Aging gracefully―a blueprint for your future

If you could peek into the future and the final 10-20 years of your life, what would that look like? Do you see yourself traveling, healthy, energetic and excited about experiencing new challenges? Or do you have visions of illness, body pains, lethargy, disengagement and a lonely life?

What if you could manage that trajectory to a more positive future with fewer deficits and more joy? Research is churning out reports on how we can slow down the negative parts of aging and enhance the joyful aspects of our lives.

Throughout my life, I’ve met many people on both sides of aging. It is clear that our attitude drives this journey. It can turn us into victims or champions over our lives. Often it begins with our attitude each day―do we resign ourselves to a self-defeating diagnosis and settle for dissatisfaction? Or do we take daily challenges as an opportunity to remain engaged and positive? Experts in aging are in agreement that we will be much happier as we age if we are comfortable in our chosen lifestyle (that is to say, we are in the habit of doing things that give meaning and value to us) and that we don’t let our “illness” or age-related challenges define our daily lives.

As technology continues its exponential growth, the key to managing and thriving in this ever-faster moving era is our ability to adapt and remain true to ourselves. I believe equally important is to allow ourselves time to unwind and gain perspective. Unfortunately, most of us would likely skip ‘self-time’ (time for meditation or reflection) in pursuit of getting more accomplished.

Though it doesn’t take a financial windfall to have a healthy retirement, it does help tremendously not to have financial worries. Financial plans and conscious financial choices will help minimize financial anxiety and create an opportunity for a healthy retirement. Beyond this opportunity, it is up to us to build lifestyles (and needed financial resources) that give us joy today and throughout our later lives.

Research on aging recommends that we include the following:

  1. Though we are all different and choose different lifestyles, we all benefit from activities that provide us with at least a minimal level of social interactions. It is social engagement, according to these experts, that can add years and quality to our lives. In addition, volunteering has been shown to reduce pain as well as increase endorphins. Even when homebound, it is essential to be active and motivated.
  2. It is no surprise that a graceful happy retired life must also include regular and vigorous mental engagement. Your financial plan should be your guide to attain your goals, but it will be your consistent financial behaviors that will keep you mentally engaged with your money later in life. We are all aware that as we age we have a higher risk of memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer’s. We can’t control inherited diseases (50% of those over 85 are affected with a dementia-like Alzheimer’s disease but that also means, 50% are not!) but we can rise to the challenge and keep our brains mentally active.
  3. Improving your quality of life includes addressing your physical health and diet. It is recommended that we exercise regularly, including at least 45 minutes of aerobic activity. A diet with reduced portions and elimination of processed foods appears to also be connected with healthier happier lives.
  4. Though sometimes difficult, it is essential that we be able to ‘let go’ of hate, resentment and regret that reinforces negative emotions. Though it’s never easy, experts say that ideally you’ll forgive or ‘walk away’ to attain a healthier life. I find that smiling every day makes me happier and has the added bonus that it makes others smile too.
  5. Finally, stay true to your lifestyle and decision process throughout your life. If you are comfortable in your core values and habits then even the worst challenges will be manageable.

In short, a successful blueprint for a long and rewarding life entails the intentional effort to remain active, engaged and positive.

Edi Alvarez, CFP®

Retirement – Vocation, Vacation or A bit of both?

You’ve heard it said: “idle hands make for idle minds.” The idea of an absolutely “work free” retirement may appeal to some, especially if you are passionate about a particular hobby or sport, but others may well find that an “endless vacation” loses its charm after some months or years. Don’t underestimate the benefits of continuing to work through your retirement. Continued employment keeps the mind engaged, provides a sense of personal identity, can aid in physical & mental fitness and, of course, can contribute positively to your finances.

Since I work primarily with self-employed individuals I hear first-hand just how many clients would actually prefer their retirement to include some form of meaningful part-time employment. For most, this work ought to be stimulating, engaging, productive and affirming with or without financial rewards.

What would you want in retirement? How do you determine what you prefer? What are some options?

Explore what would inspire you with colleagues, friends and family. This conversation can be with a group of similarly motivated and stimulating colleagues (or friends/friends) and help identify your ideal retirement. You might also examine your “motivators,” both existential and economic. Are you someone that thrives on intellectual stimulation, competition, growth and learning, is your identity tightly linked to the work you do? These are “motivators” for finding a vocation in retirement. On the other hand, do you work solely for economic reasons, are you primarily concerned with the rising cost of living, maintaining a given lifestyle, managing debt, or leaving more to your heirs? Vocation may be right for you if you are motivated by existential rather than economic reasons.

You can also use existing social entrepreneurship organizations (such as that tap the altruistic resources of retired individuals. Even providing grants for mature adults to develop their ideas while connecting participants with others that share a similar calling.

You might consider that according to AARP nearly 90% of those over age 65 want to remain in their residence throughout retirement. Providing aging-in-place support to elderly in all facets, including bookkeeping, gardening, tutoring, transportation for outings and errands are all viable opportunities. Balance: This is your retirement. Find the combination that best suits you – be it as a vocation, a vacation or a bit of both.

There are unique considerations to working after your formal retirement. To make the most of your in-retirement earnings, you should work carefully with a financial advisor so that social security and taxes can be properly coordinated.

Edi Alvarez, CFP®