Change Stress & Early Retirement

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Will early retirement be a stressful life event?

Sure enough, the website VisualMD.com has a list of stressful life events shows retirement in the top ten causes of negative life stress (see above).  It’s not on the top of the list, but it is interesting to see it rated at about the same score as losing your job (getting married is the only other positive on the list).  

Where’s the joy in one’s new found freedom??

Dr. John Sarno, in his book The Mindbody Prescription, writes “Retirement is generally viewed as dangerous to your health, whether you are a man or a woman.  The loss of status, the change of pattern and lifestyle, almost invariably produce disturbing internal reactions that may cause emotional or physical symptoms”.

I think the best one can do as you plan for your own transition to early retirement is to be prepared and communicate with your family about your plans & expectations.  You can see from all of the postings on this blog, I have been quite diligent in our planning and communicating a lot with my DW & DS about how we are restructuring our lifestyle.  I’ve also begun to share my plans with some of our friends & neighbors, as I find the more people I talk to people about it, the more comfortable I am with the plan.

(I have still only shared my early retirement plans with a very few people at work so far – and I haven’t shared this blog with any of them.  That can definitely wait until we get closer to the date.  Here’s my blog post on planning out communication at work.)

I have also found that talking with people that have retired early and understand the change we are preparing for is very helpful. It’s certainly a very unique inflection point in one’s life, and I find that each person has their own take on it.  To a person, everyone has been quite happy that they made the choice to leave the workforce early, but they also say it took a full year to adjust to the change.  One person said that leaving work is like leaving a bad relationship – even though work isn’t great, it is an emotional shock to leave what you are familiar with and what has given your life structure.

In early retirement, my plan will be to stay connected to friends, family, and activities that keep me relatively connected to others through board work and recreational activities.  I also look forward to traveling more with my wife and enjoying time together that we rarely seem to have now.  I don’t think anyone can plan exactly how things will come out in early retirement, but like all of this, its a plan.  My goal is to get ahead of the stress and hope that I can offset some of the surprises. If anything, I might be a bit over-planned in my approach and may have over-stacked what I will really end up doing with my new-found leisure.

How else might you prepare for the stress of early retirement?

Image Credit: VisualMD.com

6 thoughts on “Change Stress & Early Retirement

    • Yes, good point! I think there are different kinds of stress – hopefully in most cases marriage & retirement are the good kind / exciting!

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  1. I’ve often thought that retirement is thought of as “stressful” because most people don’t retire until they’re old, and have never found another way to define themselves outside of work. Retiring early (before 50, in your case) or super early (before 40) is an entirely different animal. People who aim to retire early usually, it seems, have a strong desire to define themselves in ways that having nothing to do with their career, and so are eager to take on the next challenge. Of course, there will be some inevitable adjustment from leaving a long-term career, as with any life change, but it’s different for us early retirees than it is for someone who’s 65 and feels this huge void. I feel certain this will be an immensely positive thing for you, not a big stressor! 🙂

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    • Agree – early retirees are probably the best positioned for the change. Additionally, some people are “forced” into retirement earlier than expected – due to health or layoff. The involuntary nature of it probably also drives up the stress level.

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  2. Pingback: FIRE Station Fun – Turning Back The Gray | Mr.FireStation

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