The Four Ingredients to Living Well in the New Retirement

Robert Powell, CFP®

There are four key ingredients to living well in the new retirement, according to Ken Dychtwald, the co-founder and CEO of Age Wave.

The ingredients: health, family, purpose and finance.

In a video interview, Dychtwald discussed the most profound findings from a study, The Four Pillars of the New Retirement, recently conducted by Edward Jones and Age Wave. Read the full study.

According to Dychtwald, a new definition of retirement is emerging, and it requires new thinking about how one can successfully plan for and live well in retirement. The four pillars of the new retirement are health, family, purpose, and finances. And these pillars are inextricably interconnected and intertwined, and each is essential to thrive in the new retirement.

What's more, Dychtwald said the majority of retirees now call retirement “a whole new chapter of life.”

The COVID Effect

The study also revealed how resilient older adults are in facing life’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. "They were holding steady better," said Dychtwald, who cited a number of reasons for this in the video interview. "Older people turned out to be demonstrating kind of an upside of aging. And it's that there's more emotional intelligence, there's more personal fortitude and there's more resilience." 

And even during the pandemic, Alzheimer's and the loss of brain health is more feared than COVID-19 and all other life-threatening diseases. "People are scared of losing their minds," he said.

One finding that Dychtwald described as "odd" had to retirees and health. Ninety-three percent of retirees say it's never too late to improve their health but only 55% of retirees say they maintain a healthy diet and only 52% exercise regularly. In essence, there's an intention/action gap which can be explained in part by Americans' lack of self-discipline.

"We've all got to take fuller responsibility and more active measures to take better care of our health," said Dychtwald. "It's what people say is the most important thing in life is to have your health. And then people say it's their biggest fear to lose their health, but then half of us are not doing anything to it to make it better."

The study also revealed that retirees’ greatest financial worry is the cost of health care and long-term care, said Dychtwald.

Family is Anyone You Love and Care For

According to the study, one-fourth of all parents with adult children, some 24 million Americans, have provided financial support to adult children due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"What I saw in the study was a huge amount of generosity, particularly to family members," said Dychtwald. "People don't seem to be willing to turn their backs on their kids or even their brothers and sisters or their moms and dads, if they're alive. They are outlaying money to help the people they love to get through this difficult time even if they can't afford to." Even if they may be sacrificing their own future security.

And that's a quirky finding, in part, because 72% of retirees also say one of their biggest fears is becoming a burden on their families, said Dychtwald. "It's a reflection of generosity but it could turn out to bite them back," he said.

Retirees, said Dychtwald, can be generous in ways that don't put their futures at risk. 

Read Should You Give Financial Support to Family?

COVID-19 has prompted almost 30 million Americans to have end-of-life discussions for the first time, according to Dychtwald. "Unfortunately when we put legacy issues and such off to the last minute or avoid them altogether, then they become morbid," said Dychtwald. "I think we all need to have it be a part of our annual kind of re-up. When you're getting your health check, you have to have your legacy plans checked." 

The study also revealed that retirees say passing down their "values" and "life lessons" are more important than gifting money and real estate. What's more, retirees derive the greatest sense of purpose from time with loved ones.

According to the study, retirees don’t just want to keep busy; they want to spend their time in useful and rewarding ways. And a striking 89% of all Americans agree that there should be more ways for retirees to help in their communities. 

Dychtwald also mentioned that retirees can benefit from having a financial guide, someone who can help them navigate from point to point.

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