Is retirement near? Are you among the 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily? It’s exciting, yet daunting — freedom tainted with dreaded aging. Here are my four favorite lifestyle tips for happy retirement, culled from decades of working with retired folk.
1. Manage your health. Of course, follow your doctor’s lead on tests and whatnot. And watch out for stealthier risks. Example: Chronic liver disease is skyrocketing among older people and is often undiagnosed until too late. While booze-linked, it’s increasingly affecting non-drinkers, too. Don’t wait. Get screened.
Falling down is another big health concern for older folks. So don’t be afraid to talk about it. The Centers for Disease Control estimates one-third of retirement age adults fall annually, often incurring injury. For those over 80, half break a hip and half of those die from pneumonia — 25% fatal. Yet few speak up, fearing they’ll lose independence. Without help they get more sedentary and weak, and that could mean even more falling. Don’t let that be you. Your doctor may diagnose why you fell, which helps prevent future stumbles. One great tactic: Join exercise classes. Tai chi, yoga or any balance-oriented training can work wonders.
2. Choose your best place to live. Have you ever scanned “best retirement cities” lists? They’re mostly focused on weather and cost of living — important, but not everything. What fun is a warm, cheap retirement if it’s lonely?
For millions, community and lifestyle are key. Ponder the lifestyle you covet. Do you want to visit grandchildren weekly? Or are you OK with a FaceTime relationship and occasional visit? Do you crave outdoorsy activities such as hiking and hunting? Or urban subtleties such as theater, symphony and crowd watching? Do you want walkable communities and public transportation? Or do you like long drives? Figure it out first. Then, find where it’s abundant. If you’re going to move, rent before buying to test it out. A home purchase mistake costs money — also aggravation.
Still, you may decide against relocating. Realtor.com estimates 85% of retirees stay where they raised their kids. A lifetime of social connections is irreplaceable.
3. Pick the right home. This isn’t just a “to downsize, or not to downsize” quandary. Some folks buy their retirement dream home in the town they treasure, but in some isolated neighborhood they soon hate. That’s more annoying once you stop driving.
Retirement experts routinely recommend simple questions: How easily can you go for ice cream? Years from now, will you be able to afford drivers for all the little things? Or would you like life’s simple pleasures just blocks away, nearby your doctor and basic services?
Next: Apartment or house? Independent living or retirement community? Houses are roomier. And some love gardening. But maintenance and upkeep sap elderly energy. Even changing light bulbs can require assistance late in life — one reason to minimize vaulted ceilings. Stairs, too. Sixty is the new 40, but stairs are hyper hazardous when truly elderly. Again, falling kills. Retirement communities handle most of these concerns, but you may miss younger folks and their energy.
4. Fill your time with fun. Did you know retirement can cause depression? Even if your job was a drag, it gave you purpose. Beat back the boredom blues with hobbies, volunteering or even a part-time job. Check out community college course catalogues for art classes or anything striking your fancy. Offer to teach classes in your specialty. Think about part-timing at some retail boutique you like. To keep fit, find groups for biking, hiking, jogging, tennis or dancing. If volunteering, ponder the most fun way to spend that time — with children, in nature, with animals, at museums, the library — abundant choices. You’ll make friends, too, which reduces depression.
Fun is the most important of these four. It affects your attitude, which drives your body. Start now. Have the Merriest Christmas possible by offering extra-fun kindness to those around you. It will pay you back immediately, boosting your psyche heading into 2018. And I’ll see you Jan. 2, when my next column appears.
Ken Fisher is the founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were "New York Times" bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter @KennethLFisher