“Live long and prosper.” That is the quote that comes to mind after two weeks of attending a conference on the aging conundrum and participating in workshops with Mark Pace of the Vital Life Alignment project.
The speakers and workshops all talked about typical aging as a story of decline, defined by culture. The conundrum is that we are living longer than prior generations and we need to change our preconceived cultural impressions that growing old means being feeble and frail. 65 is no longer old if we have another 30 to 40 years to live. We must shift our dispositions and beliefs around aging if we are going to do it well. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it retirement planning, but long life planning. As advisors, these workshop discussions challenged us to work with clients to be at their best throughout their life. Mark Pace reminded us to eliminate the inherent biases around aging. He discussed the secrets of the centenarians, which did not include a vegetarian diet, but actually thinking ourselves younger.
Aging successfully is done with purpose and vitality. I heard the word vital and vitality often in these workshops. The definition of vitality is revealing. Vitality is the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the non-living. The capacity to live and develop and endure. Resilience comes to mind as well. Your ability to transition through disruptions. Your well-being is a dynamic state. Life happens no matter how long you live. The message is to let it open up possibilities as you prepare to live longer.
I was reminded by a speaker of one of the Stephen Covey habits of highly successful people: plan with the end in mind. We all agree that end of life is about the quality of life, not the quantity of care as we all fear. If we have a long time yet to go before we get to the end, then we have some planning to do. Without going into statistics, as I did in a prior blog about longevity planning, we are going to live into our 90s and 100s. The discussion around retirement should focus on the flow of those years. Research on happiness indicates we are in the flow if we have activities that are routine, challenging, measurable and social. With a longer life span, we have many opportunities to plan for new adventures, even new careers or other pursuits.
Preparing for aging also involves preparing for transitions. Having a well thought out and documented estate plan is essential. So is adopting measurements along the way to determine what changes would cause you to change direction. Documenting and communicating those transitory milestones with family helps to set plans and policies in place to help you retain your own sense of control and handle those inevitable disruptions as you age. Planning with the end in mind so you can determine when and how you want to slow down, if ever.
Thank you to the fictitious Mr. Spock for wishing us a long and prosperous life. We look forward to helping you prepare for a long life filled with vitality.
Cathie Straub, CPA, CFP®
Director, APCM Wealth Management for Individuals