When it comes to retirement planning, we tend to focus on accumulating assets and making sure we spend our money wisely. But beyond the numbers, should we be considering other issues that would enhance our quality of life in retirement?
The experts at the MIT AgeLab say pre-retirees may be focusing on the wrong risks. It is absolutely normal to worry about outliving our wealth, but there are several other aspects of retirement that we should consider. After all, in 1900, life expectancy for much of the industrialized world was under 50, while today, most of us are likely to live well into our 80s and beyond. Because of those extra 30 years, many of us face very different, nonfinancial risks: lost independence, due to ailing health; the inability to access the things that make us happy; and a decline in the number of friends in our social network.
To make the most of our 30-year longevity bonus, MIT researchers say, we should be adding three new questions to the way we think about retirement.
1. Who will change my light bulbs?
This sounds mundane and simple enough. But even if you are in good shape, do you want to keep climbing ladders to change your own light bulbs as you age? This is really a question about the ability to maintain a home. You should think about the service providers you may need around your household, and the associated costs.
2. How will I get an ice cream cone?
Quality of life is about being able to easily and routinely access those little experiences that make us happy. A question like this raises other questions: Will I have adequate transportation to go where I want when I want? Will I still be able to drive — and if not, will I live somewhere that will give me seamless alternatives? You’ll want to include the trips that you want to make — not just those you’ll need.
There’s a broader way to think about this, too. Ask yourself: Will I age in a community where there are enough activities and people to keep me engaged, active, and having fun?
3. Who will I have lunch with?
Your lunch dates are a pretty good indicator of your social network. Don’t think just about family. You want to plan to be surrounded by people who help reinforce a healthy and active lifestyle, and who you and your significant other can depend upon.