A 2014 study of retirees done by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave led to the following conclusion: “Retirees say health is the #1 ingredient for a happy retirement.” Financial security, family and purpose were all important, but health was tops. And this makes perfect sense, as good health leads to living longer, having more energy and being able to do more with your free time.
Another (related) conclusion of the study was that health care expenses were the number one concern, regardless of income bracket. As Congress debates more changes to our health care system, that angst isn’t going away. So, what can you do to make your retirement healthy, wealthy and wise?
Six Tips for a Happy, Healthy Retirement
It starts with good health. It sounds so simple, but it’s true. Healthy habits are critical to staying healthy and getting the most enjoyment out of your retirement years. Cut back on salt, fat and sugar and eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other beneficial ingredients. Working exercise into your daily routine is also critical to reducing the risk of dementia. Avoid smoking, red meat and excessive drinking.
Keep stress to a minimum. Chronic stress can damage your immune system and leave your body more susceptible to disease. Ditching the morning alarm clock has got to be a great stress reducer but try other ways to simplify your life and reduce complexity. We often recommend simplifying your finances, but just having a plan can also help to reduce your stress level. Experts also recommend taking up new hobbies and getting good at them, like fishing or gardening.
Stay socially active. Every study I’ve read about retirement health centers on having strong networks of friends and family: social interactions are critical to better mental and physical health. That doesn’t mean becoming the talk of the town; even regular meals with close companions can stimulate better brain health. Activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia, according to research presented by the Alzheimer’s Association. This can include volunteering with a charity, joining clubs or taking classes.
Exercise your brain. Keeping your mind active and engaged is just as important as keeping your body running smoothly. Activities like dancing, board games, crossword puzzles and reading are great mental exercises that keep the synapses active. Other creative activities like knitting, painting, gardening and travel may also help to reduce the risk of dementia.
Positive mental attitude. Satchel Paige said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old You was?” Research at both Harvard and Yale has shown that mental attitude can have a strong impact on the quality of your retirement. Other ways to help stay positive include spending time with grandkids and getting a pet. It may sound silly, but pets (especially dogs) contribute to well-being on several levels, from exercise to just simply comfort.
Have a plan. Okay, I realize this one might be a touch self-serving, but planning for retirement really helps. This isn’t just addressing financial questions like whether you can afford to retire. It includes having a plan for how you will spend your time, so you don’t feel lost or adrift. More importantly, planning for retirement helps you to make tough decisions early on, especially when it comes to finances or health emergencies. The more prepared you are for something, the less stressful the reality becomes. Talking with your spouse about expectations and hopes during retirement is a great first-step to ensuring as smooth a transition as possible.
Find experts you can trust
Working with a fee-only Certified Financial Planner® professional to help you prepare for retirement and even take some of the burden off your shoulders. One of the things that tends to happen as we age is that complex transactions become more difficult to analyze and manage. Finding a professional advisor whom you can trust early on will not only help you prepare for your next stage in life, it will also make someone available for years to come who knows you well and can help guide you through some of the difficult challenges that will arise.
To learn more about how Blankinship & Foster helps you navigate major life transitions such as retirement, please contact us.