We work hard all our lives, often forgoing rewards today for the promise of a better tomorrow, building our nest egg in hopes of living long enough to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling retirement. Not an easy process with loads of stress and anxiety along the way. And then once we arrive at this “promised land” of senior living, a whole set of fears confronts us. Without addressing these to some extent, quality of life and our general wellness can be compromised.
How to fight the fears
1. Running out of money before we run out of years – A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) finds almost two-thirds of Americans in the two lowest pre-retirement income levels will be running short of money after 10 years in retirement. Mark Miller of Retirement Revised http://retirementrevised.com notes that those most at-risk are the older baby boomers now approaching retirement age. Nearly half of older boomers (47 percent) are likely to run out of money, compared with 44 percent of younger boomers. This can keep you up nights unless you take action and do what you can NOW to prepare.
I touched on budgeting for when you retire in “Retirement – can I afford to retire?” . If finances could be a concern at some point, for your peace of mind, it is time to become a “shopper”, ever vigilant for the best prices for travel, dining out, household repairs, groceries, you name it. The internet is your friend when it comes to comparison shopping and getting honest feedback from services like yelp. A regular trip to Safeway, nicely air conditioned on those hot days, allows you to learn what prices are really “sale” prices and then wait for the right moment to buy. For me, it is even a bit of a game. For example, I know Groth Sauvignon Blanc at $16.99 on “sale” will routinely drop to $14.99 a bottle, just a matter of time before the REAL sales price surfaces. And I maintain a spreadsheet with monthly expenditures against a set budget to identify areas where I may be overspending or can cut back. There are numerous ways to save money in retirement – you just need to put them to use.
2. Health concerns – no way around this one as aging takes its toll on us physically and mentally. Exercise is the best ammunition to fight the battle including physical exercise (something that you enjoy doing so you can keep at it; not too strenuous; done consistently; a partner can be a big help motivating and staying the course), mental exercise (keep the ‘ol brain working with games like Sudoku, bridge, chess, crosswords), and social exercise (talking with your friends, community centers for interaction, and the internet for communicating and following interesting blogs). Each of these is important for overall wellness and combined can help to maintain a healthier mind and body.
3. Boredom – to minimize this, you need to keep moving physically and mentally. If you do nothing, you will tarnish and rust like an old car. Try this – listen to your imagination. Think about what you can be doing, visualize it, imagine doing it, and give it a try. Don’t be afraid to step out of your elderly safety zone a bit – try a different route on your nightly walk, think of something uniquely nice to do for a neighbor and DO IT, broaden your movie interests, keep adding to you list of favorite authors (Amazon is great at making recommendations based on your current likes), stay some place different at your favorite travel destination, or begin the search for a new favorite vacation spot. I am fortunate in that I am generally able to entertain myself. As a kid, I remember my imagination ever active, sometimes playing football catch with myself (“the pass is up, the fans are screaming, TOUCHDOWN!”) sometimes fending off pirates to save the fair maiden. Imagination and the will to try something new helps keep life fresh. And since we all have varying degrees of imaginative natures, don’t forget interacting and sharing with others at local senior centers, clubs, online communities, walking partners, etc.
4. Will I become a crabby old man? Do you remember when you were growing up that old guy on the corner lot who patiently waited for an unsuspecting youngster to cut across the lawn which then resulted in crazed shouts and threats thrown mightily into the afternoon air? Even if you were without such a character in your neighborhood, you surely do not want to BECOME him in yours. It is important to remember that we were all once young and impetuous. The little annoying things that kids do today – we did similar and maybe even worse when we were that age (remember how much fun that was!). Patience is a virtue. Accepting aging is part of the program. Take a deep breath and let it go and enjoy. The only grouch in the neighborhood should be Oscar the…
5. What if I can no longer drive? – This is a tough one. The ability to drive provides seniors with independence which is vital to self worth. We hate to rely on others to do the basics like drive to the grocery store or visit Blockbuster. Public transportation is nowhere near where it needs to be to effectively reduce our dependence on cars. Realistically, it comes down to each of us. The ultimate decision if you can safely manage the roads and traffic can only be accurately judged by you. Each individually, only we know if we should surrender the keys. Remember that in the end, the decision made has to be what is best for everyone concerned.
So, a partial list of fears we may face as we age. Some may feel them insurmountable but unfortunately there is no place to hide. Family and friends can offer encouragement but ultimately we deal with these by our self, alone. Bottom line, I believe it is the attitude with which we face each day that can most impact our quality of life. Feeling positive each morning, being thankful, and starting with a smile can go a long way.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.