Getting A Handle On Pre-Retirement Anxiety

Getting A Handle On Pre-Retirement Anxiety

“I’m 60 and plan to retire in 7 years. Feel like I have a good handle on it all, should have about 1.2 million in 401K by then, and my home mortgage is close to paid off. But, for some reason, I’m still fearful about it all.”

This sentiment, recently expressed by a Reddit user approaching retirement, is all too common. Retirement is a significant milestone in an individual’s life, but it can also bring about anxiety and stress. Even individuals with substantial savings relative to their income goals can experience pre-retirement anxiety. There is an under-appreciated psychological shift that occurs as individuals move from the accumulation phase of life to the distribution phase. We’ll dive into some useful ways to combat pre-retirement anxiety below.

Understanding Pre-Retirement Anxiety

The accumulation phase of life is characterized by saving and investing for the future. The distribution phase, on the other hand, involves managing and spending those accumulated savings. The shift from accumulation to distribution is challenging, particularly given the unpredictability of the economy, inflation, and unknown expenses in retirement. These fears can be overwhelming, but fortunately, they can be managed with proactive planning.

The Positive Side of the Ledger

If you’re getting ready to retire and have built up substantial savings relative to your income goals, it’s important to acknowledge what is going right with regard to your financial plan. If your 401(k) is of a substantial enough size that you feel comfortable setting a retirement date, that should provide you with a sense of financial stability.

Strategies to Combat Pre-Retirement Stress

Financial Planning

If you haven’t engaged a financial planner to take a deeper look at your retirement plan, I would encourage you to do so. A financial planner can provide valuable peace of mind by helping you understand what your retirement income will look like and offering insight into the appropriateness of your asset allocation, estate planning, and much more. If it turns out you’re not where you need to be, you likely still have time to make important adjustments to your plan using catch-up contributions for pre-retirees aged 50+.

Lifestyle Planning

Imagine what your post-retirement life will look like. Put pen to paper and determine what your expenses might be. This exercise can help you anticipate your expected expenses and better gauge your financial needs in retirement. Consider the activities or hobbies that you plan to pursue, and think about how much funding they might require. By comparing your projected expenses to your expected income in retirement, you can get a better sense of how well-prepared you are for life after work.

Reviewing Asset Allocation

If you watch or read the news on a regular basis, it’s easy to find economic news that will stress you out, particularly if you’re unsure as to how the sustainability of your retirement income might be affected by what’s going on in the broader economy. 

Reviewing your asset allocation prior to retirement and understanding the way it might react to prolonged inflation or recessionary conditions is an important antidote to worrying about economic news. With a portfolio tailored towards your specific financial goals, you can feel more confident in navigating the distribution phase of life.

Evaluating Work Stress in the Final Stretch

Even in comfortable job situations stressors can emerge. You may find the career capital you’ve accumulated gives you the ability to better shape what your role looks like. Considering phased retirement or consulting roles can help alleviate work stress in the final stretch.


Planning, putting pen to paper, and getting a firm idea of what retirement will look like are crucial in combatting anxiety leading up to retirement. Staying proactive, consulting professionals, and keeping an open dialogue about fears and concerns are essential. Fulfillment in retirement comes from being well-prepared.

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