Health and Retirement: Planning For The Great Unknown

Health and Retirement: Planning For The Great Unknown

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This past week I received the following letter from my financial advisor:

“Good morning, George and Rhonda, I hope all is well. Thought you would want to see this 2014 report from Merrill Lynch. This is the first type of financial report I've seen with this much discussion on health. To me, this shows that more and more are headed towards what you have been offering for many years, and even larger numbers are awakening of the need to be healthier.”

The 22-page article was titled: “Health and Retirement: Planning for the Great Unknown” and began with the following words:

“Retirees say health is the #1 ingredient for a happy retirement. As boomers near retirement, many are taking charge of their health and will demand more from the health care system than their parents did... Although being financially secure is very important, today’s retirees tell us that good health is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement.”

Following are the percentages of retirees who say what the most important ingredients for a happy retirement are:
  • 81% - Having good health
  • 58% - Being financially secure
  • 36% - Having loving family and friends
  • 20% - Having purpose
The article goes on to say:

Health challenges can be a double threat to retirement financial security. First, health care expenses can be unpredictable and costly, therefore draining savings. Second, unexpected early retirement due to health problems can reduce earning years and retirement savings potential.

Health care expenses are people’s top financial concern in retirement. Wealthier pre-retirees and retirees are even more likely to rank health care expenses as their top financial worry in retirement.”

Later in the article under the heading: “Three Critical Solutions for Healthier Aging”:
  1. Retirees must take greater charge of their own health to achieve the retirement and lifestyle they aspire to in later life.
  2. Health care system must enhance resources, skills, and knowledge to be more aging ready.
  3. Both the government and scientific communities must increase research to eliminate and manage the diseases of aging.
Solution #1: Retirees Need to Take Charge of Their Own Health – Five Strategies for Healthier Aging:
  1. People who begin exercising in their 60s or 70s are three times more likely than those who don’t exercise to age healthfully – and not develop a major chronic disease, depression, physical or cognitive impairment.
  2. A nutritious diet. A healthy diet can improve heart health, fortify bones, and reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
  3. Maintaining a healthy weight. People age 45-64 who eat better, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise a few hours a week can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%.
  4. Staying socially connected. Studies show that having a low level of social interaction is just as unhealthy as smoking and can be even unhealthier than lack of exercise or obesity.
  5. Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits. This includes the avoidance of smoking, stress, and excessive drinking. It’s never too late to quit smoking. The benefits are almost immediate, and quitting at age 65 adds two to four years to your life. People who drink two or more drinks a day have a 62% higher chance of having a stroke.
Read the full article. Editor's Note: For almost 40 years, I have been personally taking heed to the above five strategies for healthier living. And for the past 23 years, I have been encouraging others to observe these strategies. The results in my own life have been dramatic: My father died of a massive heart attack at age 65 and my mother of colon cancer at age 65. Yet here I am at age 81, more than 15 years beyond the lifespan of both my parents, because I took control of my own health almost 40 years ago, still alive and well and with a healthy body – and with no sign of Alzheimer’s, I might add. Are you preparing for retirement by taking control of your own body? It’s worth the effort!

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