Let me dispel a big myth right now: Early retirement is not for everyone.
Early retirement won’t magically fix everything we wish was different about us or our lives, and it comes with its own set of pitfalls and stresses. To some of us, those things are worth it, but we can only know that if we do some real introspection and planning. and not just financial planning, but also planning around personal fulfillment, health and self worth.
To help sort this out, we’ve put together a list: The ten questions you should be able to answer before you retire early.
No matter what stage you’re at in thinking about or planning for early retirement, take some time to think through these questions and their answers. If you struggle to answer any of them, then early retirement may not be right for you, or may not be right for you right now, and that’s okay! Not everyone has to share this vision for their future.
Particularly if you don’t have a clear vision of what you want to retire to, there’s nothing wrong with working a little longer, or even a lot longer. Not liking your job — being clear on what you’re retiring from — is not enough of a reason to retire early. The answer may be much, much simpler: find a different job, or a different career path.
If you’re committed to retiring early, but don’t have good answers for all of these questions, then let them kick start some additional thinking and planning that will pay off once you pull that ripcord and wave arrivederci to your career.
The Ten Questions to Answer Before You Retire Early
1. How will you support yourself or your family without a job? (And will that change over time?)
The answer could be any number of things — earning dividends from stocks you own, selling shares of index funds, collecting rent on an investment property or ten, doing part-time work, or some combination of the above. The answer can also change over time, focusing primarily on one strategy until you reach age 59 1/2, for example, and then shifting to live off your 401(k) or IRA after you reach the eligible age.
Other pieces to consider: will you follow the 4 percent rule? Have you put together a realistic budget that will account for all potential expenses and things you want to do in retirement? Have you done multiple projections to ensure that you’re saving enough before retiring to provide enough income for the full period that you’ll need it, even if the markets don’t provide good returns every year? If you have kids, will you plan to pay for their college?
3. How will you get health care?
It’s no secret that health care costs bankrupt people all the time. How will you ensure that that never happens to you? Will you buy health insurance through the federal exchange (or your state’s, if they have one) until you reach age 65 and qualify for Medicare? Have you done the calculations for the income you plan to have, and ensured that your retirement budget can cover the full cost of premiums and copays (as well as the possibility of needing to go up to the out-of-pocket maximum)? Will you plan to live abroad and avoid buying insurance in the U.S.? (Or are you a lucky Canadian, who doesn’t have to worry about such things?)
4. How will you keep your body and mind healthy?
What is your plan for eating healthily, exercising and stimulating your mind in early retirement? Does that plan look a lot like what you already do now, or does it involve some drastic changes? As Maggie would say, early retired you is still you, so ask yourself if drastic changes are really realistic, or if you need to start making incremental changes now to make sure staying healthy is doable once you’re retired. On the mental front, will you embrace new technology and other societal changes as you age? Will you befriend younger people? Will you engage in activities or hobbies that expand your thinking, and force you to form new neural pathways?
5. What are you retiring to?
This question is perhaps the most important of all. Nothing is worse than saving for years to retire early, burning bridges in your career, and then discovering that you’re bored. Consider well before that happens what you will do with your new-found time in early retirement. What will excite you about getting out of bed every day? How often will you check things off of your bucket list? What do you want your contribution to the world to be?
6. What will your living situation be?
Do you plan to stay put where you are for retirement? Do you plan to move into a smaller home that’s easier to maintain and which frees up some capital? Do you plan to relocate? Do you plan to pay off your mortgage, or budget rent or mortgage payments into your retirement spending plan? Do you plan to go nomadic and live the RV lifestyle? For aspiring RVers, do you have a plan for if or when you decide you ultimately want to put down roots, and now need to pay rent or buy a home? Have you budgeted adequately for miscellaneous housing expenses like property tax, rent increases and utilities?
7. What do you want a day in retirement to look like?
What will an average day in your new retired life look like? What activities will you do every day? How will you spend most of your time? Will you spend a lot of your time surfing the web and watching TV? When you look at your vision for each day, does it sound both realistic and fulfilling to you?
8. What will your social circles and interactions be like?
Who will be your primary friends once you retire? Will you be able to see them more often, or will their work schedules prevent them from spending time with you during your new free time? How will you make new friends? If you have a partner, do the two of you plan to spend most of your time together, or apart? Will you have your own hobbies, or share most of your hobbies with your partner?
9. How will you and your partner, if you have one, stay on the same page about money and life goals?
Are you both equally committed to retiring early, and do you share the same vision of what’s worth sacrificing to reach your goals? Have you mapped out your big goals for your lives together? Do you both feel comfortable with your retirement budget and projections, or does one of you feel they are too aggressive or risky? Are you both committed to the discipline and frugality needed to ensure you don’t outlive your retirement savings? Do you regularly check in with each other to make sure you’re still on the same page about money and life goals? If you’re currently single, does your vision allow for flexibility if you one day get in a serious relationship?
10. How will you define yourself and derive self-worth post-career?
Once the job title is gone, how will you see yourself? What will you do to ensure that you see yourself as a worthy person making contributions in the world? How will you find fulfillment without a job? How will you give back? What will you want to have accomplished, looking back on your life at age 80 or 90?
I must say, our Bailey Park Community really does offer the best of all worlds mentioned in this blog. Some of the residents still work but most are retired.
Our residents exercise in the gym, walk around the park, swim in the pool and play pickleball and shuffleboard in the spring, summer & fall.
They do keep each other company, check on each other, and have a monthly get-together in order to get to know each other better. They have gone out to dinner as a group, gone to comedy and music shows, visited museums and some travel together!
“Age does not depend on years, but upon temperament and health. Some men are born old, and some never grow so.” – Tryon Edwards.
This statement holds true as aging is a state of mind – you are as old as you think you are!
A healthy lifestyle during your younger years will help you reap the health benefits even in golden years of life. Due to longevity and advancement in medical healthcare, many elderly people live their golden years fruitfully. These seniors also want to stay fit and live a healthy life in their twilight years. As age catches up, you require changes in your lifestyle, diet and your exercise regimen. With growing age the efficiency of various organs and body systems decline and weaken. When young, the body can cope up with stress both physical and mental, but as you grow old the realization of healthy lifestyle, exercises and regulated diet sets in. When aged, you find it difficult to perform the simplest of tasks. Practically every senior citizen is aware that exercise is extremely important to maintain a healthy body and mind. Senior citizens can start with simple exercises and do not have to necessarily do anything strenuous. Exercise and diet should complement each other for a long lasting happy life. Read on to know some senior citizen exercises.
Exercises For Senior Citizens
- Walking is one of the necessary and core exercises that a senior citizen can start with. It helps in making the body flexible and also uplifts the mood. Walking should be done on regular basis to keep your body fit and healthy.
- Yoga is very helpful in maintaining a balance between body, mind and soul. It is an old traditional form of exercise that includes breathing exercises and meditation. It helps to maintain a balance between body, mind and spirit. Senior citizens can benefit from practicing yoga every day, as it helps to control stress, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels and relaxes the body. Swimming is a very good exercise for the whole body that has many health benefits. It reduces stress, keeps you fit and is very relaxing.
- Senior citizens can also practice light weight exercises and light physical exercises like walking slowly on a treadmill, aerobics, muscle flexibility and stretching exercises.
- Aerobic exercises are good for senior citizens who want to maintain good health and physical agility. These exercises are rhythmic in nature and engage in workouts like dancing, jumping and moving steps on the beat to tone up muscles. They are extremely beneficial in improving blood circulation, reducing blood pressure, improving respiration and improving general health.
- Muscle flexibility exercises for senior citizens help in maintaining muscle elasticity and relaxation of mind. These exercises involve stretching the muscles slowly and concentrating on breathing with each movement.
- Stamina building exercises like riding, walking, stepping, cycling and swimming can help improve energy and endurance levels of senior citizens. While you plan to start this exercise, do it slowly, and work up to increase your stamina and strength. You can gradually increase the duration of the exercise depending on your tolerance and fitness of the body.
- Senior citizens can practice exercises that can be done in a sitting position. These exercises concentrate on flexibility of muscles, range of motion, and cardio. These exercises involve exercise tools like, like light weights, ball chairs and bands. They help in strengthening muscles and relaxing the mind.
- Health benefits for senior citizens can be derived not only from exercising also by maintaining a healthy diet. Only exercising will not give you optimal results, as any exercise should also include healthy, controlled and balanced diet.
Some Tips to Remember
- Exercise regularly for at least thirty minutes a day.
- Start your exercise regimen slowly and increase it gradually.
- Wear right kind of shoes and comfortable clothes.
- Consult a physician before you start any exercise. Check your medical parameters like blood pressure and sugar level regularly.
- Start by stretching and warm ups before vigorous exercise. Work on your balancing exercises, as it will help you in lowering your risk of injuries due to falling.
- Keep record of your progress and exercise sessions.
- Exercise daily.
(Operation Protect Veterans is exposing schemes like these 5 that are aimed at ex-military members)
- Pension Predators. Billie Jo Slater of Mounds View, MN, borrowed against her late husband’s military pension to pay for her dog’s emergency surgery, but the $2,100 loan turned into a $21,000 debt. Shady companies are giving money to vets upfront in exchange for monthly payments transferred from pension accounts that add up to many times the amount borrowed. In August, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against two companies she said exploited veterans. “People should be very cautious about giving away their future pension benefits to get just pennies on the dollar,” she said.
- Phone Scams. In May, Veterans Affairs issued a warning: Watch out for “mimic phone line” scams. The alert was triggered by reports that scam artists had set up a phone line with a number that was very similar to a real veterans hotline number. (The number for that program, Veterans Choice, starts with 866; scammers were using an 800 area code.) When a vet accidentally calls, he or she is talked into disclosing credit card information with the promise of $100 rebate. “VA would never ask veterans for this information,” a spokesman said.
- Investment Fraud. Federal regulators have warned that some former service members are using their military ties to lure vets into risky or downright illegal investments. For example, in January 2017 former Marine Clayton Cohn, now 31, was sentenced to 52 months in prison for defrauding investors—many of whom had served with him in Iraq. According to the case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Cohn raised almost $2 million from investors by lying about previous successes as a stock trader. He then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on things like a Hollywood mansion and a luxury automobile.
- Predatory Lending. Veterans with home mortgages backed by the VA are being targeted by companies that aggressively call and send letters to coerce them to refinance. After receiving many complaints, the Governmen National Mortgage Association, known as Ginnie Mae, investigated and found the loans were not to help veterans but to generate fees, and some veterans ended up with a higher mortgage, said Michael Bright, Ginnie Mae’s acting president.
5. Benefits Scams. In October, Elizabeth Honig, 52, of Morganville, NJ, was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing from a VA program that was set up to help older vets train for new jobs. She signed up nearly 200 veterans, but few got any real training. Many were never eligible for the program, federal prosecutors said. She was ordered to repay $2.8 million.
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups white sugar
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook: 50 minutes Ready in: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.
- Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
(Having a nest egg is great, but don’t sacrifice needlessly)
Here’s a surprising question. Do we become too frugal when we retire? Those of us who have spent
years pinching our pennies to fatten our nest eggs often find it hard to get out of the habit. At the age
when we ought to start spending those savings, we become afraid to touch them.
There are reasons for caution. We don’t know how long we’re going to live; we fear unexpected health
care costs in later age; we are earning practically nothing from savings and worry about losing money
when stock prices fall. But there’s evidence that we sometimes worry too much—and risk depriving
ourselves of pleasures that we can afford.
I’m thinking of the friend who flies to see her grandson only once a year because she wrongly believes
that an extra visit would knock her nest egg out of whack. Or the one who has enough money to buy
hearing aids but is so shocked by their cost that she stays partially deaf.
Are you stuck, too? Could you spend more on hobbies, grandchildren, charities, fun, without that
nagging dread that the money will run out?
For those of you who have only a small amount of savings and live on Social Security and perhaps a small
pension, these questions are probably moot. You likely already spend all your income and need your
savings for emergencies.
For those who are better fixed, however, over-caution might be crimping your style. A 2016 study from
Vanguard’s Center for Retirement Research finds that, on average, savings continue to rise after people
retire. A similar study from Texas Tech University finds that even people taking required minimum
distributions from their individual retirement accounts tend to save some of that money rather than
spending it all.
Maybe you want to leave more to heirs. But those of you with discretionary income might also
underspend because you’re unsure how much of your money you can afford to use.
Here’s one way to figure it out: Add up the income that you can reasonably count on in retirement in
the form of regular checks, excluding interest and dividends. That would include Social Security, any
pensions or annuities, and any other life-time sources. To that, add, 4 percent of the value of all your
financial assets, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and cash. This effectively includes your
interest and dividends. The total is roughly the amount you can spend each year and still feel sure that
your money will last at least 30 years. If you’re spending less than that amount, you can afford some
extra grandchild visits, a family visit to Disneyland or Yellowstone, or a week abroad.
There’s no harm in spending even more of your disposable income in early retirement (the go-go years)
because you’ll inevitably cut back later (the no-go years). As you get older, it’s normal to worry about
running out of money. But don’t worry so much that you forgo joy.
(written by Jane Bryant Quinn for AARP Bulletin, December 2017)
(New research reveals what works—and what doesn’t)
There is no pill or procedure to help you maintain your memories (yet). But researchers have found
several lifestyle factors that can influence your brain’s ability to remember facts and events with fewer
glitches. They’re a moving target, however, yesterday’s “proven” memory boosters don’t always stand
up to testing. Heather M. Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations for the
Alzheimer’s Association, says studying cause and effect on the brain is difficult, because it requires large
study groups over long periods of time. “it’s a very protected organ,” Snyder says. “You can’t just take a
look.” Here is what the latest research advises.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Take it. Aim to be as active as you can in daily life; that means small actions such
as sitting less and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You should also get 150 minutes a week of
purposeful activity—walking briskly, playing tennis, riding your bike, swimming laps, lifting weights and
the like. A 2017 report by the National Academy of Sciences determined that fitness may be the best
tool we have against cognitive impairment and dementia. And there’s some evidence that exercise can
help your brain become healthier in as little as six months.
BRAIN GAMES. Leave it…mostly. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that a digital brain
games company made misleading claims about its impact on brain health. The truth is that puzzles and
games may help your brainpower—but only when it comes to doing puzzles and games. Researchers
recommend “cognitively stimulating activities,” meaning anything that engages your brain and helps it
do new things, explains Ronald Petersen, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Center. For instance, your brain might benefit from photography classes, designing a quilt, working with
technology or researching your genealogy. Even listening to music may help, a new study in the Journal
of Alzheimer’s Disease says.
DITCH MY ANTIPERSPIRANT? Don’t sweat it. The fear that aluminum in antiperspirants was linked
to Alzheimer’s disease came from research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, which found this element
present in the neurons of people who had the illness. That research also scared people away from
cooking with aluminum pots and drinking out of aluminum cans. But we’re exposed in so many ways to
this element (it’s the third most common in the earth’s crust” that the small amount you’d get from
antiperspirants or cookware isn’t likely to increase your risk.
EATING THE MEDITERRANEAN WAY. Take it. Unfortunately, no single food is likely to be the cause
of—or cure for—memory dips. But an overall healthy eating plan that involves piling whole grains,
fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil onto your plate and cutting back on red meat may help keep
your brain in shape. In fact, a 2017 study of nearly 6,000 people in the Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society suggested that people who ate this way had a 35 percent lower risk of cognitive
impairment than people who didn’t follow this diet. This combination of foods may seem like a familiar
recommendation: Scientists are discovering that your brain and your heart have similar needs. And in
this case, your taste buds will probably approve, too.
VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS. Leave it. There’s no evidence yet that downing supplements helps
your memory over the long term, especially when it comes to two popular ones: vitamin E and omega-
3s (in fish oil). A review paper published in April concluded that vitamin E neither prevents Alzheimer’s
nor improves the minds of people who have it. It’s worth checking with your doctor to be sure you’re
getting the nutrients you need for your overall health. But if your body’s stocked up on everything, your
brain probably doesn’t need extra vitamins.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Take them. Doing things in groups where ther’s a friend or coach to provide
feedback seems to make new activities (like learning a language or taking up watercolor painting) even
better for your brain. The social aspect also may help you stick with your new pursuit. This is essential
because the benefits may fade after you stop doing it.
GINSENG. Leave it. People take this herbal remedy with hopes of boosting brainpower. But a 2010
scientific review of the best research found no convincing evidence that it could help prevent
Alzheimer’s. And here’s compelling reason not to reach for it: Ginseng can interact with diabetes drugs,
the blood thinner warfarin and some depression medications. It also may contribute to headaches,
sleep problems and digestive issues.
MANAGING BLOOD PRESSURE. Take it. High blood pressure may damage small blood vessels in the
brain. This may be particularly true for women: Research published in the October issue of the journal
Neurology found that women who developed high blood pressure in their 40s had a 73 percent
increased risk of dementia compared with those who had normal blood pressure. Be sure to talk to a
doctor about how to control it.
(by Marty Munson for AARP Bulletin, December 2017)
Financial planners ask their clients these questions to determine if they’re in control of their money.
So Just how fiscally fit are you?
Do you have a will? Yes, that’s a bummer of a leadoff question, but it’s one of the first that Ed Gjertsen
II, past chairman of the Financial Planning Association, asks new clients. The answer, he says, hints at
how organized your finances are. Dying without a will, he adds, leaves “a real mess” for your family.
Rx: An estate planning lawyer can write a will and related documents; expect to pay a few thousand
dollars. Going DIY (say, via website) costs less, but stick to your state’s rules for signing the will or it
could be invalid.
How much credit card interest did you pay last month? The perfect answer: “Zero,” of course. Annual
credit card interest rates now average 16 percent, so carrying a monthly balance can gnaw through your
money like a hungry beaver.
Rx: Get motivated by math. Tell yourself you’re not repaying a debt; you’re making an investment with
a guaranteed 16 percent tax-free return, says New York City financial adviser Gary Schatsky. That’s what
you get when you no longer have to pay 16 percent interest on a debt.
If a tree fell onto your roof today, could you pay for repairs tomorrow? Financial planners advise you
to have money in the bank for medical care, layoffs or other crises. But only 48 percent of Americans
have at least $2,000 in savings to cover such bills.
Rx: Divert a bit from each paycheck—for example, $25—into an emergency bank account (not your
primary account). Ask HR to split your payroll deposit, making savings automatic.
Can you pass the seven-day cash challenge? Find yourself spending more than you make? Everyday
food and fun purchases, for instance, can add up fast. Gjertsen tells clients to withdraw the cash they
thnk they’ll need for the week and skip using plastic. “People invariably are out of money by
Wednesday or Thursday,” he says.
Rx: A good way to start reining in expenses is to track discretionary spending. Use a spreadsheet or an
online service such as Mint.
How much of your income goes to retirement savings? Advisers have formulas for how much money
you’ll need to retire in comfort, but those can be “terrifying,” says Jill Gianola, a Columbus, Ohio,
planner. Focus instead on saving now, likely your peak earnings years.
Rx: Aim to save 15 percent of your paycheck, Gianola says. If you can, opt for the extra “catch-up”
contributions to your IRA or 401(k) that people 50 and older are allowed to make.
By Michelle V Rafter for AARP Magazine
(Simple rules for hitting the ground as softly as possible)
It was nearly 30 years ago that Mrs. Fletcher from the LifeCall commercials first uttered her plaintive cry:
“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
Back then, it was campy and funny. But in the intervening years, chances are that you, and perhaps
some of your loved ones, have taken some nasty spills. It’s not just the elderly, though, who end up on
the ground: A study in the Journal of Allied Health showed that 50-to- 60-year- olds fall more than older
folks. We’re more active, and that puts us more at risk of falling. Also, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention found that people are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from falling than
from any other cause.
And we’re all going to fall down: The world is full of banana peels. So while avoiding a fall is job one,
knowing how to take a fall when it’s inevitable is a crucial skill.
“Be smooth, don’t panic, stay loose,” says Alexa Marcigliano, who is really good at falling down. A
professional stuntwoman, she’s taken serious spills in shows such as Orange is the New Black and
Blindspot. Here’s her four-point plan for a safe crash landing.
Step 1. Stay Bent…The moment you sense you’ve lost your balance, get ready to fall with bent elbows
and knees. “When people panic, they become rigid,” Marcigliano says. “In the stunt world, we never
reach out with locked arms. Bend your elbows and have some give in your arms to soften the impact.”
When you’re rigid, you’re more likely to suffer a set of injuries called FOOSH—doctor-speak for “Fall on
outstretched hand.” The result is often a broken wrist or elbow.
Step 2. Protect your Head…If you’re falling forward, be sure to turn your face to the side. Falling
backward? “Tuck your chin to your chest, so your head doesn’t hit the ground,” Marcigliano advises.
Step 3. Land on the Meat….”One of the things we try for in stunt falls is landing on meaty parts of your
body—the muscles in your back, butt or thighs. Not bone.” If you keep your knees and elbows bent and
look to land on muscle, you’ll be less likely to crack your elbows, knees, tailbone or hips.
Step 4. Keep Falling…Your instinct will be to stop your body as quickly as you can. But your safest route
is to keep rolling—indeed, the more you give in to the fall, the safer it will be. “Spread the impact across
a larger part of your body; don’t concentrate impact on one area,” Marcigliano says. The more you roll
with the fall, the safer you’ll be.
By Michael Zimmerman for AARP Magazine
Harvard researcher, Robert Waldinger, MD, spends his days studying the science of happiness. Just in
time for the holidays, he sat down with AARP THE MAGAZINE to explain how we can give ourselves, and
others, the gift of a longer, happier life.
As the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has tracked the lives of men for 80
years, Robert Waldinger, MD, loves to share surprising findings about what makes people healthy and
happy. Among them: The quality of your relationships at age 50 is a better predictor of your future
health than your cholesterol levels. And while alcoholism and smoking are top health threats, loneliness
ranks nearly as high.
In other words, “What Makes a Good Life?”—the title of Waldinger’s hugely popular TED Talk—turns
out to be…strong relationships. That’s why the holiday season, with its forced march toward
togetherness, is a great time to set your life on a better course. Waldinger, 66, a psychiatrist and Zen
priest, believes the best life is heavy on connection.
Q. Which relationships are most important to our health?
A: The research doesn’t show you have to have a ton of friends and love cocktail parties. It just means
you have some close connections. It could be one. It could be two.
Q. So what type of relationship qualifies as healthful?
A: My predecessor, George Vaillant, asked a question, on a couple of questionnaires, that I love: “Who
would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or scared?” Some people couldn’t list anyone.
For some, though, it was a child; for some people it was a friend. For many it was their spouse. You can
fight like cats and dogs, but if you have a sense of “If I ever need my husband, he is there for me,” that’s
Q. What about these relationships helps us live longer?
A: If you sit and have a conversation about something you’re worried about, your body literally calms
down—your blood pressure might come down, your stress hormone levels might go down. There’s
some evidence that it’s not so much stress but how you manage stress that may play a big role in who
ages and who doesn’t. So now we’re bringing people into the lab and stressing them and seeing how
quickly they recover, looking at things like inflammatory cells and DNA regulation through epigenetics
Q. Does childhood influence how people handle stress later?
A: There’s a real thread between the warmth and orderliness and predictability of childhood and how
people do over time. But there are healing relationships all through life, and people who come from
terrible childhoods sometimes do well.
(by Kathleen Fifield for AARP Magazine)
An important new book tells business and consumers what to expect during the silver tsunami…
Joseph Coughlin is a man you want on your side. He is one of the world’s formost experts on aging and
the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab. Up in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, “Dr. Joe” directs teams of brilliant young designers, engineers, social scientists, doctors
and researchers who study this complex subject with intellectual ferocity. Lucky for you—and for
us—Joe, who is 56, also serves as a member of the board of directors of AARP.
A tireless researcher himself, Joe has written more than 100 scholarly papers, as well as a book on aging
and transportation. Through his lab, he has created groundbreaking tools to teach the young the
challenges of life as an older person. One of his most notable advances is AGNES, the student-named
suit, that attempts to convey some of the physical issues faced by many people in their late 70s and
older, the better for the brainiacs to study them. When you step into AGNES’ shoes—and gloves and
goggles—it’s a little harder to see, hear, bend and manipulate tiny cellphone buttons. She’s an instant
compassion machine for millennial whiz kids.
But what I particularly want to tell you about is Joe’s important new book—The Longevity Economy:
Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market—which he described to me as “a
call to arms and instruction manual for how to redefine old age as an opportunity.” We’re living longer
than ever, he says, and these bonus years are opening up vast new possibilities for products, services
and experiences. “But most businesses are stuck in an outdated mindset,” he adds, “and can conceive
of the ‘older market’ solely in terms of health care and senior housing.”
“Old age is a myth,” Joe says. “While there are certainly physical and existential realities to again, we
have been taught the false narrative that to be old is to be a taker, never a giver.” That’s despite the fact
that we, the people over age 50, are working, playing, volunteering, donating, buying stuff and
contributing to a better world to the tune of 7.6 trillion in 2015, well over half of all U.S. consumer
spending. Boomers alone control 70 percent of the disposable income in this country.
In fact, we are frequently cast as a modern society’s burden. We, the walking, talking proof of
humankind’s greatest success—longer lives!—will crash the health care system, drain Social Security and
wreck the economy itself, critics warn. It’s a set of pernicious stereotypes about aging that needs to be
challenged now, Joe says, and that’s what he set out to do in this book.
Sad, too, that the f-word never gets much of a workout when talking about getting older. The f-word as
in F-U- N, Joe notes. “Building the future of fun in a society where 100 years old is the new normal is
perhaps the longevity economy’s largest growth opportunity.”
As Joe says, this is not just about the old—it’s about all of us. With Joe on our side, it’s not a bad time to
be getting old.
(Robert Love, Editor in Chief of AARP Magazine)