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Aging & Retirement

Contributor Greg Davis

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, I am considered old at age sixty-four.

My research revealed that old age starts at sixty years and above in most developed countries. The article also explains that while nobody is immune to the natural aging process, adapting to aging is hard for us. 

While change is intimidating, I am a bit scared of aging as there are changes to our bodies and other unknowns (e.g., aches and pains) that we need to sort out. The decline in mental and physical health, the death of loved ones, and reduced mobility and socialization opportunities are stressful for many of us. 

Let’s delve into this topic and learn what we can do to improve our understanding of the related concepts of aging & retirement.

 

Changing our attitudes around aging and retirement.  

Per the above definition, I admit I am old

Thanks to medical science, people are living longer and are active for longer periods. In Barron’s article, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins shared, “Our ability to live longer, healthier, more productive lives is one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments. Most sixty-five-year-old folks today will live into their nineties.”

 

While that sounds like great news, the bigger question is, are we prepared for an extended life? The article ponders, “What can we do not only to help people afford their longer lives but to help them thrive as they age?” We need to rethink our attitudes around aging and retirement.  

 

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The first step is to create a new mindset around aging. While people are rethinking ways to approach their longer, healthier lives, they fear that they may outlive their money. An article from the advisory firm Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) states that healthcare costs, market volatility, and overspending are three of the biggest financial threats to retirement finances.

 

I recommend exercising and using long-term care insurance policies to combat the first threat of rising healthcare costs. We also need to develop a diversified portfolio for the second threat, particularly in volatile years like 2022. As much as we do not enjoy them, adhering to a budget is the best way to control our spending. 

 

I officially retired at the age of sixty-one in the summer of 2021 after a rewarding career of four decades. During the summer, we sold our Illinois condominium and moved back to the East Coast to be closer to family and friends.

 

In our monthly “money dates,” we discussed our retirement goals as we had planned for this retirement move over a decade ago, in 2012, when we bought a beautiful 950-square-foot condo in Center City, Philadelphia, which we rented for the next eight years. After years of rental use by tenants, we began a year-long construction renovation of the Philly condominium, which was even more challenging during a pandemic.  

 

The initial year of retirement is critical to your overall success and happiness during this phase of life. My first full year of retirement in 2022 was dedicated to fulfilling a “bucket list” item: writing a book.  It has fulfilled my purpose of “paying it forward” to my readers who can benefit from my life lessons and personal finance tips to increase their happiness.

 

My tips for a successful first year of retirement in three key areas:

 

  • Your financesAdjusting your mindset from building your nest egg to spending it can be challenging. To make your initiation to retiree life easier, create a plan for how you will pay yourself in retirement. Begin by tallying your income sources (e.g., Social Security, 401(k), IRA, pensions) before determining which ones you will tap into first. Next, estimate your cash needs for your first year. Planning this can help ease worries and reduce your risk of overspending. If you need reassurance that your income and cash flow plans are sufficient, meet with a financial advisor. Together, you can look at the impact of taxes, evaluate your portfolio diversification, and prepare for the legacy you would like to leave your family and others. 

 

 

  • Your purpose: To start, keep the promises you have made to yourself, your spouse, or others about what your retirement will include. For example, if you have promised distant relatives, you will reconnect and then organize a family reunion. Set a date to fulfill your dream vacation, find an instructor to teach you to play a new sport or start an exercise program. My wife and I completed a ten-day guided trip with Tauck tours to four Canadian cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec) in the fall of 2022, which was a wonderful and fun-filled trip. 

 

  • Your state of mind: It is normal to feel both excitement and trepidation during your first months as a new retiree. You are eager for more time to connect with friends and family and do the activities you love. Stepping away from your career can also reduce your stress level and free you from the burden of having competing priorities. However, saying goodbye to your workplace and a regular paycheck may trigger anxiety and sadness. 

 

For those experiencing mixed feelings, it is helpful to acknowledge them, both to yourself and a partner or trusted friend. Remind yourself why you chose to retire, and remember all you accomplished to reach this point. Then, it is time to turn your attention to the things you always wanted to do. This led to regular exercise, spending more time with family and friends, learning a new sport, and writing a book.

 

Isabel Allende’s TED Talk states, “Aging is about attitude and health.”  I genuinely appreciate spending more time with my wife of 33 years and discovering new offerings in a large city.  We love walking to city sites such as the excellent restaurant scene, sporting events, and concerts at the beautiful Kimmel Center, which is only one block from our condominium. We have also enjoyed the outdoors by bicycling and learning our new retirement sport of pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in the United States. We hope to stay young by walking more often and joining various groups such as city food tours and dinner clubs.

 

As far as attitude, after a year, retirement is going well for me as I accepted a board of director position on the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) Employee Support Fund (ESF). In her retirement from the hectic world of Pathology at age forty-eight, my wife assists with local social service agencies in Philadelphia (e.g., Broad Street Ministries). She is now fully involved with a special rowing club on the infamous Schuylkill River.  Per their website, Hope Afloat USA is a “rowing program developed specifically for breast cancer survivors helping each other reclaim healthy, joyful lives through the ancient sport of dragon boat racing.” 

 

This is critical to the cancer recovery process as this program encourages them to be active to boost energy levels that may have dropped during treatment through a healthy and exhilarating sport. I am excited to see her participate in this amazing program as it provides her the ability to connect with other women going through similar life experiences. As a bonus, the rowing and coordinated weight-lifting exercise program are excellent for maintaining her fitness levels.

 

In delving into the non-financial aspects of retirement, we learned getting old does not have to be a sad time in our lives. It can be an exhilarating time when we get to do the things we always dreamed of doing.  My wife and I have a cheerful outlook towards aging as retirement has provided us the chance to do things we have dreamed about, such as authoring a book, taking a ten-day trip through Canada, or enjoying a new hobby like rowing on a peaceful river on a dragon boat.

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For others, it may simply mean spending more time with family, volunteering, exercising, taking on civic duties, or just simply sitting at a coffee shop and enjoying a delightful book.  I highly suggest expanding our boundaries as we age and learning new activities. We will only enhance our retirement years and our overall happiness.

 

I played a lot of chess in high school when I had a fair amount of free time. Since I am now retired, I have decided to pick up this fascinating game again. I joined a local chess club earlier this year, and if I feel adventurous, I may even attend chess tournaments next year. Chess also improves your cognitive function, helping you become more mentally sharp. Keep in mind the key lesson of this article: Age is just a number, and new experiences lead to a full life of happiness.

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