19 Best TED Talks on Retirement and Aging to Help You Have a Better Future
You want to have a better retirement. But how do you get there? You could spend hours researching the latest science behind happiness, personal finance and investment theory, and health research. Or you can take a few minutes to watch the best TED Talks related to retirement.
With their engaging speakers and easy-to-digest format, even the shortest TED Talks contain insights that can help you grow as a person and refine your knowledge of humanity and the world around us.
These 19 TED Talks can help you feel inspired, be smarter and have a better retirement.
1. The Battle Between Your Present and Future Self
Behavioral economist and decision-making expert, Daniel Goldstein, suggests that it is important to make friends with your future self and that by doing so, you will make better long term decisions now.
Goldstein is a decision-making expert and he acknowledges the challenges in long term planning for things like retirement. In his TED Talk, “The Battle Between Your Present and Future Self,” he discusses tools and techniques for making smart choices today.
If this talk interests you, you might also enjoy: How to Plan for Retirement? Just Imagine It — 7 Ways to Achieve a Secure Future.
2. 3 Ways to Plan For the (Very) Long Term
Futurist Ari Wallach used to talk to people about planning for the next 10 or 20 years, but recently he’s seen a shift. In his TED Talk, “3 Ways to Plan For the (Very) Long Term,” he outlines how our society has succumbed to “short-termism,” where planning for the next six months seems like a feat. This failure to think in the long term leads to “sandbag fixes” that might work for now, but don’t really solve problems. Wallach shares his ideas on planning for the next 30 to 50 years and getting comfortable with the fact that we’ll all die at some point.
“Try and look past your own life if you can because it makes you do things just a little bit bigger than you thought were possible.”
Planning your retirement is indeed a long term issue. You need a financial plan for 20-30 years. You also ideally are thinking about your legacy and planning for beyond your own death. Get started now before that long distant future is actually upon you.
- The NewRetirement retirement planner can help you with your long term finances. Set different spending levels for different phases and easily see the impact small changes have on your long term finances.
- Equally important is knowing how to spend your time in retirement. Try writing a retirement manifesto or explore other options.
3. The Surprising Science of Happiness
Dan Gilbert, the author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. In his TED Talk, “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” he explains how our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.
The good news for retirement? Gilbert says that the freedom to make up your own mind or change your mind is the friend of natural happiness. Freedom is a huge benefit of retirement.
He has also presented, “Why We Make Bad Decisions,” which can also help with your retirement planning.
4. Life’s Third Act
Within this generation, an extra 30 years have been added to our life expectancy — and these years aren’t just a footnote. In “Life’s Third Act,” Fonda asks how we can re-imagine this new phase of our lives.
Have you seen Fonda in the news lately? She is regularly getting arrested and spending time in jail for protesting a lack of action on climate change.
Here are some tips for finding meaning and purpose for your retirement.
5. How to Live to Be 100+
To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and team study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, “How to Live to Be 100+,” he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.
Buettner says there is a lot of confusion over what it takes to get there. Should we eat meat or tofu? Run marathons or practice yoga? Follow the advice of Oprah or Dr. Oz?
Here are a few of the lifestyle factors that can improve your chances of living well past the century mark:
- Live a life where you’re constantly nudged into physical activity.
- Eat a plant-based diet.
- Live in a community that treats older people well.
- Have a purpose or reason for getting out of bed in the morning, whether it’s catching fish to feed your family or spending time with your great-grandchildren.
- The downside of living to 100? You need to pay for it. Find out how to plan for a long life! The NewRetirement retirement planner makes it easy.
Want more detail? Try one of Buettner’s books: “The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People” or, his newest, “The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100.”
6. Less Stuff, More Happiness
Downsizing in retirement can be a financially savvy move. In his Ted Talk, Less Stuff, More Happiness, Graham Hill presents the case that paring down your belongings can also have huge emotional benefits.
He presents some amazing information: “Did you know that we Americans have about three times the amount of space we did 50 years ago? Three times. So you’d think, with all this extra space, we’d have plenty of room for all our stuff. Nope. There’s a new industry in town, a 22 billion-dollar, 2.2 billion sq. ft. industry: that of personal storage. So we’ve got triple the space, but we’ve become such good shoppers that we need even more space. So where does this lead? Lots of credit card debt, huge environmental footprints, and perhaps not coincidentally, our happiness levels flat-lined over the same 50 years.”
Get his tips for having less stuff and a happier life.
7. The Habits of Happiness
What’s better: a life of happiness or a life of ups and downs so we can appreciate the sweetness when the suffering ends? In his TED Talk, “The Habits of Happiness,” French Biologist-turned-Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard says we can find a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment. Not simply a pleasurable sensation, but a state that pervades and underlies all of the joys and sorrows that life throws at us.
Ricard says the answer lies in training our minds in habits of well-being, just as we train our bodies for fitness.
8. How Societies Can Grow Old Better
Jared Diamond is the best selling author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” and others.
His work focuses on why cultures prosper or decline.
In his TED Talk on aging, “How Societies Can Grow Old Better,” Diamond looks at how many different societies treat their elders — some better, some worse — and suggests we all take advantage of experience.
9. What You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. While we don’t yet have a cure, Neuroscientist Lisa Genova says there are things we can do to prevent or delay those glitches in memory, even if the disease is programmed in our DNA.
She tells you “What You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s.” The answer, Genova says, lies in getting enough sleep, taking care of our cardiovascular health, and improving our neuroplasticity and cognitive reserve. Despite conventional wisdom, that’s not doing crossword puzzles – which is simply accessing the information we already know. Instead, neuroplasticity involves learning something new, which creates new synapses in the brain.
That sounds like a good excuse to take a class, read a book, travel to a new location, learn a new language and make new friends.
10. Older People Are Happier
In the 20th century we added an unprecedented number of years to our lifespans, but is the quality of life as good? Surprisingly, yes!
In her talk, “Older People Are Happier,” psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates that as people get older they become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world.
12. The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship
Divorce is a financial nightmare in retirement. Furthermore, research like this study finds that marriage is good for you, and so are long-term relationships. While stressful marriages are detrimental as we age, strong relationships with a partner help in nearly every aspect of life.
In her TED Talk, relationship therapist Esther Perel offers “The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship.” She says sex and desire often fade over time, even among people who continue to love each other. Why is this? Part of it has to do with a shift in the way we think of marriage. For many years, marriage was an economic partnership. Today, we expect economic security, friendship, transcendence, familiarity, surprise, comfort, passion, safety, adventure, mystery, etc.
So are all long-term relationships doomed to watch desire fade? Perel says no if we can follow Proust’s advice that “mystery is not about traveling to new places, but it’s about looking with new eyes.”
- It may seem obvious, but it is also important to remember to include loved ones — especially spouses — in your retirement planning. A survey by Fidelity Investments found that finances and retirement planning are extremely difficult subjects for married couples. Going through a reliable retirement calculator can be an excellent way to really get into the details with your loved one(s). Just make sure you use a retirement calculator for couples. Here are more reasons it is important for couples to discuss retirement plans.
13. Saving for Tomorrow, Tomorrow
Economist Shlomo Benartzi tells a story of a crowd of people planning on attending a TED Talk next week. Ask them today whether they will want a banana or a piece of chocolate next week, and an overwhelming majority will choose the banana. But what happens next week? The majority of people choose the chocolate. This is because self-control isn’t a problem in the future, Benartzi says, it’s a problem now. And this is the problem with saving for retirement. We always think we’ll save more later, but when later comes, we end up spending instead.
It’s Benartzi’s goal to use behavioral economics to understand the mistakes we make and turn challenges into solutions. When it comes to saving for retirement today, are you choosing the banana or the chocolate? Learn more in his TED Talk, “Saving for Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”
- It can help to know how much you’ll really need for a secure retirement. Use the NewRetirement retirement planner to get personal, detailed, and reliable answers. Getting started is easy and it could be the inspiration you need to save adequately.
14. Let’s End Ageism
It’s not the passage of time that makes it so hard to get older. It’s ageism, a prejudice that pits us against our future selves — and each other. In her talk, “Let’s End Ageism,” Ashton Applewhite urges us to dismantle the dread and mobilize against the last socially acceptable prejudice. “Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured,” she says. “It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.”
Learn more in her new book, “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.”
15. There’s No Shame in Taking Care of Your Mental Health
If you came down with pneumonia, you’d take yourself to the nearest hospital right away. But what if you came down with a bad case of depression? In his TED Talk, entrepreneur Sangu Delle discusses his battle with depression and the (often self-imposed) stigma that surrounds treating our mental, emotional, and social well-being as surely as we treat physical maladies. Learn more in, “There’s No Shame in Taking Care of Your Mental Health.”
16. What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness
Do fame and money make us happy? Many people believe they do but Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger says they are mistaken. In his TED Talk, he discusses, “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness.”
Waldinger is the director of a 75-year Harvard study on adult development that has studied 724 men, half from Harvard and the other half from low-income neighborhoods of Boston. For the last ¾ of a century, this phenomenal study has followed these men to ask about work, home life, health, and happiness, studying their medical records, and interviewing family members.
What they’ve found is that happiness is not predicated on fame or fortune, but on good relationships. People who are more isolated than they want to be live shorter lives. In other words, loneliness is toxic. So whether you’re 25, 40 or 60, Waldinger offers suggestions for strengthening relationships with friends and family.
- Want more ideas for a good retirement? Here are 41 tips for happiness, health, and wealth in retirement.
17. Prepare For a Good End of Life
Thinking about the end of life often inspires fear and denial. But after helping two friends end their lives well, Entrepreneur Judy MacDonald Johnston says we need to think not only about how to live well, but how to die well. Watch, “Prepare for a Good End of Life.”
With a plan and the right people, our quality of life can remain high, even as our independence and bodily functions slow down. MacDonald Johnston says a plan is not, “I want to die at home,” or “Just shoot me.” You need to decide where you want to be and who you want to be with. You also need an advocate – don’t assume that role will be played by a spouse or child – who will ensure your wishes are carried out.
This TED Talk may deal with things many of us would rather not think about, but planning ahead leaves more room for peace in our final days.
18. This Is Your Brain on Retirement
The risk of cognitive and physical decline after retirement is well documented. But Ross Andel, Professor and Director School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida, says the problem isn’t retirement itself.
In his informative TED talk “Is Retirement Bad for Your Brain?” Andel tells us that while some loss of brain activity (like memory) is normal, you can fall into “the retirement trap.”
What is the retirement trap? Andel uses a saving and investing analogy to explain. Every person, he says, gets $1440 per day to spend how they want. At midnight, however you spent the previous day’s $1440, the balance is set back to $1440. Will you spend the money on entertainment, like a movie, or will you invest it in something productive like language lessons?
Did you guess that the $1440 is actually the 1440 minutes in every day? Andel says when entering retirement people are tempted not to invest their time into things that challenge them. They think retirement is supposed to be a time when you spend your minutes to avoid work and challenges.
Retirement can and should be a time to shift your priorities away from what was important in mid-life — your family and career for example — and toward the next phase of life. But people fall into the retirement trap when they assume finishing work means giving up life goals.
19. One Simple Technique to Improve Your Retirement
Daniel Levitin’s TED talk “How to Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed” explores one simple and effective technique that will take the anxiety out of retirement planning.
It’s called “prospective hindsight.” Levitin says he got the term from Nobel Prize-winning behavioral psychologist Daniel Khanemen. Another way of thinking about it is as a “pre-mortem.” In the same way forensic researchers do a post-mortem of a body to figure out what happened to it, a pre-mortem is an examination of a problem before it happens. Prospective hindsight is the practice of thinking of problems or questions to ask about a future scenario ahead of time.
This sounds like simple common sense, but it turns out following common sense can be hard. According to behavioral scientists, we’re likely to ignore common sense if we don’t build routines into our thinking that make us pay attention to the obvious. We need to train ourselves to think ahead. (A good way to do that is to create a checklist or a detailed plan.) In the process, we also need to recognize our ability to imagine stressful situations and how to deal with them can be flawed.
What is YOUR Favorite TED Talk Related to Retirement?
TED is an amazing resource for inspiration. Have you watched a TED Talk that inspired you to think about retirement in a new or different way? Send us an email and let us know about it. We’ll add it to this list!