top of page

Retirement Fears: More Than Money Matters

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

I recently saw a quote from someone who responded to a question about

whether or not to retire. This person ended his advice with the saying “life is

on the other side of fear.” This certainly resonated for me as I looked at the

results of a study I conducted with Canadian retirees in 2020.

Participants in the study were asked to share some of their fears related to

retirement and if these fears came true. A pie chart with the results is

below. Interestingly many participants (n = 82) stated that they did not have

any fears for retirement. For example, one person shared: I didn't have any

fears. I felt it was time for me to make a change, and that I could still

contribute to society in other ways without going to work every day.

(Woman, 69, fully retired). The rest of the comments (from 586 participants)

were related to fears in the following categories:

  • financial (44%)

  • time use (27%; e.g., lack of routine, boredom)

  • loss or lack of social contacts (14%)

  • leaving work (9%; e.g., loss of sense of purpose, lack of recognition, intellectual stimulation, or sense of involvement)

  • health and well-being (6%; e.g., fear of staying physically active, health limitations).

Importantly, most study participants reported that their fears either did not

come true or only partly came true (e.g., struggled financially for the first

year but then they adjusted and are now not struggling). The pie chart

representing these results is below too.

Here's some of what participants had to say:

Financial Fears: Not having enough money was scary. It has been pretty

good, I have pared down my spending but am still able to enjoy my

hobbies. (Woman, 63, fully retired)

I was afraid I would not be able to do all the things I wanted to be of

finances. Now, I have more money now than I ever have! (Woman, 61,

partly retired)

Time Use Fears: Feared boredom, but am still very busy at home getting

long overdue projects done. May eventually look for part-time contract

work. (Woman, 62, fully retired)

I was concerned that I would not be able to fill my days with the amount

that I was spending at work. This has been a non-issue. (Man, 59, fully


Fears About Leaving Work: Losing my sense of involvement and

intellectual stimulation. Now I'm able to volunteer and have a great sense of

intellectual curiosity, which has made me happy. (Woman, 56, partly retired)

I was afraid that I would feel a loss of 'role identity' as I no longer had my

position (college professor) as a major part of how I saw myself and how I

presented to the world. This hasn't been an issue. I do volunteer work and

work part-time and am definitely satisfied with what I do and who I am.

(Woman, 63, partly retired)

What Do These Results Mean for You?

Are you experiencing some fears about retiring? Hopefully these study

results show you that you are not alone! Retirement fears are normal. The

key is what you do with these fears. The following are three suggestions:

1. Proactively plan: Take some time to reflect on what you are most

worried about. Once you have done this, think about what you can do

now to face down these fears. For example, if you are worried about

losing social contacts, what can you do now to start building your

social network outside of work?

2. Seek advice from others: Other retirees are an important source of

information. I’ve seen excellent suggestions from members of

different retirement-related facebook groups. Similar sources of

advice are available from other retirement-oriented websites like

Everything Retirement or retirement organizations like CARP.

3. Attend a retirement program: I might be biased, but taking time to

attend a program or workshop focused on planning for life in

retirement will provide you both with current information, opportunities

to learn with and from like-minded people, and dedicated time to focus

on taking stock of your own self and life.

For more information about available retirement programs or coaching

resources, look under the Programs and Resources links on the Retired

You website. Also, under the Tools link on the Retired You website is

‘Barriers to Action,’ which is a planning tool that can help you start to think

about the barriers to living your best life in retirement, and strategies to

taking action to overcome these barriers.

bottom of page