There’s more to being happy in retirement than just having a healthy pension pot, as financial journalist Dean Evans discovers.
The secret to enjoying a happy retirement isn’t all about money. In fact, according to a 2014 survey of retirees, the most important factor is to stay fit and healthy, physically and mentally.
The problem is, however, that while we’re living longer, we’re not necessarily living well in old age. Public Health England points out that according to the latest data, our healthy life expectancy (the number of years you’ll live in ‘good health’) is only 63 for a man and 64 for a woman.
Added to that, as a nation we aren’t ensuring we have enough money to keep us secure once we reach retirement age (currently 66, rising to 68 in 2037).
So, how can we increase all these figures? Here we look at six simple ways you can ensure a healthy mind, body and wallet in preparation for your retirement.
- Practice meditation
Meditation is an ancient practice that has found favour in the modern world and research is beginning to uncover why it’s proving popular. According to Harvard Medical School, meditation can quiet your mind, improve concentration and help you to handle stress.
Although there are different kinds of meditation, including physical forms such as tai chi and qigong, starting your own meditation is simple:
- Find somewhere to sit comfortably
- Close your eyes or focus on a specific object
- Breathe slowly and deeply
- Remain focused on the rhythm of your breathing. If your mind drifts, just come back to your breath.
Initially, aim for five minutes daily before building up to longer periods.
- Nurture the relationships that you value
Staying connected to friends and family is an essential part of mental wellbeing at any age. It’s now also easier than ever thanks to the internet and social media. However that doesn’t mean that you have to stay in regular contact with everyone that you’ve ever been friends with.
As our lives change over the years, so do our relationships. Don’t invest all your efforts in trying to maintain friendships with people that you no longer have anything in common with. Instead focus your energies on nurturing connections with friends and family that you love being around.
- Eat like an Okinawan
The Japanese have the greatest proportion of centenarians in the world, and many of those truly senior citizens live in the Okinawa islands at the south of the country. There’s been plenty of research into the reasons for their extraordinary longevity. A major factor is their diet, which has traditionally been dominated by fish, whole grains, vegetables and soy products such as tofu.
Try swapping the meat in your next stir-fry for tofu, or add oily fish such as mackerel or tuna to your salad, for a hit of flavour too.
- Get tested
Help to keep yourself in peak condition by keeping up-to-date with all the health tests that are available. Our needs change as we age, but it’s always a good idea to regularly get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, your eyes and hearing tested, plus have a regular cervical smear or breast check if you’re a woman.
- Start early
The earlier that you begin saving for your retirement, the easier it is to accrue the level of provision needed to live comfortably. Personal finance author Neala Okuromade suggests “Ask yourself at what age would you like to retire? What income would you like to live off? You can then work your way back to your current financial situation and assess how realistic your goals are. This will give you an idea of how much money you can set aside on a monthly basis to go into your pension savings. A discussion with a financial adviser may also be helpful as they can generate a realistic forecast for you”.
- Don’t overthink it
Although saving for your retirement is a serious matter, don’t be intimidated by the process. All you need to do is take ownership of your money and have reasonable expectations of yourself. Michael Bamford of financial planning firm Informed Choice advises that, “Time and the amount you save are the biggest factors in determining how much you have in retirement. People often overthink their retirement savings strategy. It doesn’t need to be particularly complex”.
Make the most of your retirement savings
The value of investments – and the income from them – can go down as well as up, meaning you may get back less than