It could be argued that it is easier to prepare for retirement if you don’t have children. Think about all the extra time you have to advance your career and, assumedly, make more money over time while avoiding the astronomical cost of raising children. However, these benefits may run out as we age. Not having children can increase the cost of living as we age and decrease the level of care we may receive.
Retirees who are childless (or estranged from their children) could face additional hurdles when planning for a secure retirement. On a happier note, those who do not have children constantly requesting withdrawals from the parental ATM may be in better shape to maintain their living standards through a hopefully long and happy retirement.
The odds of becoming isolated (this could be physically or socially) increase for those without children or a spouse. It is easy to ignore the large amount of unpaid care from family members as people age. I recently read an email from a client’s grandmother outlining the 75 (or so) things her daughter had done for her in the past week. The list sounded like a full-time job to me.
When seniors are isolated, they are more likely to have trouble completing routine daily tasks and experience a higher rate of mental decline. Isolated retirees have also been shown to have weakened immune systems, thereby decreasing their ability to fight infections. They are also more likely to delay treatment or care simply because getting to and from the doctor is a hassle. Don’t even get me started on picking up various prescriptions and then remembering to take them every day.
I was speaking with one of my financial planning clients, who, while being “as healthy as you can be at 95,” takes over 30 pills a day, all at different intervals, some with food, some without. He told me his friend printed out a spreadsheet for him to remember which pills to take and when.
Keep reading as we share five tips for a happier and healthier independent retirement:
1. Plan Now for a Happier, Wealthier, and Healthier Retirement
Retirement planning is just about money, although being secure financially will help you have a happier, healthier, and wealthier retirement. Some of you reading this post will likely live to 100 or beyond. Take steps now to improve your health, wealth, and social connections.
Wealthier Retirement: Ensure you have saved enough money to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. Remember to plan for long-term care. Sadly, retirees without children will likely need to spend more on elder care and could have an increased likelihood of needing long-term care.
Healthier Retirement: Taking steps to improve your health today can help you live a more independent retirement. Increase the amount of whole foods are eaten regularly (meals filled with ultra processed ingredients are not your friend. Staying active and resistance training can minimize the risks of a fall that could land you in the hospital. Stay on schedule with regular medical checkups. Many diseases, like cancer, are much easier to treat when caught early.
2. Invest In Your Friendships
Studies have shown that early retirement may shorten lifespans. This could be due to isolation. Many people retire from a job or career without knowing how they want to spend their time in retirement.
You could say some people are literally dying from boredom. Take time to invest in your friendships and social activities.
The happiest retirees I know have active social lives. They have routines, hobbies and, most of all, friends. You have more time to kill without a full-time job. Take up a hobby and make new friends. Establish a monthly brunch or lunch to catch up with friends. Your days will be full before you know it.
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3. Who Is Your Go-To Person In An Emergency?
Retiring without children does not mean you are retiring alone. Who is your emergency contact? Do you have a neighbor or friend who can check in on you from time to time? I often ask my retired financial planning clients to provide me with this information in case I cannot reach them for some time.
I also ensure my clients’ loved ones have my contact information, just in case. Our firm provides a client portal where people can store medical information and important documents in case they need to be accessed in an emergency. Consider designating a person as your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Would you rather have someone you trust and who you chose or a distant relative make life-and-death decisions for you?
4. Consider Right Sizing Your Housing
That big house may have served you well over the years, but our needs may change as we age. Maintaining a single-family home may be more work than you want to put yourself through, not to mention the cost. Consider downsizing your home as you move through retirement. You may even find renting beneficial.
5. Enjoy Your Life
Some of the most active and happiest retirees I know are childless. My view may be skewed as a gay financial planner who spends a good portion of the year in Palm Springs. I know so many people living their best lives today.
My advice today is to have a retirement plan that includes how to pay for long-term care if needed. This will give you more financial freedom to live today and perhaps splurge on those bucket list items you’ve been dreaming of.