Develop Your Lifestyle Portfolio … the key to a happy retirement

For folks who have retired, there is endless advice on developing the right financial portfolio.

As important as this is, there is another type of portfolio that may be even more important to a happy and successful retirement. That portfolio can be called your lifestyle portfolio – your LSP.

Certainly there are many factors that we cannot control as we age.  But more and more researchers are reporting that, even with the normal decline in some of our physical and mental capabilities, our lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on both the quality and length of our retirement years.

Dr. Steve Chardos is a retired psychologist and TVA retiree. He was well-known at TVA for the insightful and entertaining presentations he made to employees throughout the Tennessee Valley.

Dr. Steve Chardos is a retired psychologist and TVA retiree. He was well-known at TVA for the insightful and entertaining presentations he made to employees throughout the Tennessee Valley.

Financial experts have been telling us that we need a diverse financial portfolio and a regular check up to see if adjustments need to be made as we age.  In a similar way, your LSP also needs diversity and a regular check up to see if adjustments need to be made as you age.  But rather than stocks, bonds and cash reserves, the fundamentals of a sound LSP are made up of being physically active, mentally active and socially connected.

So here are three questions to ask yourself about how sound your LSP is.  Now be honest with yourself.

 Are you physically active?

When you first read this question – What came to mind? Did you want to skip down to the next question because you have heard this before and you’re not going to do it anyway?

Lots of folks think of exercise when they are encouraged to become more physically active.  But the key is to being physically active is to just “Move More”. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – it just needs to be consistent. 

Build opportunities to walk into your everyday activities.  When you go shopping, out to eat or even to church, park a little further from the front door (weather permitting).  Stop trying to squeeze into a parking space near the door just to end up with your car doors being banged up. 

If you are able, interested and enjoy more traditional exercise activities like jogging and bike riding – great, keep it up.

Data collected in the MacArthur Foundation Study on Successful Aging noted:  “Physical activity is at the crux of successful aging, regardless of other factors.  There is a simple fact about exercise and your health: fitness cuts your risk of dying.” 

In other words, exercise may not be the magic bullet that solves all our problems and worries about the effects of aging – but it is close.  Your body was designed to be a moving object.

Are you mentally active?

Research over the last few years has challenged two long standing myths about aging. One myth was that you may not have much influence on the expected decline of your mental functioning as you age.  The research now suggests that similar to your physical state, to stay mentally sharp you need to mentally exercise.

Many activities count as mental exercise – doing crossword puzzles; word games; taking academic courses – either in person or on-line. If you played a musical instrument when you were younger – pick it back up and learn a few Christmas songs to play for the grandchildren.

The second myth was that it is harder for older folks to learn new things.  Retired folks can learn just as well as when they were younger – it just can take a bit longer and needs more repetitions.

Are you socially connected?

Research has suggested that one of the primary buffers between difficult life events and physical and psychological fallout is the quantity and quality of social supports.  This effect is particularly true in our later years.

All of us need a number of people in our lives, some to play with, some to confront us, some to provide emotional support and still others who love us.  Maintaining an adequate number of social supports can be especially challenging for retirees because of the inevitable passing of loved ones and friends.  This challenge suggests the need to have some younger folks in your social support network.  

Some folks tend to prefer to have few social contacts.  They are comfortable being alone and attending few social events.  But for the rest of us, being socially engaged is an important factor for a quality retirement.

I trust that you scored well on these three Lifestyle Portfolio questions. Now here’s some additional good news.   You can earn double or triple bonus points by engaging in activities that combine two or more of these lifestyle areas.

You can earn double bonus points if you get together with friends while engaging in physical and/or mental activity.  So consider taking a walk with a friend or playing golf or tennis with a friend.   Playing cards or other similar games with friends also earns you double points. There are lots of activities that can combine two or more of these lifestyle areas. 

With some creativity you can even think of a number of ways to earn triple bonus points by combining all three areas.  One such way to do this is to travel to new places on the planet with friends.  You get to be physically active, learn some new things and are socially engaged.

So don’t forget, just like with your financial portfolio, take a regular inventory of your lifestyle portfolio and make adjustments as needed.  The goal is to stay physically and mentally active and to keep connected to family and friends.

Now call up some friends, plan a trip to a new location and enjoy all the lifestyle benefits.