Everybody talks about, and many people even do something about, the two obvious aspects of retirement planning. But almost nobody is attending to the third leg of retirement planning: mental preparation.
The usual parts of retirement planning; finding a place to retire that matches your lifestyle preferences, and having the financial wherewithal to pull it off, are obviously important. The mental side of retirement planning, the one that most people forget about, is critical too. In fact there are at least 2 dimensions of retirement mental preparation. The first, and most obvious, factor is advance preparation. Well before the day you get your gold watch, you need to have some idea of what you will be doing starting on day 1 of retirement. Even more important, you need to plan for what you might be doing on day 1,365 of your hard-earned respite from the working world. Far too many folks assume they are going to travel a bit, play lots of golf, spend a little more time with the grandchildren – and that’s as far as it goes. Unfortunately after a while the trips peter out, winter puts snow on the fairways, and the grandchildren move away or grow up. In our experience the happiest retirements are those where the person has spent some time and energy researching how they will spend their time every day, and not letting the days fill up with whatever happens. To help with this aspect of retirement planning, we recommend searching the Topretirements Retirement Planning Bookstore at Amazon (or your favorite local bookstore) for ideas on how to focus your thoughts on working in retirement, volunteering, starting a new business, finding an interesting hobby, etc. Of course Topretirements’ practical “100 Best Retirement Towns” is another resource to check out. We guarantee it, your investment in this side of retirement planning will help you be a lot happier in the long run. By the way, here is a great WSJ article on finding volunteer gigs.
Increased Longevity Has a Downside
The second side of mental preparation is not so obvious. The CDC reports that the average American male who reaches 65 years of age has another 17.2 years of life expectancy. The average female has 20 more years. And these are averages; in other words, a lot of people will live considerably longer. The average life expectancy keeps going up; almost 5 years were added between 1950 and 2005. Meanwhile the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease dramatically increases after 65. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that concludes: “The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is substantial and is approximately 14 times higher among persons older than 85 years compared with those between 65 and 69 years of age”. Having just spent a week helping to care for my Alzheimer’s Disease afflicted father-in-law I can tell you definitively – you do not want to get this horrible disease.
“Where Do We Live Honey?”
Since you can now expect to live a lot longer as retired people, you should take steps to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. A number of regimens have been proposed as good prevention, specifically red wine and the Mediterranean Diet. Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a neurologist at UCLA, has written a new and excellent book, “The Anti-Alzheimer’s Prescription: The Science-Proven Plan to Start at Any Age“, This easy to read book is brimming with scientifically substantiated advice for preventing the disease. Here are some of the factors in the book (from the Penguin website):
• Assess your risk factors and determine your “Real Brain Age”
• Step One: the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet, including recipes and a twenty-eight-day menu
• Step Two: daily physical exercises for the body and mind
• Step Three: daily “neurobics” to build a big brain reserve
• Step Four: the importance of stress reduction and quality sleep
His book has certainly got this editor thinking. The wife and I started on a campaign to memorize common telephone numbers instead of simply relying on speed dialing. I even realized a life-long ambition, memorizing the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is My Shepherd”). As I brag to anyone who will listen, if anyone dies on a camping trip I will now be able to cover the service. Next up: “The Gettysburg Address”.
Other suggestions to keep your mind sharp include crossword puzzles, learning new skills (like a language), classes, saduko, and Wii “brain-teaser” games. Anything that keeps your brain exercised and thinking in new ways seems to help.
What are you doing to prepare mentally for retirement? Please share your ideas in the Comments section below.