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MARK BLACKWELL — Retirement planning: It isn’t just financial

MARK BLACKWELL

MARK BLACKWELL

Quality of life in retirement is about more than how much money you have saved or how much income you generate.  Those are certainly important factors, but AgeLab, a research program within Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study ageing, has identified additional risks that can also diminish the quality of life for the elderly.  AgeLab asserts that these risks must also be addressed to develop a comprehensive plan towards a successful retirement.  These concerns are presented as three questions to stimulate conversation between individuals and their advisors as they prepare retirement plans.

»Who will change my light bulbs?

This particular question is especially provocative for me, because as a teenager I would visit an elderly widow each month or so to change her light bulbs and help with any other minor maintenance issues at her home.

When we are young and healthy, we take for granted our capability to accomplish the normal tasks required for independent living, but age may significantly reduce that capability.  Identifying the costs, as well as the service providers to address those needs are worthwhile considerations to maintain your independent lifestyle.  My neighbor once paid me $1.25 for helping her out, but you may not want to count on a nearly-free teenager to address needs that will allow you to live independently.  Perhaps your intention is to live with a family member or in a retirement facility so that this type of service will be taken care of by other members of your household or the facility’s staff.  So, whether your intention is to rely on the kindness of others, to pay service providers, or to live where these services are covered, it makes sense to consider now how you will have regular maintenance performed in your home when you are no longer capable of safely climbing a ladder or turning a wrench.

» How will I get an ice cream cone?

Mobility within your home is important, but leaving home to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life is an important consideration, too.

When driving is no longer possible, how will you take short trips?  The answer may be addressed financially by having enough money saved to call a taxi when needed, but the need may also be addressed by living in a retirement community where services are conveniently located and activities are arranged to keep residents active and engaged.  Giving up driving after sixty or seventy years of holding a license can be a difficult milestone for the aged, because it may also mean giving up the freedom to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures with some spontaneity, but with the appropriate planning, losing one’s mobility doesn’t also mean losing fun and enjoyment.

» Who will I have lunch with?

I read another study several years ago which explored the reasons for depression among retirees.  One factor that was identified was that new retirees frequently move to more secluded locations – by a lake or on a farm, for example – that reflect a long-held vision of what retirement would look like.  In doing so, they leave not only their jobs, but their neighbors, churches, clubs, and other social groups to which they may have belonged.  They may not take into account, however, that in leaving the daily interaction with associates in the workplace, moving may only heighten their sense of isolation and, eventually, loneliness.  How you will maintain a social network throughout your retirement?  That network may be within your family, with existing friends, or with new friends that you will make in your retirement years.

Money has been an important consideration throughout our lives and it will continue to be one in retirement.  But it is not and will not be the only consideration!  How we will address our basic physical needs, find enjoyment, and interact socially will also continue to be critical considerations.  As you ponder and plan your life throughout retirement, make sure that these factors are taken into account, too, and that they are incorporated into your financial retirement plan.

» Mark Blackwell is a Certified Wealth Strategist® and the Mississippi Area Executive for Regions Private Wealth Management.  He can be reached at mark.blackwell@regions.com. 

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