MIT AgeLab has identified three simple questions to ask yourself to gauge how prepared you are for retirement.
They uncover crucial factors which may determine your future quality of life. When it comes to retirement planning, we are inclined to focus on accumulating wealth and spending it wisely. While not outliving our wealth is essential it is also important to think about:
- Losing our independence due to ailing health;
- Being unable to access the big and small things that make us happy, and
- Facing a decline in the number of friends in our social network.
Planning for these contingencies is an integral part of preparing to live longer, better.
The first question is “Who will change my light bulbs?”
This sounds mundane and simple enough. But is it?
Changing light bulbs is more than an issue of long-term home maintenance. It is a question which asks, “Do I have a plan of how to maintain my home?” When we are younger, most of us take for granted our ability to do daily house cleaning, maintenance, and basic repairs.
Identifying the costs as well as the trusted service providers necessary to maintain our home is critical to ageing independently.
The second is “How will I get an ice cream?”
Quality of life is about being able to easily and routinely access those little experiences that bring a smile.
Getting an ice cream when you want should hopefully not be a financial strain. However, being able to go and get it does raise questions such as, “If driving is no longer possible, how do I get to where I want to go when I want to go?
The last question is “Who will I have lunch with?”
(You can replace lunch with “a drink”)
This may be a good indicator of your social network. This is not the social network of “friends” you have online, but friends you see regularly. These are people who help reinforce a healthy lifestyle, and who you and your significant other can depend upon.
Even with adequate finances, living alone without a robust circle of social support can threaten healthy ageing. In the UK, the number of over-65s living alone has risen by 15% in the last decade – from 3.4 million in 2008 to 3.9 million in 2018.
Consequently, planning where and with whom to retire may be as important as how much it will cost. For example, a home in the countryside may be alluring, but it may lead to an inadequate network of friends, or complete isolation during old age.