Part 1: Health
It wasn’t long ago that retirement was an almost automatic decision. Once you turned 65, it was time to retire, start collecting your pension and Social Security, jump over to Medicare, and move down to Florida.
Today, a successful retirement requires much more purposeful planning that accounts for major generational changes in how we work and live. I believe that engineering a modern retirement blueprint starts with four essential building blocks: Health, Family, Purpose, and Comprehensive Financial Planning. In the first installment of this four-part series, I’m going to talk about some new ways for seniors to think about health and longevity as we continue to adapt to the pandemic environment.
1. Match your healthspan to your lifespan.
Improvements in health care, nutrition, and exercise are creating a new generation of retirees who are going to live longer and more active lives. According to the CDC, a 65-year-old retiree should expect to enjoy, on average, a 20-year retirement.
But while these increases in lifespan mean your Golden Years could be much longer and more fulfilling than you parents’ or grandparents’, experts are starting to focus on a new measurement of senior wellbeing: healthspan. This is how long folks enjoy generally good health free of any serious diseases. And a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that most Americans’ healthspans are ten years shorter than their lifespans.
Most researchers are looking at leading causes of death when they’re studying healthspan, such as cancers and heart disease. But being “healthy” can mean different things to different people. For example, arthritis or deteriorating eyesight might not be fatal, but these kinds of chronic ailments can certainly affect how you live in retirement and what kinds of activities you can enjoy.
Even healthy folks who take good care of themselves usually experience retirement in different phases. Many of our clients plan to maximize their healthspan by enjoying sports, travel, and other active bucket list items earlier in retirement. Then, as they start to slow down, their spending plan slows as well to make sure that basic comforts and health care needs are covered.
2. Keep your mind stimulated.
One common healthspan concern among retirees is degenerating mental capacity. Many retirees feel like they just aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be without the daily challenges and responsibilities that their careers provided. That fuzzy feeling can become more pronounced for retirees who struggle to fill their days without work and spend too much time puttering around the house.
Forgetfulness and memory loss are often a common part of aging. But “senior moments” can also be early symptoms of something more serious. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and 1 in 3 seniors die while suffering from Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Interestingly, new research suggests that we have more control over our cognitive health than we may realize. In their article 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends things like continuing education, puzzles and games, and cardiovascular exercise to keep your neurons firing. Maintaining social bonds is another important factor, so hopefully your Zoom “fam jams” are still going strong. And taking a part-time job or volunteer position, either virtually or in person, can give you another reason to flip off the TV and put your mental skills to good use.
3. Broaden your perspective and plan accordingly.
Covid-19 has been a particularly dramatic reminder that there are no guarantees in life. A new disease can make our safe spaces unsafe. A bad slip and fall can alter the dream of living independently at home. Some health conditions are manageable for years and others take a turn for the worst overnight.
One aspect of your mental health that definitely improves with age is your wisdom. Looking at the pandemic with the benefit of all your other life experiences has probably caused you to reassess what’s really important. Your long-term retirement goals should revolve around those activities, those passions, and those people that enrich your life.
But a comprehensive financial plan also provides protection against the things we can’t plan for. It’s a lot easier to enjoy your healthspan years when you know that you have the flexibility to cover a sudden health care emergency. It’s very rare that a client approaches estate planning from a positive place, but I’ve seen time and time again that memorializing how you want to be cared for and how your assets will care for your heirs can provide you with real comfort.
Whether you’re trying to live safely during Covid-19 or dealing with a significant illness, you only have until December 7th to make changes to your Medicare or Medicaid coverage for 2021. Let’s talk about the health care issues that are on your mind and discuss how we can coordinate the care you need with a plan that will help you live the life you want.
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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