What Boomers Need to Do to Prepare for Retirement

An increasing number of Americans are living to age 90. For some, it's because they’ve adopted healthier habits as science has evolved. For others it's because medical advances have helped mitigate unhealthy choices, such as smoking, excessive drinking, inactivity and poor nutrition.

On average, people who are alive at age 65 can expect to live until age 84, with 25 percent of those people living to age 90 or beyond, says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD.

“Every day, 10,000 people go on Medicare,” says Dr. Buchinsky, Director of Wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

“With that comes two big worries: What is my health future and what is my wealth future? It’s hard to have one without the other,” he says.

It’s never too early – or too late – to optimize both, he says. To do so, he recommends addressing what he calls the five pillars of well-being

Physical well-being. Find a primary physician you trust. “He’s your gateway to health issues you’ve had or will have,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Select a team of providers you’re comfortable with and can discuss sensitive issues with.”

Then, take control of your life. That means:

  • Eat well 80 to 90 percent of the time. Select lean proteins (emphasizing plant-based beans, nuts and seeds and – periodically – animal proteins like skinless turkey breast or salmon); unsaturated fats, like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil; vegetables and fruits; and unprocessed grains, such as brown rice.
  • Get 150 minutes of cardio exercise weekly and 15 minutes of resistance training, such as lifting light weights or planking, at least three times a week. You lose about a pound of muscle yearly after age 40, so it’s important to maintain as much muscle mass as possible to decrease your risk of falling, breaking a hip or developing osteoporosis.

Emotional well-being. Although it’s impossible to control all stressors, it’s important to identify the cause of your stress and, when possible, address it head-on. If money or family issues are taking a toll, begin by consulting with a financial adviser or having a heart-to-heart with your loved ones. Then, add yoga, tai chi, massage or deep breathing.

“These things alleviate the stress response on our body and make us more resilient,” he says. “They also help relieve physical symptoms like migraines, chest pains, irritable bowel and insomnia. It’s about turning stress into strength.”

Social well-being. Maintain connections by socializing with family and friends, becoming involved in your religious institution or developing a “helper’s high” by volunteering at a food bank or tutoring students.

"There’s an association between isolation and depression and between connection and well-being,” he says.

Professional well-being. Dr. Buchinsky advises developing a “retirement plan” that ensures you stay engaged with the world around you.

“I tell my patients who are pondering retirement to make sure they don’t retire from life because if you don’t use your brain, you can become bored and that can lead to depression and anxiety,” he says. Consider volunteering, taking classes at a local university or mentoring young people in your field of expertise.

Financial well-being. Longevity means even if people are saving money, it may not be enough to sustain them through advanced age and an unplanned medical condition, such as broken bones from a fall, heart attack, stroke, dementia or cancer.

Dr. Buchinsky suggests scheduling a yearly “fiscal physical.” It’s about being financially stable into retirement, not necessarily rich.

“I tell patients the magic word is automation,” he says. “Make sure you’re automatically putting away 15 percent of your paycheck for retirement and an emergency fund. You should have a six-month (cushion) if you’re single or three months if you’re married and are both working.”

Being financially stable lowers stress, which, in turn, lowers physical symptoms.

“That means you’ll be less likely to tap into the healthcare system and spend more money on medical care into your retirement,” he says.

Roy Buchinsky, MD, is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at UH Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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