It seems almost every day you see something on the Internet about how retired people are afraid they will outlive their money. About how we all live so long these days, and about how we will need a lot more money than we think to carry us through to the end of our days. Nobody is saving enough for retirement. Social Security is running out of money. Medicare is running out of money even faster.
There's all kinds of advice about how to make your nest egg last for as long as you live. Buy an annuity. Invest in stocks. Cut your expenses. Watch out for inflation.
I had a little health scare last week, and after that, when I read this money advice, it suddenly seemed so trivial. And I realized your priority should not be to save and scrimp and make sure you have money for your old age, but to take care of yourself and do the things you need to do to live long enough to get to old age.
I don't know if I'll live to be 90 or 100. I think I'd like to -- although I know a lot of people who don't. They believe life in old old age will be a miserable experience, full of pain and loneliness, and they think they'll be happy to die at age 80 or 85. (I'll make sure to ask them if they still feel the same way once they get to be 80.) But, surely, nobody wants to die at 65 or 68 -- if for no other reason than you want to get back all that money you paid into Social Security!
So I've spent the last week not thinking about how much money I'll need in case I live to 100, but how to give myself the best chances to get to 100 -- or at least live a reasonably disease and pain free life for the next 30 years, until I get into my 90s, and maybe to 100.
My parents died at ages 89 and 91. Many of my relatives lived well into their 90s. I had one uncle who died in his 60s but he'd had polio as a child and suffered from diabetes his whole life. And one of my grandfathers died in his 60s, before I was born, but he picked up some disease from working in a factory for 30-odd years. I don't have to worry about diseases from a factory -- I just suffer from the maladies you get from sitting behind a desk for 30-odd years, things like carpal tunnel syndrome and a bad back.
So I'm hoping I have the genes to keep me around long enough to allow me to collect plenty of Social Security checks.
But I used to smoke. And I know I don't get enough exercise. And I eat too much sugar and not enough fruits and vegetables. And I have to work on my attitude, too. Happy people live longer than people who are depressed. I'm not depressed, but sometimes I get a little too moody, or disgruntled, or too critical of the world.
In the fall of 2009, I lost about 15 pounds, partly to improve my health and to take some weight off my sometimes-painful knees and ankles. I've put back on about 6 or 8 of those pounds. I've got to shed those recidivist pounds.
I lost that weight in part by giving up sodas and sugary drinks. But the truth is I've been backsliding on that, and I know that soda and anything else with high-fructose corn syrup is not just fattening but is bad for you in other ways as well. And so is sugar. And so are too many carbohydrates.
So I've recently gone back to drinking water. I also need to eat more veggies. B always serves a vegetable with dinner. But I have to make a point of eating some veggies during the day as well -- raw carrots or a tomato or a green salad. This is a good time to resolve to eat more vegetables because they're just starting to come into season, and fresh ones are so much better than the frozen or canned variety.
I have to fill up on more fruit as well. I can have raisins with my morning cereal. An apple or a banana during the day. If I could only be satisfied with a piece of fruit for dessert at night, instead of lobbying for cake or cookies, or falling to the siren song of ice cream. (I'd love to hear: what is your dietary nemesis? Mine is definitely ice cream.)
I do belong to a fitness club, but my attendance lately has been very sporadic. I resolve to go more often -- at least twice a week, maybe three times. And do more walking as well. Or at least play golf.
B and I like to go dancing. That's not only good exercise, but it helps your social life as well. And all the research says the more friends you have, the more connected you are to a community, the better your health will be.
Dancing is also something B and I like to do together; it helps to keep our relationship strong, and we all know a good intimate relationship will help you live longer -- or if by chance it doesn't, it sure makes your time here a lot happier.
As of right now, I'm not worried about having enough money to support me until I reach a hundred. Instead, I invite you share with me a much more important goal -- to make the adjustments in our lives that will ensure we get there at all, hopefully pain free and in good health.