The period leading up to retirement can be one of the most stressful times of our lives but is now widely recognised as a time of greater risk of stress-related illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and depression.

Consumers’ Association Which? state the number of people in the UK who work beyond state pension age (currently 65 for men and 62 for women) is 1.4 million, up from 753,000 in 1993 and set to continue to rise steadily. Retirement is no longer stereotypically about hanging up your working gloves for good and living a sedentary lifestyle, particularly when your financial status is a cause for concern. I believe proper preparation before we retire is needed to reduce our risk of stress related-illnesses.

Not having enough savings in the pot is possibly one of the biggest fears people have about retirement. The government recently warned that astonishingly nearly 12 million people are failing to save enough for their retirement so it is unsurprising that so many are feeling the pressures of not having enough income to live off and are naturally concerned about what happens when the money dries up completely. Financial influences such as the rising cost of living, unpaid debts and false expectations all create unhealthy levels of anxiety and stress.

A certain amount of stress hormones such as cortisol is good for us because it keeps us on our toes, but when levels are high for a long period of time it can negatively affect our short-term memory and more. Research shows that stress is one of the factors to consider in healthy ageing and it is one that we have some control over. It is, therefore, logical that if we try to decrease our anxiety and stress levels we will see an improvement in our cognitive processing including short-term memory.

Except for the lucky few, retirement doesn’t have the same connotation of being a time when we can at last relax and focus on ourselves as in days gone by, because of the added pressures we face today. We worry more about our finances. We are constantly battling against a poor image of ageing these days. Because we don’t have a close-knit community anymore we also are deeply concerned about losing our work friendships and status.

More pre-retirement preparation is needed to ease us into what should be some of the best years of our life rather than a possible vortex of stress, anxiety and consequent health problems.

5 tips on how to prepare for retirement

1 Start saving

If you haven’t already started saving, it’s never too late to start! However much you decide to save per month it’s worth having a goal to work towards and to increase your instalments when you can pre-retirement.

2 Be a coach or mentor

By becoming a coach or mentor pre-retirement, you can put your experience and skills to good use and meet a variety of people from all walks of life along the way. It is a great way to wind up your working career with huge satisfaction.

3 Work out your budget

Once you have a rough idea as to what your retirement income is going to be, you can start working out how your spending is going to change according to your budget. If you choose to work beyond State Pension age, it is possible to defer your claim and not receive your State Pension alongside your earnings. This is a good way of safekeeping your funds for a time when you really need it.

4 Retire happy

Rather than worrying about loss of status and how you are going to fill the hours when you retire, write a long list of all the things you want to do when you retire – whether that is travel, read all of Thomas Hardy’s books because you always vowed you would, or take up fly-fishing! Whatever is on there, the list should be all about you.

5 Get healthy

It is really important to stay fit and healthy when you retire. Plan to exercise regularly. Join a pilates class or start a walking club or, yes, get those ancient golf clubs out that you never really used. This is your time so use it wisely to have a healthy body and mind.

Dr Lynda Shaw is a change specialist, regular professional speaker, chartered psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist and author. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and Fellow and ... (Read More)

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