Secure stages

With retirement comes time to spend with your family, sharing thoughts, values and stories.

The steps toward financial security can begin at a very young age. We are going to break down the stages – from age 3 to 103. Two wise strategies are listed for each stage.

In last month’s column, we covered Stages 1-4, which included ages 3-29. Today, we will discuss Stages 5-7, for ages 50-103.

Stage 5: Ages 50-64

PLAN FOR RETIREMENT: This is the stage where you can start to daydream about retirement. It is now within reach, and depending on your prior saving history and whether you love your current career, you can set the retirement date sooner or later. Age 65 is still a common retirement age, but anywhere between 55 and 75 can work. I have one client who is nearing age 80 who is still working. He works because he loves it.

If you have not yet “run the numbers” on your retirement planning, now is the time. Sit down with a financial planner or go online and find retirement calculators. Visit my website (www.joyoffinancialsecurity.com) and read the two blogs Preparing Psychologically for Retirement and Preparing Financially for Retirement.

I strongly encourage you to put some effort into preparing psychologically several years before you plan to retire. A book that may help is “The New Retirementality” by Mitch Anthony.

Continue to focus on saving. If you need to “kick the savings into a higher gear” because you are behind in saving for retirement, this is the stage to do it. Most likely, the kids are out of the house and out of college, and your expenses have declined. I have seen people save 25 percent to 40 percent of their gross income during this stage if necessary.

MAKE HEALTH A PRIORITY: This is also the age where our health becomes very important. We can almost ignore our health at younger ages, but that is no longer the case. Getting enough exercise, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep become essential.

If you are working full time, carving out time for exercise can be difficult. Yet neglecting your health once you are over age 50 can have dangerous results. Good health becomes your most valuable asset as you get close to retirement.

Travel is often important in this stage, whether it is to visit kids or grandkids, or to experience faraway lands you could previously not afford. Travel requires good health and mobility, so focusing on your health needs to be at the top of your priority list.

Stages 6: Ages 65-79

CELEBRATE RETIREMENT! This stage can be full of exploration if you have planned well for your retirement.

Hopefully, you have made a list of all the things you would like to do. This may include getting more exercise, volunteering at several places, working part-time jobs, starting new hobbies, meeting friends for lunch, or taking special trips. Perhaps you have always wanted to take an art class, go on a sailing trip, or participate in an archeological dig. Now you can.

Retirement is a time for learning new things, expanding our horizons, and experiencing joy.

FIND THE JOY IN LIFE: I am a firm believer that we need to seek joy. It does not come to us automatically, and psychologists have shown that much of our happiness is within our control.

Retirement is a time to make positive changes. It is also a time to change directions. If your health is not great, work to improve it. If you want to improve your relationship with your spouse, kids, grandkids or siblings, devote time to them. If you do not like something about your personality, change it.

I recommend pondering everything you would like to do so you will not have any regrets later in life. I have seen retirees make major changes to their lives, and they provide proof that we can break out of our routines and become happier.

Attend concerts, write letters, sort and organize your kids and grandkids’ photos, plant a vegetable garden, learn to play a musical instrument, get together with your neighbors, tell your kids and grandkids stories from your childhood. The list is endless.

If you would like to write a letter to your kids or grandkids as a legacy, I recommend a workbook titled “The Wealth of Your Life” by Susan Turnbull. It will guide you through the process of writing down your thoughts, values, and family stories.

Stage 7: Ages 80-103

MAINTAIN YOUR HEALTH: Although people may joke that “60 is the new 50,” most people would agree that by the time we reach 80, we are elderly. Yet I know many people in their 80s and 90s who do not act elderly. Most of them have more aches and pains than when they were 60, and they may slow down their pace. However, they are still enjoying life each day.

People this age must focus on maintaining their health. I have friends in this age group who walk regularly. I have a friend who is 91 who exercises every day. Another friend (age 93) gets massages and strives to maintain her mobility. She just returned from a trip with her family that included five generations!

There is a tendency to become isolated and secluded as we get older, but studies have shown that a secluded lifestyle is strongly correlated with depression. Social interaction as we age is very important.

Look for exercise classes or walking groups that match your level of ability. Take trips with tour groups and let them handle all the arrangements. Continue to make new friends. There are many groups available to senior citizens, so try something new.

SHARE YOUR WISDOM: People in this age group have attained an enormous amount of wisdom. Giving them an opportunity to share their experiences and their opinions with younger generations is very important. This requires all generations to make some effort, but it is richly rewarded.

If you are a young person with living parents or grandparents, take time to ask them about their childhood, and about the good times and the bad times in their history. If you are a senior citizen, initiate conversations with your children and grandchildren. Pass down your family stories.

If you are able, volunteer at a local library. Seek out opportunities where you can help. Offer to speak to a school group about your experiences. Read books and continue learning. Stay active, and share your wisdom whenever possible.

Of course, none of us will live forever. I recommend a book by surgeon Atul Gawande titled “Being Mortal.” It shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.

In each of the seven stages (ages 3-103), I have briefly described some financial strategies for you to consider. It is possible that you are reading this at age 50, and you are thinking “I didn’t do any of those strategies for Stages 1-4, and I’m way behind.”

Do not fret. Start wherever you are, but start today. Start saving. Start talking with your kids and grandkids about money. Strive to be a strong role model. You will soon be able to say “I got a late start, but I’m now on track for financial security.”

Donna Skeels Cygan, CFP, MBA, is the author of the multi-award-winning book “The Joy of Financial Security.” She has been the owner and financial planner for the firm Sage Future Financial in Albuquerque for 19 years. Visit joyoffinancialsecurity.com.

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