How these three factors can make or break a healthy retirement.
By Deborah E. Pajak
Having been in the financial planning world for over sixteen years, I have had the opportunity to see some very successful retirement scenarios and, unfortunately, some less-than-successful situations. Being a person that assists others in getting their financial house in order prior to the all-important retirement date, you would think that this article would solely discuss the financial aspects of the golden years. However, as the years have progressed, I have come to the conclusion that while the numbers are critical, there are two other components that, arguably, are as important to a meaningful retirement.
So, in addition to the “money” component, are “mind” and “matter.” Let’s look at each of these three topics to see how they form some of the basis of a healthy, happy period in life.
Saving for retirement is an activity best done on an ongoing basis, versus waiting until all other bills and obligations can have been satisfied. The strong forces of compounding coupled with time, provide one of the best methods to accumulate a healthy nest egg. With uncertainty surrounding benefits provided by Social Security, fewer employer-funded pensions, and the responsibility of the employee to save independently, being a disciplined saver is as important as ever. However, saving for later years can often times take a backseat to the more immediate gratification of daily living. So, the number of years until retirement, the amount of money contributed to your retirement accounts during that period, the types of investments selected, and the risk assumed in those investments, will determine what that nest egg looks like when that very special time arrives. While it cannot be stressed enough that beginning your retirement savings early in life makes the process of adequate funding much more possible, adequate funding is just one of the areas of importance.
The matter I am speaking of in this context is very literally your “matter,” i.e. your body. I once read that someone would not consciously choose to become wealthy and ill at the same time, but many times climbing the corporate ladder means that exercise and eating in a healthy manner get set aside while we put in long hours and lead grueling schedules. The time for fitness and proper care are relegated to “some day” and we enter retirement in less-than-healthy states of health. So, it is my contention that physical fitness leading up to and throughout retirement is just as important a preparation for retirement as the aspects of “money” and mind”. All the money in the world cannot promise a long and healthy life.
This aspect of preparation is centered on your mindset and your mental preparation for the challenges of retirement. In talking with hundreds of clients over the years, I have heard a very wide array of scenarios in terms of how retirees see themselves spending their less-structured days, weeks, months, and years. The reality of the changes in daily schedules can be freeing to some, but worrisome to others. The structure provided by the classroom bell, or the friendship shared over lunchroom meals, may be sorely missed and not easily replaced. Couples accustomed to their somewhat individual lives and schedules now share a 24/7 life and don’t always adjust to the loss of independence and autonomy that the work world provided. In many cases the adjustment period passes and a new normal emerges. Those that seem to do best, in my observation, are those that have cultivated hobbies, interests, volunteer activities, and set other goals prior to the onset of retirement. In other words, they have prepared mentally while preparing physically and financially.
The synergy of these three factors is quite apparent when we come to retirement with adequate financial resources, a healthy body, and a positive mental attitude. Any one area is important and vital, but all three can produce one of the best scenarios for a fulfilling retirement.
Deborah E. Pajak, CFP®, ChFC®, CLTC, CDFA™ is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC, member SIPC.
5001 Louise Dr. Suite 300, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 (717) 791-3300.