Good financial planning doesn’t just help you to ensure you have enough money when you retire. Rather, it ensures that you can plan the life you want in retirement, and that you have the funds to maintain the lifestyle you desire.
As the old saying goes: “It’s not the years in the life that count, but the life in your years.”
Most people want to live a long and contented life when they retire. And, increased longevity means that more and more people are enjoying decades of life in retirement.
It’s this that former government adviser, Camilla Cavendish, calls ‘extra time’ in her book of the same name. After the former Times journalist and head of David Cameron’s policy unit left government, she began to consider the ways in which older people were enjoying a ‘late-life renaissance’.
“It’s not old age that’s getting longer, it’s middle age,” Cavendish writes. “We need to…stop lumping everyone from 60 to 100 together and accept its normal to be vibrant and capable in your 70s”.
If you’ve not read Extra Time, it could really inspire you to think differently about your retirement and to help you to set some aims for your later life. In her book, Cavendish shares ten lessons for people who are likely to live longer and enjoy a more fulfilled life. Here is a summary of her top tips for making the most of your ‘extra time’.
1. Understand the extra time you have
What’s your life expectancy?
Many people base their estimate of their own life expectancy on their parents or grandparents, or on official figures. However, this can often lead to a significant underestimation.
According to the Office for National Statistics, life expectancy at age 65 years in the UK in 2017 was 18.6 years for males and 20.9 years for females. On average, you can expect to live for around two decades once you retire.
Your first lesson is to wake up to the extra time you have.
2. Don’t give up your work
Older workers are typically much more useful to a business than employees believe. So, consider keeping your hand in with work if you can.
If you own your own business, staying on in an ambassadorial capacity or helping to mentor younger members of staff can add huge value.
Well-known Japanese longevity expert Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara agrees. In an interview before his death, he explained that the retirement age in Japan was set at 65 years old when the average life expectancy was 68. Now, people are living much longer, they should be retiring much later in life too.
Until a few months before his death, Hinohara continued to treat patients and worked up to 18 hours a day. He was 105 years old.
3. Keep learning
Cavendish says that recent discoveries in neuroscience have revealed that old brains can renew themselves to learn new tricks.
So, whether you want to take up a musical instrument, learn ballroom dancing, or sit some exams, learning new things can help you to live a long retirement.
4. Stay healthy
Healthy lifespan can be much shorter than crude life expectancy – especially for the poor and less educated.
Hinohara urges people not to become overweight.
His diet of choice? “For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk, and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy.
“Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”
Cavendish argues that the chances of a much longer, healthy life expectancy are hugely enhanced by taking exercise.
She says that ‘obesity is the new smoking and sugar is the new tobacco.’
6. Look out for medical developments
Medical developments are increasingly looking as if they will prolong healthy life. Cavendish says that anti-ageing drugs could be as important in the 21st century as antibiotics were in the 20th.
Longevity expert Hinohora also recommends that you don’t simply blindly follow any piece of medical advice that you’re given.
“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine,” he says.
7. Maintain relationships
The key to healthy ageing is relationships, relationships, relationships. If you make strong social connections, you’re likely to live a happier, longer and physically healthier life.
8. Take advantage of better care
In the future, technology will make it easier for humans to be good and effective carers.
Cavendish notes that lots of robotic help already exists, and that it’s going to get much better. But human carers are not going to be replaced. New developments in tech will give human carers the space and time to befriend and to actually care for individuals.
9. Forge a new social contract
The author believes that the UK needs a new social contract that provides people with a civilised old age without the costs bankrupting the younger generations. She also believes generations should be encouraged to mix.
Research by the Economic and Social Research Council found that, between 2001 and 2011, the number of neighbourhoods in England and Wales with high levels of age segregation rose to more than 2,000.
Cavendish believes that creating ‘ghettos’ for the elderly is an expensive and inhuman mistake, and that generations should be encouraged to mix.
Initiatives to tackle these issues include:
- A Liverpool-based project where younger people can live with older homeowners rent-free, in exchange for ‘companionship and roughly 10 hours per week of help with agreed tasks’
- Projects in the Netherlands where students have been encouraged to live alongside older people, trading free accommodation for teaching older residents new skills such as email and social media.
10. Retain a purpose
In your later years it is important that you build purpose into your life.
The Japanese call this ‘ikigai’ – a reason for being. Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
- What you are good at
- What you love
- What you can be paid for
- What the world needs.
Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer.
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