Just this week, retired Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, died at the age of 99. (You might recall Stevens didn’t retire until he was 90.) Today, living into our nineties is becoming more common. The Social Security Administration now projects that current 65-year-olds have a one in three chance of living past 90 and a one in seven chance of living past 95. We’ve entered a new age of longevity, and we need to be prepared.
Preparation is Essential
President and founder of Elevate Wealth Advisors, Ben James, CFA, CFP, ChFC, says “people often underestimate their life expectancy and related financial needs based on the life expectancies of past generations.” He also says that many are failing to plan for the new financial realities of the “go-go,” “slow-go,” and “no-go” stages of a longer lifespan. Ideally, he suggests, people need to start their long-term financial planning when they begin their careers.
Preparing for the nonfinancial aspects of a long life can be just as important as preparing for the financial aspects. By the time we enter our fifties, we still have time think about the long game and what we want our life to ‘look like’ beyond having had a full-time career and possibility having raised a family.
Our challenge is to live our best lives in the present while equipping ourselves for our best lives in the future. To a large degree, the planning we do today will help create tomorrow.
Short-Selling Our Future
For many, it is very difficult to live in the present and embrace a future life at the same time. As we look in the mirror each morning, we see the same person we saw in the mirror yesterday. A lot of us also feel just as young as we did ten or twenty years ago. When we cannot ‘see’ that we are heading toward an older self, it is harder to plan for that reality.
Because ageism is prevalent in our culture, it is also understandable that many of us try to deny and defy aging. Aging has become something we are supposed to fear. But by accepting such ageist views, we’re short-selling ourselves and our future possibilities.
Visualizing New Possibilities
If we can visualize our best older selves, then we’ll be more inspired to plan for the future. One way we can do this is to identify appropriate role models or ‘inspirational guides’ who can help us see possibilities for our own future selves.
Before identifying the right guides, it helps to do some reflective thinking about personal values and life-priorities. As an example, I believe it is important to maintain a positive attitude about life. I also believe I can make a difference by investing in others and by standing up for causes that are important to me. I try to live a healthy life and think of myself as a life-long learner. Knowing who I am helped me identify women who have served as inspirational guides for me.
A Recent Guide
My neighbor, Doris, served as one of my most recent guides. One time I asked her what her secret was to a long and satisfying life, she said, “Stay positive no matter what.”
Doris lived in her own house until she was 98. She got on the Internet each morning so she could learn something new. In spite of physical limitations, she also continued to exercise (leg lifts and modified squats) until the last few months of her life.
Knowing Doris has inspired me. Although I am a much different person than she was, I can see part of my future self through the life she lived. Now I hope that I can be a guide for others like Doris was for me.
Finding the Right Guides
Some people turn to older family members as inspirational guides. Others find neighbors or community members who can offer inspiration. At some level, we’re often drawn to the right people.
If we cannot find living guides, another option is to locate inspirational historical figures. One of my historical guides is Susan B. Anthony. She continued to advocate for social justice and a woman’s right to vote into her eighties. She was a woman who inspired me to believe that we can do positive work at any age.
If you are looking for immediate inspiration, subscribe to our newsletter. Each month we feature stories about people who are 50+ and are already living their best lives.
Once you start developing a clearer picture of your future self, you will want to start taking specific steps toward making that vision a reality. We’ll be talking about those specific steps over the next several weeks.