3 Sources of Retiree Stress -- and How to Deal With Them

Retirement is supposed to be a rewarding period of life, especially given the years of hard work and effort it takes to get there. But unfortunately, countless seniors find themselves overwhelming stressed once their careers come to a close. Here are just a few of the things today's retirees are stressed about -- and how to cope when they affect you.

1. Healthcare

It's no secret that as we get older, our health tends to decline. But while medical problems are stressful in their own right, it's the cost of addressing those issues that often produces more anxiety than the physical symptoms of not being well.

Consider this: The average healthy senior couple today is expected to spend a whopping $400,000 or more on healthcare costs in retirement. Reading between the lines, this means that a couple who enters retirement with preexisting health issues might fork over even more. Worse yet, that $400,000 figure doesn't even include the cost of long-term care, which can run the gamut from assisted living facilities to nursing homes.

If you're retired and are feeling squeezed by medical bills, you may want to consider a Medicare Advantage plan if you're not already one on. Many of these plans are not only affordable, but offer a wider range of coverage than traditional Medicare, leaving you with fewer services to cover completely out of pocket (think vision, hearing, and dental). If you're intent on sticking with traditional Medicare, then be sure to take advantage of the free preventive care services it offers, as they can help you get ahead of health issues before they worsen and become costlier to treat.

Finally, if you're still relatively young, you might consider buying long-term care insurance to defray the costs you might come to face down the line. It's estimated that 70% of seniors 65 and over end up needing some type of long-term care in their lifetime, and without insurance, the associated costs can be downright astronomical. Of course, if you're first applying for long-term care insurance in your 60s, you'll pay a higher premium than someone in his or her 50s with comparable health. But if you can manage those premiums, it'll pre-emptively alleviate some of the stress you might otherwise experience down the line.

2. Housing

Many homeowners expect their housing costs to go down in retirement. But given that 30% of seniors enter retirement with remaining mortgage debt, the opposite frequently ends up being true -- especially since property taxes tend to climb over time, and homes get more expensive to maintain as they age.

If you're stressed about how much you're spending on housing, whether in the form of a mortgage payment, property tax bill, or upkeep, you have some options. First, you might consider downsizing to a less expensive property. Now that the SALT (state and local tax) deduction is limited to $10,000 annually, the option to completely write off your property taxes may be off the table, especially if you happen to live in an expensive part of the country. If you're no longer getting that full tax benefit, it especially pays to consider buying a smaller home with lower property taxes.

Another option? Rent a home rather than own one so that your monthly costs are far more predictable. While it's true that you'll lose the equity you may have otherwise built by owning, you'll transfer the financial risks associated with property maintenance to somebody else.

3. Boredom

It's hard to go from working full-time to suddenly having unstructured days. If your lack of a set schedule is driving you crazy, or you're coming to find that you're just plain bored in general, you might consider starting your own business or working part-time. Both options will not only give you something to do with your days, but allow you to generate income, which can help lighten the aforementioned sources of stress.

If you'd rather not work and don't particularly need the money, another option is to volunteer. Look around, and you're apt to find worthy causes in need of assistance. If you can fill, say, one or two afternoons a week by offering your time at your local animal shelter, school, or place of worship, you'll be less likely to succumb to boredom and the mental health issues it can bring about.

Retirement should be a period of enjoyment, not stress. If healthcare costs, housing expenses, and boredom are getting you down, take steps to change your circumstances rather than resign yourself to defeat. It's a far better option than spending the bulk of your golden years anxious and unhappy.

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