alleviate worries about retirement.
“Often people are afraid about getting old, feeling lonely and struggling to make ends meet, but there are so many positives to retirement too,” says BACP counsellor and psychotherapist Lindsay George.
“You will have more time to explore new hobbies, try new things and reconnect with old friends. Rather than seeing retirement as cutting off your possibilities, you could look at it as an opportunity for you to make more new opportunities in your life.”
Consider working in retirement
I spent almost 30 years in technology, then bought and ran a Restoration company.
Now I'm semi-retired, which means I work sometimes, go to the beach, play with the dog, do whatever I want etc. Leaning toward full retirement.
— HowieW (@ho_walla) August 16, 2022
“For many, gone are the days where retirement meant stepping back from the world of work altogether,” says Dyer. “Instead, there are an increasing number of retirees that intend to do some sort of work even once they’ve officially ‘retired’.”
In separate research, abrdn found that the majority of people retiring in 2022 don’t plan to give up entirely, a phenomenon it terms ‘flexi-retirement’.
“Whether it be setting up businesses, pursuing a ‘flexi-retirement’ and working part-time, or doing whatever it is that makes you happy, retirement really is what you make of it so don’t feel pressured into stopping work if that doesn’t feel right for you.”
Talk about your concerns
While some retirement planning can be done alone, there’s no need to suffer in silence.
Papadopoulos says: “People experiencing retirement anxiety may be thinking about it constantly, be unable to sleep, and generally feeling overwhelmed – it can impact their relationships and performance at work. To help with all of this, it’s really important to seek support from people you trust.”
George warns against bottling up your feelings, as this could make your anxiety worse, and suggests speaking to a mental health professional if you’re struggling.
“Anxiety centres itself around the feeling of a lack of control which can spiral into irrational thinking,” she says. “A mental health expert will offer a non-judgemental space for you to talk openly about how you feel. They can help you take control of your situation and create more manageable steps to address your worries.”