By Joe Casey
You’ve seen the brochures on retirement. Sailboats. Walks on the beach, Golf. Beautiful sunsets. ‘Seashells and balloons’ as the late, great Al McGuire once quipped. They paint an appealing picture of retirement. It looks awesome!
It’s important to have an aspirational vision of your life in retirement. And it’s critical to have a sound financial plan and invest wisely for your future. If you don’t, you’ll risk outliving your money, advisors, and journalists prudently warn. It’s a primary concern.
But there’s another side of retirement that’s not in the brochures. The non-financial side. It also carries serious risks. They’re often unanticipated and can have significant implications for your life in retirement if you’re not prepared.
There’s a strong trend of more married people leaving to lead lives apart as they grow older. According to the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate of people 50 and older has doubled and the rate for those 65 and older has roughly tripled since 1990.
We know that obesity is a major health risk. But researchers have found that social isolation poses an even greater health risk. Lonely people were found to have a 50% greater risk of dying early compared to socially connected people. By comparison, obesity poses a 30% greater risk of early death.
The Center for Disease Control reports that depression is not a normal part of the aging process. Most older adults are not depressed. However, retirement can be stressful and some older adults can be at increased risk.
Increased Alcohol Use
Alcohol use – and abuse – is also trending up, increasing over 22 percent since 2002 among people 65 and over, especially among women and minorities.
Is Boredom the Root Cause?
What’s driving these trends? My hypothesis is that boredom is a key factor. It can be a hard transition going from a life centered on work to life in retirement. Work provides multiple benefits besides a paycheck, such as structure, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose, that are not automatically replaced.
Without preparation and planning, the hours that people worked so hard to enjoy do get filled.
Often, with TV and Netflix. They can be great, but are they a replacement for work? Yet according to a report by eMarketer, “adults 65 and older spend an average of 51.5 hours a week watching live TV and time-shifted TV.”
Get a Life – in Retirement
Retirement no longer comes with a gold watch. Nor does it automatically come with a satisfying lifestyle from day one. But it does come with time and freedom.
The good news is that it is doable to create a satisfying life in retirement – and it’s much better than TV (and possibly even Netflix).
The trick is designing the right mix of activities that you enjoy and find meaningful. Research by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave shows that the most highly satisfied retirees are engaged in a variety of activities, often 10 or more. They don’t have time to watch 51.5 hours of TV.
Start Small, but Do Start to Invest Your Time
If you’re worried about outliving your money, you’ll take time to build a sound financial plan, perhaps with a good advisor, and make smart investments to mitigate that risk.
it’s a similar process with the non-financial side. You’ll create a plan, perhaps with a good retirement coach, and make wise investments of your time. Start small. Start building an active life outside of work around your interests. Invest time in your significant relationships. Invest time expanding your social network beyond work. Invest time in your interests – perhaps the things you’ve always wanted to devote more time to – or maybe revisiting something you used to love when you were younger and want to pick up once again. Or maybe its something entirely new and different that you’d like to learn.
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Lin, I. F., Brown, S. L., Wright, M. R., & Hammersmith, A. M. (2016). Antecedents of gray divorce: A life course perspective. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, gbw164.
(2016, July 16). TV Continues to Top Time with Media. eMarketer. Retrieved fromhttps://www.emarketer.com/Article/TV-Continues-Top-Time-with-Media/1014210
(2014). Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations. Merrill Lynch/Age Wave.
(2012). Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm