Are You Ready For These 8,000 Days?
By Beth Misak
Retirement is not what it used to be. Historic shifts are underway. With longer, healthier lifespans, today’s seniors can expect to spend an average of 22 years in retirement. That’s 8,000 days!
If that’s not enough to rewrite the book on retirement, consider this: modern retirement now unfolds in four distinct phases. Each phase brings its own unique opportunities and challenges.
This data is part of a groundbreaking study entitled “8000 Days”¹ conducted by MIT AgeLabs.
Such changes upend prior models. What should seniors know? How can they better prepare? After all, while it’s crucial to be financially prepared for retirement, it’s also important to be emotionally prepared.
This month we will conduct a fly over of the four phases. We will delve into each phase more deeply in subsequent months.
As we do, keep a few things in mind. Everyone ages differently. They may not experience the four phases in the same way or timeframe. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of them in order to better anticipate changes in lifestyle, independence, family dynamics, and more.
The four phases of retirement identified by MIT AgeLab are: the Honeymoon Phase, the Big Decision Phase, Navigating the Longevity Phase, and the Solo Journey Phase
The Honeymoon Phase
The honeymoon phase is a time of greater freedom. It can involve pursuing new interests, traveling or volunteering. Leisure activities abound. One spouse might still be working, or perhaps there is part-time employment. Baby boomers can find themselves “sandwiched” between caring for aging parents and supporting adult children.
The Big Decision Phase
This phase often introduces the first thoughts about waning vitality and long term health. For many, lifestyle concerns start to surface. These may span the cost of home maintenance, proximity to family, access to services, and livability of their home, such as a master bedroom on the first floor. Should the hometown remain home base, or is a move closer to family in order? Is the current lifestyle affordable for the long term?
Navigating the Longevity Phase
The third phase is when the logistics of health management become a full-time job. It’s estimated that 92% of older adults are managing at least one chronic condition and 77% are managing the complexities of two or more chronic conditions.² There are increased medical appointments, medication management, and mobility challenges. The need for occasional or daily assistance to run routine errands and maintain the home may come into play. Now, more than ever, it’s essential that legal affairs be in order. Updating or renewing a health care proxy and financial power of attorney are at the top of the list.
The Solo Journey Phase
When a spouse or partner is lost, a new world emerges. Caring family and friends can help cushion the blow. Rethinking living arrangements may be required. Perhaps it’s time to move in with a family member or in an assisted living or long term care facility. Women typically outlive men, and need to take additional steps to ensure they will have adequate financial resources.
In spite of the loss, it’s vital to begin life again with a new twist – as a single person.
Clearly, today’s retirement is an entire phase of life, waiting to be created. Understanding the route and road signs along this intriguing journey will help retirees make the most of each phase. In future months, we will share more insights aimed at continuing this important conversation.
¹ MIT AgeLabs “8000 Days” copyrighted in 2017, rights for reuse shared courtesy of Hartford Funds.
² National Council on Aging, “Healthy Aging Facts,” 2014
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