Retirement’s a major milestone that affects our finances, our social interactions and our daily routine. And as we get older, we start to become more aware of our physical health. All of these things can impact our mental health, which can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. However, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself for retirement, and potentially limit any negative impact on your mental health.
How to mentally prepare for retirement
Preparing for retirement effectively can start years before you reach retirement age (which to receive the State Pension is currently 66 rising to 67 from 2028, and to claim your workplace or personal pension is currently 55 rising to 57 from 2028). So give yourself plenty of time to consider the following steps, and try not to leave things until the last minute.
1. Acknowledge that things will change
You might feel a sense of loneliness in retirement, since you won’t be seeing your colleagues or customers every day. You might experience moments of boredom, as you’ll have fewer things that need doing and no one to hold you to account other than yourself. And you could feel a sense of worthlessness if you took pride in your work.
These are all perfectly normal feelings that anyone in retirement may experience, and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.
2. Plan ahead to calm the mind
Prepare your finances so you’re adequately prepared for a change in income. Think about how it might impact your lifestyle. You can use our pension calculator to help you visualise how long your pension could last by inputting how much you’ve got in your existing pots, how much you’re contributing and your age. Consider your pension options, including whether you might prefer to take out a lump sum, drawdown a regular income, or buy an annuity. Think about your personal goals, and what you might like to do in retirement. That could be spending your time decorating the house, learning a new skill, volunteering, or spending more time with the grandchildren. And consider joining social communities so that you can speak with people who may be at a similar life stage to you.
Planning ahead can be an effective way of reducing stress and anxiety in retirement.
3. Ease yourself into retirement
Rather than suddenly moving from working full time to not working at all, you could consider gradually reducing your hours over time. For example, you could ask to work a four-day week during the last two years before retiring. If the drop in income impacts your finances, you could consider supplementing your income with your pension (which you can access currently from age 55, rising to 57 from 2028).
Easing yourself in can help alleviate the potential shock and disorientation that may accompany a sudden retirement.
4. Combine your pensions
If you’ve collected multiple pensions during your working life, you may want to consider combining them into one new plan. Not only will it be easier to manage your money, but you could also save a significant amount in excess fees. With everything in one place, you’ll have a better understanding of your finances and may find it easier to make important financial decisions.
PensionBee’s a leading online pension provider, specialising in combining old pensions into one. Learn more about combining your pensions with PensionBee.
You can read more about all these steps in our article, Preparing For Retirement Emotionally.
Health in retirement
There’s no escaping the fact that mental and physical health tends to deteriorate at a faster rate as we grow older. Depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women over 65. And 36% of people aged 65-74 have a limiting long-standing illness, according to Age UK. So it’s important to look after your own mental health in retirement, as well as the health of your finances.
Loneliness in retirement is one of the most common challenges, particularly for those who live alone. Without a job, there’s no necessity to leave the house each day or talk to colleagues or customers. And if your physical health begins to deteriorate, you may find yourself less able or willing to leave your home as often as you once did. If steps aren’t taken to remain social, this may lead to feeling isolated.
For support with loneliness, consider reading this guide from the NHS.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health challenges faced by people of all ages. It can become particularly noticeable during times of stress, such as retirement. Anxiety can manifest itself as mental symptoms (such as being unable to relax) as well as physical symptoms (including headaches and chest pains).
For support with anxiety in retirement, consider reading this guide from the NHS.
Depression is another potential cause for concern during retirement. It can stem from a wide range of things, including feeling a lack of purpose or experiencing a loss of income. As we’ve seen, it’s estimated to affect 25% of people over 65. For many people, retirement depression can be managed by making lifestyle changes and seeking counsel from friends or family. However, in some cases, depression can be a particularly debilitating experience that requires professional help.
For support with depression, consider reading this guide from the NHS.
Dementia (a cause of memory loss) can affect people at any age, but is more common in older people. 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. So while it’s unlikely to affect you from retirement age (currently 55, rising to 57 from 2028), it may become an increased risk later in retirement.
For support with dementia, consider reading this guide from the NHS.
Mental health and money worries
Managing money at any stage of life can bring challenges, especially when it comes to our mental health. Preparing for, or entering retirement might well intensify any stress or worry that you have when it comes to your finances. Mental health and money worries are intrinsically linked, so it’s vitally important to know how to manage the two.
In episode nine of The Pension Confident Podcast, we discuss the impact that money worries can have on our mental health. Listen, watch and read the transcript and hear from CCO at FSCS; Lila Pleban, Founder of Psychreg; Dennis Relojo-Howell and COO at PensionBee and Mental Health First Aider; Tess Nicholson as they share how we can spot the signs of early stage mental health problems and how you can protect yourself.
How to improve mental health
Being aware of your mental health in retirement is important. Thankfully, as mental health awareness increases, many more resources are available online for free. Below are some common suggestions as well as links to reputable mental health resources.
- Stay in touch with family and friends
- Join communities of interest
- Reduce commitments if you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise
- Be accepting and kind to yourself
- Ask for help if you need support.
Mental health resources
- Mental Health Foundation
- Mental Health UK
- Rethink Mental Illness
- The Money and Pensions Service (MAPS)
- Money Saving Expert
- Citizens Advice Service
- Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
- National Debtline ‘Breathing Space’
- Budget planner (Money Helper)
- Turn2us charity
As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.
Last edited: 12-04-2023