For most Canadians, the question of retirement planning seems to have boiled down to a basic equation involving two numbers: how long we think we’re going to stick around after we retire, and whether or not we will have squirreled away enough capital to keep us fed, clothed and travelled throughout our “golden years.”
But if you stop to think about it, is cash really the only essential ingredient for a happy retirement life?
I would argue that the most important question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether we’ll have enough money to make our golden years truly golden, but whether or not we’ll be healthy enough to enjoy them.
Unless you have your own picture of Dorian Gray hidden away in the attic, the reality is, we’re all getting older. Unfortunately, even the most conscientious of us rarely plan for all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges that come with growing old.
As human beings, we’re hardwired to not want to think about the consequences of aging. So we don’t, preferring instead to take our current state of vitality and good health for granted – and simply hope for the best.
The end result of this head-in-the-sand approach is that many of us will be woefully unprepared for the health impacts of aging when they inevitably arise.
Thankfully, not everyone has forgotten that health planning is one of the essential pillars of a happy, vital and productive retirement. I was speaking recently with one of my own clients about retirement, for example, and I was struck by how many references he made to his health and well-being.
This client was born and raised in Rome, and his European view of the importance of staying healthy as he got older struck my “North American ears” as odd.
I suspect this is because those of us who were raised in North America tend to think that conversations about retirement should focus more or less exclusively on money. Maybe it’s that famous Canadian work ethic, but we tend to assume that if we work hard enough and save diligently, then somehow the play, quality of life and overall wellness parts of the aging equation will take care of themselves.
This might well be the case for a lucky few. But in my experience, most people who reach what is normally considered retirement age (particularly men) struggle much less than they expected with money issues, and much more with their health and wellness.
David Solie, an internationally-renowned authority on integrative health management and author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, blames some of this disconnect on our refusal to believe that we still have developmental goals and objectives when we are in our 60s, 70s, 80s or beyond.
We recognize that babies have developmental needs. And we know that teenagers go through “phases” in which they develop by leaps and bounds. But for some reason, we tend to think that our development needs end once we get older.
According to Solie, however, we don’t suddenly stop having a developmental agenda once we reach a certain age. Rather, our developmental goals and objectives change, just as they changed from when we are teenagers to when we enter middle age.
But just because our developmental needs change during our retirement years doesn’t mean that they become any less strong, or any less important to our health, happiness and quality of life. If anything, our personal, mental and spiritual development becomes even more essential in retirement, when we no longer have the daily demands of deadlines, meetings or rush hour commutes to distract us from them.
If you’re concerned about how your developmental needs might change over time – and what you should be doing now to prepare for them – I invite you to join me at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa on May 3, 2011, at 4:00 p.m. for an afternoon lecture from David Solie.
Modeled after the approach developed by financial advisors, David’s pioneering “personal health portfolio” uses a unique combination of physical, emotional and spiritual elements to help you organize your health assets, simplify the burden of managing your healthcare, and create a sustainable plan for optimal health for decades to come.
If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Kathy Brunelle by April 22 at Kathy.Brunelle@RichardsonGMP.com or by calling 613.788.8011.
I look forward to seeing you there, and to hearing what David has to say about how we can all protect our most important asset: ourselves!
Alan MacDonald is an investment advisor with Richardson GMP Limited. Alan helps investors with over $500,000. of assets make smart decisions about money. He is the co-author of “The Copperjar System, Your Blueprint for Financial Fitness” available on Amazon.
All material by Alan MacDonald. Alan MacDonald is an Investment Advisor at Richardson GMP Limited. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP or its affiliates.
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