Retirement Planning: How We Live, as well as How Much We Need

Sufficient savings, diligent budgeting, and smart financial planning are of course crucial for a comfortable retirement. Adequate income and assets are essential for the basics— food, shelter, and healthcare—and to maintain one’s lifestyle. However, money is by no means the only important consideration in retirement.

During a recent conversation with a retired couple we serve, they shared how their community organizes an abundance of volunteer activities that offer opportunities to facilitate community engagement and encourage cooperative solutions to shared social barriers. Their enthusiasm illuminates the qualitative concerns that are central to resilient investing and highly desirable for what we might call “resilient retirement”: engaged communities, adaptability, and prioritization of the common good.

When we think about financial independence and what we want our lives to look like, careful consideration of what we would like to do and how we’d like to live can go a long way towards a happy, satisfying retirement.

Just as socially responsible investing looks at financial return and social impact, so too does good financial planning. Whether you are already retired, financially independent, or working toward it, a holistic financial planning process looks at finances and values. Are we investing in our personal health? Are we involved in our community or family in meaningful ways? Have we thought about the idea of resilience? Natural Investments’ book, The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money, is an excellent resource to guide you as you look deeply at these ideas.

In a survey of 3,712 adults conducted by Age Wave, 95% said they would prefer more enjoyable experiences to the prospect of buying more things. Developing the capacity to enjoy an experience, to relax, and to reduce stress and anxiety can and should be a part of a retirement plan, and these considerations should be valued at least as highly as finances. Practicing mindfulness, for example, benefits personal and social health; making it part of the daily routine creates conditions for a more enjoyable experience before and during retirement.

The same Age Wave survey found retirees are twice as likely to say health is a bigger limit on their leisure than their wealth. Perhaps there is nothing too surprising in that statement, but it’s a good reminder that putting off healthy habits until a future date can thwart the most carefully laid financial plans. If a lifestyle change seems too difficult to make now, imagine that feeling of inertia magnified by decreased mobility, the loss of friends and family, or plain old lack of motivation. Developing constructive activities— volunteering, mentoring, or hobbies—are all part of building overall health and wellness. Considering that the average retiree watches 43 hours of television each week, (Forbes, 2011) according to Forbes’ Liz Davidson, while less than 4% spend more than nine hours a week helping others, it’s clear that values-aligned pastimes are generally overlooked as an important element of retirement (as they often are in our working years).

These non-financial elements of financial planning are not as elusive as they may seem. Making time for family, friends, and community is critical to the overall health of individuals and society. With technology touching every corner of daily life, the ability to meaningfully engage with others is a skill that must be intentionally nurtured. In journalist Kare Anderson’s Harvard Business Review article, “What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life,” she writes: “Giving undivided attention is the first and most basic ingredient in any relationship. It is impossible to communicate, much less bond, with someone who can’t or won’t focus on you. At the same time, we often fail to realize how what we focus on comes to control our thoughts, our actions, and indeed, our very lives.”

If a community doesn’t offer opportunities for a wellrounded, socially engaged life, what would it take to implement them? Connecting with neighbors, exploring collective concerns, and collaborating on shared solutions today is good practice for developing the interpersonal skills and psychological wellness that greatly improve the retirement experience. Preparing for a successful future is more than just financial planning. It requires thinking about how, as well as how much. Cultivating healthy relationships, communities, and daily routines in the present will help us meet our best selves tomorrow and give us peace of mind today.

Steve Algiere is a financial services associate for our Seattle and Duluth offices and licensed investment advisor representative of Natural Investments, LLC.

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Steve Algiere

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