One of the big reasons that your retirement won’t be like your parents’ or grandparents’ is that people are, on average, living longer. That means your retirement assets will have to last longer, but it also means that you’re going to have more time to fill. How will you make the most of that time?
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology established the AgeLab to study new trends in longevity and come up with ideas and technologies that can improve people’s lives as they age. The AgeLab has determined that having enough money to sustain your retirement is only one part of the equation – a common theme on Keen on Retirement as well! In a recent article, Director Joseph Coughlin, PhD, poses three important questions that retirees should ask themselves to prepare for a long and happy retirement.
1. Who will change my light bulbs?
Because today’s seniors are healthier, more active, and living longer, it’s no surprise that more and more folks are choosing to “retire in place” – that is, spend as long as they can living independently in their homes rather than moving in with family or relocating to a retirement community.
However, even if you and your spouse don’t have any major health concerns, the simple household tasks you’re used to doing now are going to become more and more challenging as you age. Changing light bulbs might not be a big deal to you at 65. But do you really want to be climbing a ladder at 75? 85?
What about mowing the lawn? Lugging a laundry bin up and down your basement steps? Hauling the trash to the end of the driveway every week?
Dr. Coughlin believes that identifying the costs, service providers, and willing friends and family necessary to maintain your home life can be as critical to independent living as the health of your retirement accounts. If these resources will become harder to rely on as you age, you might need to consider an alternative living arrangement.
2. How will I get an ice cream cone?
When we think about retirement, we often envision extended beach vacations, sight-seeing tours of Europe, and other big-ticket experiences we didn’t have the time or money for when we were working and raising families.
But you also have to plan for what your day-to-day life will be like when you’re not on a cruise ship. Dr. Coughlin says, “Quality of life is about being able to easily and routinely access those little experiences that bring a smile.”
For example, imagine you’re sitting on the porch one hot summer night and you decide you’d like to get an ice cream cone. Are you comfortable driving? Is your car in good shape? What happens when you can’t drive anymore? Is your home close enough to Main Street so that you can walk? Do you have easy access to public transportation or ride-sharing services?
Too often, seniors only make arrangements for things they NEED to do. Yes, that friend or family member you can count on for trips to the doctor and weekly grocery shopping is important. But the things you WANT to do also matter! Being able to get that ice cream cone, or go to a movie, or go down to the local senior center for bridge night, are the kinds of small luxuries that keep seniors active, engaged, and entertained in retirement.
3. Who will I have lunch with?
“Who you have lunch with may be a good indicator of your social network,” Dr. Coughlin says. “This is not the social network of ‘friends’ you have online, but friends you see on a regular basis—people who help reinforce a healthy and active lifestyle, and who you and your significant other can depend upon.”
Your cell phone and Facebook account just aren’t adequate substitutes for regular face-to-face interaction. Researchers have found that people who have quality social bonds with others have lower stress levels and higher feelings of happiness. It’s going to be hard to find that kind of regular contact if you move to a new community where you don’t know anyone, or if most of your old friends and family have moved away from your current home. After all, people are social creatures. The joy we feel when a friend calls us up to play a round of golf or when your grandkids pop in for a cup of coffee can’t be replicated with emails and Skype calls. The people who have been important to you are going to be even more important to you in retirement. And if you do decide to move outside your familiar comfort zone, forging new bonds with your new community will be key to getting you out of the house and enjoying your life.
I know that money probably tops your list of concerns as you’re getting ready to retire. But at Keen Wealth, we also know how to complement the financial piece of your retirement with advice on the essential questions Dr. Coughlin is asking. Come in and talk to us about a comprehensive plan for a longer and more fulfilling life in retirement.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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