Retirement Can Be the Most Stressful Time of Your Life

Seeking retirement as a haven from the stress of life? Think again.


As retirement expert, author and speaker Robert Laura brings to light, the Holmes & Rahe Stress scale indicates that twenty of the top 43 stress-producing life events can happen in retirement. In fact, number ten is retirement.

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Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe conducted a survey and examined over five thousand medical records as to how stress related to various illnesses. You will notice quite a few, especially in the top 11, that may await you in the retirement years.

Holmes – Rahe Life Stress Scale

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Separation from a mate
  4. Detention in jail or other institution
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Major personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Being Fired
  9. Reconciliation with a mate
  10. Retirement
  11. Major change in health or behavior of a family member
  12. Pregnancy
  13. Sexual Difficulties
  14. Gaining new family member (birth, adoption, older adult moving in, etc.)
  15. Major business readjustment
  16. Change in financial state
  17. Death of a close friend
  18. Changing to a new line of work
  19. Increase/decrease of arguments with a mate
  20. Taking on a mortgage or loan
  21. Foreclosure
  22. Major change in work responsibilities
  23. Child leaving home
  24. In-law troubles
  25. Outstanding personal achievement
  26. Mate beginning or ceasing work outside of the home
  27. Beginning or ending formal schooling
  28. Major change in living conditions (new home, remolding, decline of home or neighborhood)
  29. Revision of personal habits
  30. Troubles with the boss
  31. Major changes in working conditions or hours
  32. Changes in residence
  33. Changing to a new school
  34. Major change in types/amount of recreation
  35. Major change in church activity
  36. Major change in social activity
  37. Taking out a loan
  38. Major change in sleeping habits
  39. Major change in family get-togethers
  40. Major change in eating habits
  41. Vacation
  42. Major holidays
  43. Minor violations of the law 

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 The American Institute of Stress offers an inventory sheet so you can do a self-assessment. Try doing it based on your life right now. Then take a moment and imagine your future. What types of stresses do you think are likely during your retirement years? Then apply to the Stress Assessment and discover what the level of stress and therefore the related consequences of that stress might be to your health and overall wellbeing and happiness.

What realizations do these insights hold for you and what can you do about it in your life plan?

Missing: Perhaps the biggest stress of all

What’s missing from this list is perhaps the most significant stress of all: Lack of purpose.

I have heard from virtually every retirement, success, and life coaching expert as well as retirees that a lack of purpose, significance, and accomplishment is leading many modern retirees to say they are failing at retirement. In other words, failing at life.

This lack of purpose and significance can lead to depression, anxiety, a sense of failure and therefore failing health and overall decline. Alcohol and drug abuse, depression, divorce or even suicide are on the increase among retirees.

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This is not necessarily true for everyone. Many people thrive in traditional retirement.

With that said, these stress factors are realities that anyone approaching, considering or in retirement must be aware of.

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Take them into account and envision what you want your life in this phase of life to be. Be very honest and realistic. Then consider, plan and develop a way forward so that you thrive and enjoy some of the best years of your life.

How about you? What are the stress factors you are concerned about or experiencing in regards to this time of life?