Are you planning to retire someday? Maybe that “someday” is decades away. Maybe it’s later this year. Regardless of your timeline, this special episode – our 233rd, which kicks off our 5th season – could potentially be among the most important we’ve ever released in terms of impact on the lives and future lives of you and those in your inner circle. In 1960, if you made it to age 65, you could expect to live another 13 years. Today, 1 in 7 of us will live past age 95, meaning we might spend 30 or more years in retirement. Are you going to be ready – not just financially – but in all key aspects of life?
I’m Dr. Brad Cooper, co-founder of the Catalyst Coaching Institute and this episode will dig into a concept you’ve likely never even heard of but will soon be glad you did. We’re going to discuss the ins and outs of Mastering PREtirement. Wait – what? PREtirement? What is PREtirement? From friends and peers to coaching clients and even parents, we’re going to address the key steps, starting with our 20’s and working up to our 60’s, that will help us not only make the most of our post-working life, but also enhance each phase along the way. And yes, money will enter our discussion, but the primary purpose of this episode will be to go further – to uncover ways in which we can truly live fully during our final act – not simply accumulate the funds to avoid working.
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With an average of 2 million people retiring each year, the vast majority are focused on what they WON’T be doing – work – rather than on what they will be doing. After 30, 40 or more years of working, most retirees look forward to escaping rather than fully living. Ask someone about retirement – or consider your own answer about what will fill the time. Almost every time, generic ideas about sleeping in, traveling, time with grandkids and volunteering fill the “plans” conversation. But the reality is that while retirees may spend decades watching their finances to make this day possible, they generally spend little to no time at all considering the steps necessary to bring that day, and the days that follow, to life.
Today we’re going to focus in on 3 primary blind spots that exist for most of us during the PREtirement years and then I’ll briefly walk you through some key PREtirement steps for the decades of life – our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s leading up to that to improve our odds of living a full life – a thriving life – in retirement.
As a sidenote, if you find this information beneficial, we’d appreciate hearing from you and we’d appreciate if you would pass this episode onto others. I’ve gathered an expanding toolbox of PREtirement tools and strategies in recent months and if you find this to be valuable, we’ll look for additional ways to expand upon today’s episode in practical ways.
Over the past few years, I’ve been informally surveying a multitude of people who are inside a decade away from retirement to learn more about their approach to this big life change. The responses from almost every single person – with almost no exception – are so incredibly similar. They encompass 3 specific concepts as follows:
First – The number is everything. Everyone seems to have at least a good estimate of a dollar figure in mind that will open the door to retirement and the approximate number of years it will take to get there. If the number is there, we feel ready. If not, we’re not.
#2 – Short term pleasures are overvalued.
#3 – A generic “what bucket” – those things people mention when asked “what do you want to do when you’re retired?” generally consists of some version of the same 3 things: volunteer, travel and a specific hobby such as golf or gardening.
Let’s take a look at each of these individually and at least introduce the role PREtirement might play…
- Money talks – but is it drowning out other important conversations? Cash IS king. Money doesn’t grow on trees so bringing home the bacon naturally must be a top priority. Money may not buy happiness, but it can, as country music artist Chris Janson reminds us, buy me a boat. Or in this case – a ticket to freedom. So we spend decades making sacrifices and planning financially – while forgetting EVERYTHING else! Life requires funding. Yes. That is clear. And if our only goal is to literally sit on a beach and drink Mai tais for the rest of our days, then sure – maybe money is the only thing we need to prep. But what kind of life would that be?!? Don’t get me wrong. We do need to plan effectively for the costs life brings. But when we treat money as the ONLY thing requiring preparation instead of ONE of several key elements, we, in many ways, miss that boat money can buy entirely.
- There are foundational elements beyond finances necessary if we want to thrive in our retirement years. These foundational pieces include core areas such as purpose, physical capacity, and personal connections. We could – and may in the future – dig into these further. For now, let’s briefly touch on the physical capacity aspects of retirement as an example.
- Financial advisor Colby Ripsam refers to the early years of retirement as the “Go-Go” years, which are then followed by the “Slow-go” and finally the “No-go” periods. The “go-go” years are where the majority of us will be spending money at higher levels. An effective financial strategy must take these higher expenditures into account or it will fall short in the long run.
- However, it’s not only true for our money. The same is also true physically. For those of us who may have worked in an office for decades, a thriving retirement is expected to provide the opportunity for MORE, not less, physical activity. Yet – for some odd reason, we generally ignore our physical “portfolio” during our PREtirement years. Our bodies lose up to 5% of our strength – which is often replaced by fat – each decade after the age of 30, along with similar changes in balance and cardiovascular capacity. Just as our financial prep during PREtirement opens or closes the door on choices in retirement, the same is true in the physical realm. Our ongoing related to our building our physical capacity during PREtirement will have a significant impact on the options we have in the years that follow.
- Compound interest is the key – but not only in terms of our money. I’ll circle back on this in a moment, but for now I simply want to emphasize that if the only portfolio with which we’re taking advantage of this powerful force is our finances, we’re missing out – big time. Just as we cannot build on an empty nest egg with our finances, the same is true across the other core aspects of life.
- The second common mistake we see during the PREtirement phase: Short term pleasures are overvalued. Hard-working individuals in the midst of a stressful work life dream of a time when we can throw out the alarm clock, treat each day as a relaxing Saturday morning and get-away to the closest beach for some good old fashioned R&R. But the reality is that as wonderful as these things sound in the short term, they generally lose their shine within a few weeks (if not days). It’s a lesson that goes unlearned during the 4-5 decades of 40+ hour work weeks, as our 4-7 day R&R vacations DO bring joy and refreshment. But the law of diminishing returns kicks in pretty quickly in the real world. A starving individual will delight in each bite of that first hamburger and probably enjoy the 2nd one as well. But by the time they bite into #3, 4 or 5, that delight is long gone. As we ponder life after work during the PREtirement years, focus on those pursuits that will matter in year 5 rather than simply day 3.
- The 3rd common mistake – Emphasizing the “What” over the “Who.” Those who have been tuning into the Catalyst Health, Wellness & Performance podcast for awhile know all about our annual episode to help you create a powerful personal vision (you can go back to the most recent one of these in Episode #199 if you’re curious or you’d like a refresh). The process of creating a personal vision is very different from forming annual goals. In fact, we make the statement that when you effectively create a clear, personal vision of WHO you are becoming, the WHAT, or the specific goals, practically come to fruition on their own.
- This is every bit as important during the PREtirement and retirement phases of life as it is with your annual vision – perhaps even moreso. The typical person focuses on the traditional “what basket” of travel, volunteer and maybe some specific hobby. The THRIVER focuses instead on “who” they are becoming.
- Here’s a brief example – let’s say you spend some time developing your PREtirement vision of the person – the WHO – you are becoming for your post-working years. To keep it simple, let’s say you identify a vision something along the lines of “being a curious and active explorer, generously contributing to my family and community.” Let’s dig into that a bit. Each morning when you wake up, you remind yourself of this vision – your WHO. Does the curious and active explorer who is generously contributing to their family and community sit around in front of the TV? Are they bored and wondering what to do with their day, week or year? Are they settling for the token volunteer role or generic “travel” that has you sitting by a pool with an endless stream of drinks in your hand as the primary goal? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess your answer is a resounding “no.” The individual who takes the time during the PREtirement years to clarify that vision of becoming (in our example) “a curious and active explorer, generously contributing to family and community” develops such a full life the traditional basket of generic “travel/volunteer/hobby” is replaced by a thriving life worth living!
So where do we go from here. As I mentioned, I’ve pulled together pages of PREtirement concepts we can dig into in the future if you find this helpful. For now, let’s just highlight one key area of emphasis across the decades from our 20’s up into our 60’s, each of which lean in on the concept of “compound interest.” Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying it was the 8th wonder of the world. Let’s look at how that 8th wonder certainly does influence our money but it absolutely doesn’t stop there.
20’s/30’s – If you’re in your 20s and 30s, your target is to tap into the compound interest with your money. What is compound interest? I’m no financial advisor, so you’ll have to connect w/ Mr. Ripsam if you want to dig into the details, but here’s a simple example of how compound interest works for you over time and demonstrates why your 20’s & 30’s represent the key period in this area.
Let’s say you’re 25 years old and you’re able to make an initial investment into a Roth IRA of $1,000. Then, instead of a daily Starbucks, you add that $180/month into the same account and leave it there. Over the ensuing 40 year period leading up to age 65, you’ll invest a total of $87,400 or just under $2,200/year. Obviously there are no guarantees, but if we use the average annual S/P500 stock market return since 1957 of 10%, do you know what compounding interest will turn that $2,200/year into? $1,001,259.18. That’s right – $87,000 can potentially turn into over $1 million dollars. How’s that Starbucks tasting right now? 😊
Late 30’s/40’s? – The compound interest benefits in these decades shifts to the physical. All things being equal, we lose up to 5% of our strength, and similar levels of cardiovascular capacity and balance each decade after age 30. But all things don’t have to be equal. And habits established in our 30’s & 40’s will carry over into the physical capacity we bring into the retirement years. A March 2019 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association with over 300,000 participants demonstrated a 43% decrease in heart disease and 16% reduction in cancer in those who began exercising in their 40’s, even if inactive earlier in life. Add to this what we’ve discussed about how strength, balance and cardio training opens the door for so many more opportunities in retirement and the compounding interest on physical pursuits during these decades may look even better than our million dollar example we noted for those in their 20’s and 30’s.
Our 50’s/60’s? – In the core PREtirement decades of our 50’s and early 60’s, the compound interest benefits shift to our hobbies and connections. Traditionally, people will look ahead to retirement and expect to “figure out hobbies when I have more time.” Similar to the 30 year old planning to save later or the 40 year old expecting to get active in the future, that’s a losing strategy if looking to truly thrive in retirement. Many “when, where & how decisions” await us in retirement that can be enhanced significantly by getting at least a sense of the “what” – the hobbies, and the “who” – our personal connections – during the PREtirement years. As a simple example, cycling, golf or sporting events may “seem” like an enjoyable hobby from a distance, but there’s a big difference between an occasional outing and a regular hobby. Similarly, many of our relationships are built around work. What happens to our connections when work is no longer there? Don’t wait until retirement. Begin expanding connections outside of work such as volunteer organizations, church, and others to benefit from the relational compounding interest later on.
One final thought before we close. 20 years ago, a good friend mused that life seems to make us choose 2 of 3 components: Time, Money and Health. He noted when you’re young, you may have time and health but no money. Mid-life often brings more money but time then becomes compressed between work and family. The latter part of life offers time and potentially money but declining health. It spurred an interesting discussion that has stuck with me over the years.
Since then I’ve realized we actually forgot to include the engine that drives all three of those components. That engine is Purpose. Together, they provide us the vehicle for moving forward. We’ll jump into that a bit more in the future if you found this to be of value, but I didn’t want to close things out without tossing that into the PREtirement discussion.
Thanks for tuning into the #1 podcast for health, wellness & performance coaching. More than ever, please share this with others if you found it beneficial. We’re debating about doing a series on this topic and so will be watching the listener stats on this episode closely in the coming weeks to see if there’s a value in doing so.
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Now it’s time to be a catalyst. This is Dr. Brad Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. I’ll speak with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching podcast or maybe over at the YouTube Coaching channel. Listen to the entire discussion on the Catalyst 360 Health, Wellness & Performance Podcast.