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A healthy and fun retirement!

A healthy and fun retirement!

| May 02, 2024

In my years in the 401k industry, I've had a chance to talk with many employees as they get ready to retire. Yes, there is a bit of trepidation but for many, they are looking forward to going from the structured time of work to free time. Perhaps the trepidation centers on what to do with all the free time. The JP Morgan 2024 Guide to Retirement presentation has an excellent slide on this idea but I am going to riff on their material instead of reciting it verbatim.

Going back to my days as a "7 Habits of Highly Effective People coach", "Begin with the end in mind" was a key concept. Before you retire, you should have an idea what you might do and of course, have a good grasp on the financial aspect. It is equally important to know what you are retiring to and not just what you are retiring from.

Knowing what you are retiring to can give you A reason to get up each day. Two quotes came to mind as I reflected on this and both are from James Bond! In the book, Thunderball, James reflects to himself, "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make bored". As a 76-year-old co-worker put it, "I'd go out of my mind if all I could do was stay home and watch TV". And in the same vein from the Bond film, "Die Another Day", "One of the virtues of never sleeping...I have to live my dreams. Besides, plenty of time to sleep when you're dead." Bottom line: It is important to have a compelling vision of retirement and what you will do each day.

Being useful to others in retirement is also helpful. A study in the Journal of Gerontology showed that giving informal assistance to others bolstered feelings of personal control in later life. And those feelings are directly correlated to lower instances of depression. In short, just because someone is retired doesn't mean they want to stop being helpful or of use! This is one reason people continue to work in retirement even if it is not in their chosen profession anymore. Join me in my dog-walking business, anyone?

The JP Morgan presentation next mentioned socialization as an important component of a healthy retirement. This in turn reminded me of a CNN article from a few years back on healthy retirement among seniors in Italy. Parts of Italy are in a "Blue Zone" where there is an extraordinarily long-living population. Their longevity is tied to outdoor physical activity and strong social connections. These connections are important in warding off social isolation.

The impact of social isolation on high blood pressure is greater than the impact of diabetes in old age. And social isolation's role in mortality is on par with that of smoking according to Professor Berkman at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her studies show that "social people have better health behaviors...tend to eat better, smoke less, and slightly more physically active". Point being, surround yourself with good people as part of a healthy retirement.

And speaking of health, it is important to take care of yourself. This is self-evident at least in theory. Think of it this way, you have worked for a long time and saved what you could. Wouldn't you like to enjoy your healthy retirement?

I was thinking of a photo to use for this article and was looking for one of an elderly couple leaping into the water off a dock. The only one that seemed to come up was a naked couple doing just that...as shown from behind. That type of photo is not appropriate here but the idea sounds healthy and fun! Here's to you and your retirement!