Think retirement is about sitting with your feet up and watching the rest of the world whiz by? Possibly, but many people think retirement and plan for embarking on one of life’s greatest adventures. This is the time to do what you want with the experience-laden good sense to appreciate it.
Having the best retirement plan means having a financial plan that enables you to achieve exactly what you want. And, what most people want is a happy retirement, healthy retirement and a wealthy retirement (or at least affordable).
Here are 41 tips that can help you have the best retirement plan for making this the best time of your life:
1. Have a Sense of Purpose and Meaning
Make every day meaningful. Oxford University suggests that a meaningful life lessens the effects of aging. And, Research from Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano found that people who have a sense or purpose or direction in life outlive their peers.
In fact, people with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death,compared with those who said they were more or less aimless. And it didn’t seem to matter when people found their direction. It could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s — even when controlled for other factors that affect longevity like age, gender and emotional well-being.
The study found that a sense of purpose led to a longer life.
2. Create the Best Retirement Plan Possible
Most people have lived their lives day to day, month to month, year to year.
However, retirement is the time to have the best plan possible. You want to spend this time of your life doing what you want to do and you want to make sure you have the finances to achieve what is important.
3. Think Health Not Wealth
More than 80% of today’s retirees say health is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement, meaning that the majority value good health even over financial security. In fact, only 58% of retirees say being financially secure is most important to them, according to a Merrill Lynch study of more than 5,400 Americans.
So, the best retirement plan involves not just your finances but also ways to stay mentally and physically healthy. Gardening, walking, joining a gym, eating healthy are all proven ways to stay physically healthy. Staying vital, having a purpose and challenging yourself mentally are great ways to maintain your mental health.
4. Make Exercise Fun
Try making exercise something you look forward to instead of something you have to do. Instead of walking (trudging) on a treadmill, take walks through the park or go for mini hikes. Still does not appeal to you? Why not listen to music or — better yet — bring a friend along and talk and laugh as you get the heart rate going.
Best of all, there is a bonus to the fun! Research from Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that those who think they are having fun while exercising end up eating less than those who are doing it for exercise.
5. And, If Walking Is Your Exercise, Walk Fast
Many research studies have found that how fast you walk after age 60 is a good gauge of longevity. Apparently your walking speed can predict dementia, shorter life spans and depression.
One of the most recent studies was published in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Joe Verghese, is quoted as saying: “As a young researcher, I examined hundreds of patients and noticed that if an older person was walking slowly, there was a good chance that his cognitive tests were also abnormal.”
6. Think Income Not Investments
Esteemed economists like Nobel Prize winner Robert Merton believe that it is more important to estimate and plan for your retirement income needs than worry about investments and how much you need for retirement. He recommends dividing your income needs into three categories:
- Minimum guaranteed retirement income — This category is for how much income you need to maintain your life at the bare minimum. Your retirement assets should be allocated to guarantee this income for as long as you live. Social Security and lifetime annuities are two common guaranteed income sources.
- Flexible income — This category is for how much income you would like to live at your desired lifestyle. Income for this category should come from conservatively invested assets.
- Nice to haves — You can take some risks with investments in this category.
The best retirement plan insures that you have enough income to cover your expenses. A retirement calculator can help you figure out how much income you need.
7. Keep a Schedule and Structure
It can be difficult figuring out just what to do with your time once the 9 to 5 is over and done. Retirement is a major life change, and not all of it is fun. But with a schedule, you can help avoid the boredom and restlessness that comes with switching from a busy life to one where busyness only happens because you want it to.
Studies have shown that a structured life is one of the key to happiness. Work usually imposes a schedule and structure on your life. When you retire, you are faced with days and evenings at your leisure. While you may find this novel and a bit exciting, you may want to define some specific routines to maintain order and structure.
8. Research the Best Places to Retire and Go There
New lists about the best places to retire are common. While it is possible that you already live in the best place for you, it is also possible that there is a better place for your retirement. Best of all, relocating may give you more money for retirement expenses if you manage to downsize or move to a more economical location.
Retirement doesn’t have to mean that you’ll stay in the same house where you’ve always lived. Downsizing can free up your time. And moving to a 50+ community can surround you with like-minded people with similar interests. There’s less home maintenance, too.
Not sure where to go? Try this Retirement Destination Checklist or find out why more seniors are opting to age in place — stay in their homes.
9. Make Your Dreams a Reality
Anything is possible with the right prioritization. If travel is what you have always dreamed of, here are “9 Ways to Make Your Dreams of Travel a Reality.”
Achieving what you want out of retirement can be a matter of setting a goal and then prioritizing that goal above everything else. Using a good Retirement Calculator can help you visualize what you need to do to achieve whatever is important to you.
10. Think Positively About Aging
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren
Really interesting research from Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University, shows that Sophia Loren was onto something.
Levy has found that when older adults think of getting old as a positive experience — being about wisdom, self-realization and satisfaction then they:
- Function at a higher level
- Live 7.5 years longer
- Are more likely to eat well, exercise and avoid vice
11. Avoid Depression — Spend Time With the Grandkids
Research from the Institute on Aging at Boston College found that grandparents who were able to both give and receive support from grandchildren are less likely to be depressed. In fact, “the greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health,” said Sara M. Moorman, an assistant profession at Boston College.
If you have grandkids, spending active play time with them can help you stay healthier. Active play doesn’t have to mean that you’ll climb a tree, but you can play other games and go on outings together. The National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) says spending time with the little ones you love is also great for bonding.
12. Make Sure Your Retirement Planning Includes Your Spouse and Loved Ones
It may seem obvious, but it is actually 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 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.
If you are single, here are tips for you.
13. If You Have a Health Setback, Adopt a Positive Outlook
Much new research indicates that you are who you think you are. The power of positive thinking is turning out to be very true.
The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that seniors with a positive bias toward themselves and life are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability than someone with a negative outlook.
14. Find a Motto for Your Retirement Plan — Put it On Your Refrigerator
Keeping your retirement goals front and center is important. Some people write down their goals, keep a budget or plan.
Other ideas include creating a Pinterest board with your retirement goals or finding a famous retirement quote, a funny and inspirational quote about retirement and aging or a quote about the pros or cons of retirement and putting it up on your refrigerator.
15. Protect Yourself From Fraud
Seniors are an all too common target of fraud. Often, older Americans are vulnerable because of their trusting nature and their desire to help out those who are in financial distress, suggests the 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse. Here are 7 ways to protect yourself from investment fraud and tips for avoiding reverse mortgage scams.
16. Stay Married — Especially If You Are a Man
Marriage is good for you, and so are long-term relationships. This Psychophysiology study points out that while stressful marriages are detrimental as we age, strong relationships with a partner help in nearly every aspect of life.
Additional research from Harvard Medical School found that men who have marital partners live longer than men without spouses.
Even though you might spend every day together once you retire, date night is something different and special. Here’s an interesting take on why date night is so important for strong marriages.
17. Devote Time to Retirement Planning — Even After You Retire
Research shows that most people spend more time buying a TV, making a restaurant reservation and planning a vacation than they do planning their retirement.
Planning, assessing and updating your retirement plans should be on your monthly checklist — even after you retire. It is important to check in with your budget and investments and adjust as necessary. Online tools like retirement calculators can help.
18. Be Social
Research abounds on the benefits of being social as we age. The links between healthy social relationships and better health are well established. One study from the Pennsylvania State University found that when the social activities are linked to physical exercise, even more benefits are achieved.
And, it turns out that the opposite is also true. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that loneliness in older people may increase the chance of death by 14 percent. Psychologist John Cacioppo says that loneliness may have twice the impact on early death as obesity and is as damaging as disadvantaged socioeconomic status.
19. Choose the Right Time to Start Social Security
The later you start Social Security, the more monthly income you will receive. You might be eligible to begin benefits at 62, but delaying the start of benefits can reap big rewards — especially if you are a woman. Calculate your most optimal start date and explore spousal benefit options before committing.
20. Come Out of Retirement For a Career Switch
Seventy-five percent of Americans expect to work for as long as they can, and 39% say it’s because they like to work, according to a recent Bankrate Financial Literacy poll.
Many seniors make some kind of career change and work because they love what they are doing. The additional income is good — but it is often the satisfaction of a job well done that keeps them working. There are so many benefits to working past the traditional retirement age.
21. Hire a Financial Advisor
You’ll need as much good advice after retirement as before. With a financial advisor, you’ll spend and save more wisely.
Recent research found that that Boomers who are working with a financial advisor are twice as confident about having sufficient savings for retirement than their peers who are planning retirement on their own.
Worried about what to expect? Be prepared — learn about all the questions you should ask a financial advisor as well as what they are going to ask you.
22. Are You a Family Caregiver? Be Careful to Keep Your Own Retirement on Track
The costs of being a caregiver can be overwhelming. There is the extreme emotional turmoil but there are also serious financial concerns — from money spent out of pocket and from time spent caregiving instead of earning income.
While you may only be able to think about how to help the person you are caring for, there are steps you can take to protect your own retirement. You deserve the time it takes to care for your own self too. Explore 5 tips for taking care of yourself.
23. Get a Dog
The research on the benefits of owning a dog is pretty overwhelming. Beyond emotional benefits like their unconditional love of us, one study found that dog owners need fewer doctor visits. Another study from Australia found that found that pet owners had lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a lower heart attack risk than people without pets.
Other research has suggested that caring for a dog, in particular, is healthful in that it keeps us vital and generally insures that we get a walk every day. Here are six ways pets can improve your health.
24. Don’t Stop Budgeting
If you’ve saved well, you’ll want to be sure that your retirement funds last as long as you need them to. And if your finances are less-than-stellar, it’s even more important to budget, since you won’t have next week’s paycheck to supplement financial mistakes.
Research from T. Rowe Price, suggests that one of the key traits of financially successful retirees is that they have flexible spending habits. Willingness to be flexible with spending is “absolutely key” both before and during retirement, says Jon R. King, certified financial planner with Austin, Texas-based Pegasus Financial Solutions, LLC. “Spending before retirement is important because the less you spend, the more you save,” he says. “Cutting spending after retirement makes [your money] last longer.”
25. Keep Learning About Finances
While it is best to start retirement planning in your 20s. The reality is that most people live month to month throughout their working lives and into retirement.
The reality is that it really never is too late and the upside is that the benefits of retirement financial products will become easier to understand as you age.
26. Be Realistic about What Retirement Will Mean to Your Lifestyle
While many things are fairly universal for retirees, such as having lots of time to do what you want, some things might surprise you. Boredom can be a big problem, especially for someone who is used to a busy pre-retirement life. Time isn’t necessarily fun when it’s spent in front of the TV wishing you had something to do.
27. Continually Optimize Your Health Insurance
It is important to re-evaluate your supplemental Medicare coverage every year. Insurance companies change policies and your health changes too.
Shopping for the best supplemental coverage can really save you money and improve your benefits. Compare your supplemental medicare options now…
You may also want to look at ways to fund long-term care costs. Long-term care is not covered by Medicare or Medicare supplemental insurance.
28. Throw a Retirement Party
Retirement really is something to celebrate. And, if you have a good retirement plan, that is a major achievement — something to be really proud of!
Here are a few tips for throwing a really great retirement party.
29. Watch a Movie
Movies – like all art forms – can be a great way to explore important themes in your life. Movies with themes of retirement and aging run the gamut from great animated choices to watch with your grandkids to adult comedy and drama.
Here is a list of movies related to retirement and aging.
30. Optimize Your Resources to Maximize Your Income and Protection from Risks
One of the key reasons that the very rich hire financial planners is that they can help optimize resources – make small tradeoffs – to dramatically improve the client’s overall wealth and security.
Through education, innovation, and access to retirement products and strategies, NewRetirement hopes to provide that same level of holistic planning to the average retiree.
Examples of small tradeoffs that make a big difference include:
- Delaying the start of their Social Security can mean an additional 30 percent in monthly income.
- Buying a lifetime annuity or long term care insurance may mean less total savings are required for retirement
- Working longer can be the difference between making ends meet and not
31. Get Out and Do Something Amazing — It Is Not Too Late
Walking away from the 9-to-5 opens up a world of opportunity for you. You can do anything and become anything that you want. If you’ve always wondered what would have happened if your life had taken a different turn, this is your golden opportunity to make that turn and see what happens.
It will be exciting to see what today’s retirees accomplish. Older Americans today are more vibrant than those of the past. Even so, there have been many notable accomplishments by people well into their 60s, 70s and 80s — at age 65, Colonal SAnders started Kentucky Fried Chicken and at 90, Pablo Picasso was still actively producing art.
Retirement does not need to be about retiring from the world.
32. Cut Housing Costs
Housing is the most expensive budget item for most households. Your home is probably also your most valuable asset. As such, optimizing your housing to best achieve your retirement plan is critical to your retirement success.
A few ideas for cutting housing costs in retirement are:
- Homesharing — think Golden Girls and reduce costs by living with friends.
- Downsizing — downsizing can be the most efficient way to tap your home equity.
- Getting a reverse mortgage — there are many pros and cons to a reverse mortgage.
- Purchasing a home with a reverse mortgage — find out how the HECM for purchase works.
- Moving to a retiree friendly location — Bankrate has a list of best states for retirement.
- Selling your house to travel or retire abroad — here is a list of the world’s best places to retire.
- Exploring senior housing options — so many different retirement housing options are available.
33. Learn a new skill
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play piano or build a cabinet, there’s no better time than after you retire. Forbes says you could even take on several new skills every year.
34. Follow the Lessons of Healthy 90 Year Olds
UC Irvine is heading a celebrated research project that is documenting what factors determine who will live past age 90. Here are some of their findings:
- Smokers die earlier than non smokers
- People who exercise live longer than those who do not. As little as 15 minutes a day makes a difference. Forty five minutes a day is best.
- Non physical activities are also important. Think book clubs, meeting friends for coffee, crossword puzzles.
- Vitamins do not seem to make a difference.
- Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with living longer. Up to two drinks a day leads to a 10-15 percent reduced risk of death.
- Coffee is good too — 1-3 cups a day.
- Gain a little weight — people who are average or slightly over weight seem to live longer than those who are underweight.
If you want to know more about this research, “60 Minutes” did an excellent report on “Living to 90 and Beyond.”
35. Think about college in a whole new way
Most people go to college to meet a goal, not for personal enrichment. Taking a college class, or a few classes, after you retire is a whole different experience. There’s less pressure to get each class under your belt and move ahead. You might actually enjoy criminal justice or cultural anthropology now that it’s not something you must take in order to earn a degree.
36. Explore the Pros and Cons of Having a Mortgage in Retirement
In part due to the recent housing bubble, Americans are now more likely than they used to be to have mortgage debt when they retire, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data, which tracks U.S. household debt between 2000 to 2011.
There can be good options for retiring that debt. Explore the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage for retirement.
37. Forget Retirement — Vacation Instead
The road to retirement is changing dramatically, with older Americans taking a long vacation, or a work sabbatical, for a period of time and then rejoining the workforce –often by switching careers — to delay full retirement. Explore the pros and cons of sabbaticals before full retirement.
38. Keep Making 5-Year Plans
Goal-setting isn’t just for twenty-somethings. The more you plan for the future, the more you’ll get out of your retirement. Brainstorming over your next move in life can be a great way to spend Sunday morning coffee time.
39. Think of Yourself As Young
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?
Satchel Paige may have had it right. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard has spent her life proving time and time again that age is truly a mindset and not a number. If you think of yourself as young, you can be young.
In studies over four decades, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer showed that mental attitude can reverse the effects of aging and improve physical health.
40. Stay Inquisitive About the World Around You
It’s easy to become isolated and fall into a rut after you retire. Keeping a curious mind will allow you to really enjoy learning how the world works.
41. Plan for a Longer and Healthier Life in Retirement
In the 1950s, people retiring at age 65 lived until 78. Today’s retirees can expect an average lifespan of 83 or 84 years – which means that half of you will live even much longer than that.
Your expanded lifespan means many things:
- That your retirement savings will need to last longer
- Your overall health-related costs will be higher now than ever before
- You will need to plan for different phases of retirement – each with its own financial requirements
Use a retirement calculator to find out how long your money will last.
Instead of a time for slowing down, retirement could very well be the doorway you walk through to a whole new experience. Strive for an active, inspiring, fulfilling life where you’ll learn new things, listen to new music, dance new steps, and embrace the things that you already love.
If you find that you’ve got a million excuses about why you can’t do this or that, maybe it’s time for a change of perspective. So you aren’t physically able to hike? Chances are you can take a walk on the beach. You get the idea.
With a strong mind, healthy body and a well-laid plan, you can look forward to a happy retirement instead of allowing it to surprise you in some good, and not-so-good, ways. By taking control of how you approach it, you’ll have a much better chance of creating your retirement instead of just allowing life to happen to you.