A successful retirement hinges, without question, on having adequate 401(k) and other savings. But it also requires building a well-rounded, healthy life with purpose, family and friends.
Those ingredients not only make for a more enjoyable retirement — but they can even prolong one’s life and stave off such diseases as Alzheimer’s and stroke, Carol Ryff, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tells The Wall Street Journal in “Your 401(k) Isn’t Enough: To Invest for Retirement, Build Friendships and Hobbies.”
The most accurate forecasters of longevity, health and happiness in one’s golden years surprised even Professor Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development: “What are the best predictors? We thought it was going to be their cholesterol level. We thought it was going to be their blood pressure.
“It turned out to be the quality of their relationships.”
That leads retirement coaches and gerontologists to urge retired seniors to cultivate interests, relationships and activities — all to stay active, happy and valuable.
The Makings of a True Friendship
Most importantly, they say these activities require an investment of a considerable amount of time. The experts can even quantify how long it takes to develop a close, even a casual, friendship.
A close friendship takes a minimum of 200 hours over four months, says Jeffrey Hall, a professor at the University of Kansas. Even a casual friendship requires at least 60 hours.
Psychologists recommend that people looking to rebuild or start a friendship be prepared to listen, to laugh and to be nonjudgmental, in terms of expectations.
“When reaching out to friends, don’t be a perfectionist,” recommends Nicholas Epley, director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
“It’s not about what you say,” Epley continues. “It’s about whether you are there for people and are engaged.”
Financial planners often recommend that retirees find part-time work or volunteer, for a sense of purpose and even some income. Fifty-nine percent of Baby Boomers still in the workforce hope to work at least part-time in retirement, according to a Voya survey.
Other good advice for retirees is to create a bucket list—and be specific about it, because then, you are more apt to accomplish your goals. For instance, says Jaye Smith, a retirement coach and co-founder of Reboot Partners LLC, instead of telling yourself you want to travel and take classes, decide to explore national parks and learn French.
The 4 Pillars of Retirement
A handful of financial planners and investment firms that specialize in retirement and 401(k) plans are aware of the importance of planning a well-rounded retirement.
Two are Edward Jones and Age wave, which have determined that the new four pillars of retirement are: Health, Family, Purpose, and then, Finances.
“These pillars are designed to help people live well,” says Ken Cella, a principal with Edward Jones.
Retirees would be better served by working with a financial planner who takes the time to get to know them personally and who can advise them on their lifestyle, not just their portfolio, Cella says.
Indeed, it is not just working Americans who have revisited their purpose in life following the COVID pandemic, adds Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of Age Wave, a consultancy to investment firms on America’s aging population.
Today, “56% of retirees say it’s a new chapter in their life, and they are not winding down. Rather, the word ‘freedom’ resonates—freedom to live life and grow on your own terms.”
What People Want Most in Retirement
- 93% want to feel useful in retirement;
- 67% want to spend time with loved ones;
- 55% said they want to do interesting/enjoyable things;
- 53% want to be true to themselves;
- 40% want to be generous or give back;
- 38% want to live a faith-filled life;
- 32% want to live a fun-filled life;
- 27% said they want to fulfill their life’s goals; and
- 16% said they want to be financially wealthy.
Source: Edward Jones and Age Wave survey of 9,000 North Americans across five generations
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