Tackling Financial and Retirement Stress in an Age of Uncertainty

July 22, 2022

Market downturns, rising interest rates, high inflation, and pandemic crisis concerns are just a few of the things that can stress out investors preparing for retirement. Did you know you can rate those stressful life events on a scale? Take an important first step in identifying your stressors, and learn helpful ways to keep them at bay.

When economic issues like a market downturn, rising interest rates, and high inflation collide with lingering pandemic crisis concerns — including family health and job security — investors preparing for retirement can experience high-stress levels. Toward a remedy — which always starts with identifying the problem — did you know there is a rating scale for what might be stressing you out?    

The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, developed by renowned scientists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1967, is considered a leading data source in psychology for measuring the link between stress and illness1.  The test was developed by surveying 5,000 medical patients, who were asked if they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years2. The inventory lists the most stressful of those life events and scores them in order from most to least stressful.

One need only glance at the inventory to understand how today’s economy and lingering effects of the pandemic might intensify the existing stress in our lives, especially as we move through life and retirement transitions. 

As you can see from the scale, retirement brings about almost half of the most stressful events in life. Many of these often occur at the same time and the accumulated stress can put your health and happiness at risk. The good news is there are ways to identify, reduce or counterbalance this stress. To access an interactive version of the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory and learn some useful ways to help keep stress at bay, click here.

Taking inventory of the stress you may be facing as you prepare for retirement is an important step in retirement planning — and a great way to start a conversation with your financial professional. By planning with professional guidance, you may even reduce some of the financial stressors on your inventory.


The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory
The Social Readjustment Rating Scale
Instructions: Mark down the point value of each of these life events that has happened to you during the previous year. Total these associated points.
Life Event Mean Value Life Event (continued) Mean Value
1. Death of spouse 100 23. Son or daughter leaving home (marriage, attending college, joined military, etc.) 29
2. Divorce 73 24. In-law troubles 29
3. Marital separation from mate 65 25. Outstanding personal achievement 28
4. Detention in jail or other institution 63 26. Spouse beginning or ceasing working outside the home 26
5. Death of a close family member 63 27. Beginning or ceasing formal schooling 26
6. Major personal injury or illness 53 28. Major change in living condition (new home, remodeling, deterioration of neighborhood or home, etc.) 25
7. Marriage 50 29. Revision of personal habits (dress manners, associations, quitting smoking) 24
8. Being fired at work 47 30. Troubles with the boss 23
9. Marital reconciliation with mate 45 31. Major changes in working hours or conditions 20
10. Retirement from work 45 32. Changes in residence 20
11. Major change in the health or behavior of a family member 44 33. Changing to a new school 20
12. Pregnancy 40 34. Major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation 19
13. Sexual difficulties 39 35. Major change in church activity (i.e.a lot more or less than usual) 19
14. Gaining a new family member (i.e. birth, adoption, older adult moving back in, etc.) 39 36. Major change in social activities (clubs, movies, visiting, etc.) 18
15. Major business readjustment 39 37. Taking on a loan (car, tv, freezer, etc.) 17
16. Major change in financial state (i.e. a lot worse or better off than usual) 38 38. Major change in sleeping habits (a lot more or a lot less than usual) 16
17. Death of a close friend 37 39. Major change in number of family get-togethers 15
18. Changing to a different line of work 36 40. Major change in eating habits (a lot more or less food intake, or very different meal hours or surroundings) 15
19. Major change in the number of arguments with spouse (i.e. either a lot more or a lot less than usual regarding child-rearing, personal habits, etc.) 35 41. Vacation 13
20. Taking on a mortgage (for home, business, etc. ) 31 42. Major holidays 12
21. Foreclosure on mortgage or loan 30 43. Minor violations of the law (traffic tickets, jaywalking, disturbing the peace, etc.) 11
22. Major change in responsibilities at work (i.e. promotion, demotion, etc.) 29    
    Now, add up all the points you have to find your score:  

150 pts or less
means a relatively low amount of life change and a low susceptibility to stress-induced health breakdown.

150 to 300 pts implies about a 50% chance of a major health breakdown in the next 2 years.

300 points or more raises the odds to about 80%, according to the Holmes-Rahe statistical prediction model.

1. MindTools, The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, July 2022

2. Ibid.

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