Planning for Retirement: Finding Meaning in Your Third Act
The media has made sure we all know that baby boomers are turning 65 this year and much of the discussion is focused on the lack of readiness…financial readiness of this generation. Certainly the recent economic downturn devastated many retirement accounts and many boomers are avoiding retirement and continuing to work.
We are flooded with advice on how to build up our retirement, get by on less or continue working and save more. In reading this advice, I am struck by the assumption in many articles that “retirement” or the stage of life we refer to as The 3rd Act is strictly based on a financial retirement plan. Yet the research suggests that your successful, happy “retirement” is influenced by so much more than how much you have saved in your 401K. Setting aside the financial planning for your “retirement” for the moment, have you planned for your 3rd Act and beyond, in other ways?
The first wave baby boomers turning 65 this year will likely live another 20 years. If the boomer is a woman, she will live 5 years longer, often alone and more likely to have a longer down-hill decline in health than her male counterpart who is more likely to die suddenly. In addition, there are more childless boomers than in previous generations and those who have had children often live across the country and unable to provide caregiving. Women in our workshops reflect this data in the fears they express about growing old…not only running out of money but being lonely, sick and disabled. This is enough to push us into depression and denial…and avoid taking action now to prepare for our future. We become paralyzed by our fears and do nothing. Instead, we can make some changes by taking action in small steps.
One of the best ways to confront our depression and denial about growing old is to take charge of what we can control and do to prepare for these potential outcomes. We can mitigate our decline in health and disabling illness by becoming more physically active and exercising, as well as paying attention to our nutrition. (See earlier discussions on these topics) If you are worried about your health, take a small step and begin by walking a few minutes a day. I became an exercise convert in my late 50’s, when increased aches and pains began slowing me down. Now several years later, I have been rewarded by feeling not only stronger but my aches and pains have cleared up too!
In recent conversations with friends and colleagues I heard the fears that haunt all of us about being lonely and being confined alone. Such conversations raise questions of coping with needed, long term care and as well as where to live as we get older. Insurance to cover the expenses of long term care is not available to all of us, but it is worth exploring to see if it is for you. But if it is not, what might be other options? Many of us are committed to aging in place…preparing our homes with grab bars, widening doors for wheel chairs, moving to places without stairs. I have also developed mutual agreements among a group of my women friends that we will support each other when we need care. These needs and desires have led others to develop a formal network of mutual support to empower people to live in their own homes. See San Francisco Village.
Perhaps the easiest and most important actions each of us can take, is to stay active and engaged: First, in our communities and organizations whose missions inspire us; second to sign up for a class, take lessons, participate in a workshop; and third to nurture our relationships with friends. Learning and growing keeps us engaged and our brains functioning. Again, taking small steps can get us started. I recently went to a workshop on writing historical novels since that is my next third act project. I learned so much and it was fun to meet new people. The research suggests that being engaged outside ourselves, finding meaning in our lives, getting out and meeting others keeps us healthier, reduces the likelihood of dementia, and increases our happiness.
Take small steps and create your non-financial plan for your 3rd Act and beyond: Exercise, good nutrition, meeting friends, staying involved, attending classes and being engaged with life. May your 3rd Act be long, happy and healthy!
WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU… WHAT SMALL OR GIANT STEP YOU ARE TAKING TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR 3RD ACT PLAN