The article we just read on the CNBC website is titled, “Make sure this key ingredient is part of your retirement.” which claims to have the missing ingredient that many retirement plans miss. At first, we just assumed it was one more in an endless list of articles advising this financial strategy or that investment tip – but we were wrong.
“Many people think only of finances when it comes to retirement planning. But is there more to it?” the article asks. “Financial preparation is critical, yet there is another element that needs to be addressed with the same discipline.” Here at AgingOptions, comments like this really grab our attention, since we are forever trying to persuade people that “retirement planning” and “financial planning” are not synonymous. But what is this mysterious puzzle piece that is missing from so many retirement plans?
“The missing element is ‘health,’” writes the author of the CNBC piece, Bruce Broussard. “Even if you’re financially responsible, have saved for decades and achieved your savings goals, what good is it if you didn’t tend to your health in the same way?” It’s easy to see how Broussard arrives at this conclusion, since his job title is president and chief executive office of the health giant Humana. But he does make a valid point. Planning for retirement means planning for all of life, not just making certain you have money in the bank – which is why we at AgingOptions place so much emphasis on the process we call LifePlanning, zeroing in on not just one or two but five planning components. We’ll say more about that in a moment.
Waiting Too Long to Change Course
Writing in CNBC, Broussard makes a valid – and tragic – observation. “When people reach retirement,” he writes, “they believe they can make up for decades of unhealthy behaviors like sedentary lifestyles or poor eating habits, because they won’t be working as much and will have more time.” Unfortunately, this shortsightedness comes with a high cost. “While improving behavior will help at any age, it won’t make up for years of unhealthy actions that have led to chronic conditions from diabetes to heart disease.” He quotes from this CDC report (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that describes how three out of four Americans 65 years old and older suffer from three or more chronic health conditions, which are defined as “those that last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention or that limit activities of daily living.”
Naturally, these health concerns dramatically impact everyday life. “As a person’s number of chronic conditions increases,” says the CDC, “his or her risk for dying prematurely, being hospitalized, and even receiving conflicting advice from health care providers increases. People with multiple chronic conditions also are at greater risk of poor day-to-day functioning.” Translation: if you have a robust financial plan but ignore your health in your younger years, you may arrive at retirement with plenty of money but without the strength or vitality to enjoy it. In the same way that it’s never too late to start saving, it’s never too late to start taking steps toward better health and smarter lifestyle choices.
Broussard makes this point well. In the CNBC article, he writes, “A person who is well-prepared for retirement knows his or her financial situation at any given time, thanks to the financial industry’s successful use of technology. People can make the necessary financial lifestyle changes and sacrifices and know, with the help of these sophisticated tools, exactly what they’ve saved, what their goals are and when they can retire. But do you have the same confidence in your body mass index (BMI), or if you’re close to being diagnosed as a prediabetic? What good is all that financial planning if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy the benefits?”
Don’t Let Poor Health Sabotage Your Dreams
Baby boomers in particular, says CNBC, have little desire to slow down into what we think of as a “traditional” retirement. Several studies have shown that a high percentage plan to keep working, some out of necessity but many by choice, well past “full retirement age” at or around age 66. Boomers are also keen to travel, stay active, and even start new businesses late in life: the CNBC article says that about one quarter of new businesses in the U.S. are launched by people 55 and older. “If boomers are going to keep working part time, starting new businesses, and retaining the active professional and personal lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to, good health is essential,” writes Broussard. He also adds the timely caution that more technology – those digital toys that boomers tend to fall in love with – is not necessarily the solution. “Technology is going to disrupt the health-care experience,” says Broussard, “and it will enable us to have a highly detailed understanding of our core health numbers through advances in things like wearables, remote monitoring and electronic health records. But opening apps on your phone will only go so far.” The day to day decisions we make about our health are the ones that matter.
So what actions can we take? As Broussard says, for most of us it doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, the steps we need to take are the ones we know about already but often put off. He suggests beginning with a list called Life’s Simple 7, created by the American Heart Association, a list that includes blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, activity level, diet, weight loss and quitting smoking. “If we understand and change unhealthy behaviors today,” says Broussard, “our health won’t be holding us back when it comes time for retirement. We can all spend less on health in retirement because we’ve minimized our chances for multiple chronic conditions. Now that’s a retirement worth planning for.”
Health Care – and So Much More
So are we to conclude that a plan that preserves your health is all that’s required in retirement? We know that’s not true. Good retirement planning – the kind we advocate at AgingOptions – demands that no single aspect of retirement be considered all by itself, in a vacuum, so to speak. Health care planning is a missing ingredient, but it has to be done in concert with your financial, legal and housing plan so that each one reinforces the other, allowing you to be prepared no matter what the future brings. At the same time, good communication with your family must be part of your plan, so that they will understand and support your wishes as you age. We refer to this comprehensive strategy as LifePlanning, offered exclusively by the professional team at AgingOptions.
If you’re ready to learn more, let us extend this invitation to you: come join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar, offered without cost in locations throughout the area. Bring your questions and invest a few hours, and you’ll see retirement planning in a whole new light! You’ll find a complete listing of currently scheduled seminars here on our Live Events page.
Do you really want to improve your health by eliminating retirement stress? Come join Rajiv Nagaich and discover the power of a LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.cnbc.com)
Photo Source: flickr. Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/