Thoughts and such like.....
Although the title reads Finance, there are many Financial Advisors who are better equipped than I to speak on money. What I am going to talk of, is about how your finances can help to design your next Act, what to ask your financial advisors and not to give up on a dream because you have been told you can't afford it.
A question I recently heard was ''If you were told that you only have 6 months to live, what would you change, who would you chose to spend time with, what would you do/go?" Just sit with that question for a while. If you are considering retirement in the near future, what other changes are you considering, and how deep are you willing to go to to design your best future?
Often we ask our Financial Advisors 'Do I have enough money to retire?', but how can they answer you honestly if you do not know where you are going or what you wish to do? So perhaps their response should be 'What do you dream of doing in 'retirement', let's see what that looks like'. Then they can check to see if you have the financial resources, and if you don't, work with you to see how they can support you to develop a plan to allows you to go for it.
Financial freedom is a dream we all have, who hasn't dreamed of winning the lottery, not working a day more or being able to underwrite our children's dreams? However, I wonder how satisfied are those people who have nothing to do - often I hear 'Oh, it's not what I thought it would be?', or 'Is this all there is?' And still others say 'oh, I can never retire, I'm not rich enough'.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
14th Dali Lama
In his book The New Retirementality, Mitch Anthony, talks of Retirement Whiplash, Be Careful What You Wish For. He talks of how we are unprepared for the loss of structure that jobs offer, as well as loss of identity - the fact that people often feel that they have become invisible, or no longer exist! (www.amazon.ca/New-Retirementality-Planning-Living-Dreams/dp/1118705122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525114619&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+retirementality). He asks 'what are you retiring from?, remembering that the word retire comes from the word 'withdraw'.
For those who may have enough funds to do nothing, and for those who may not, there is a third choice - what if one invests in oneself? As noted in previous blogs on the third act, as we move toward this phase of life, there are many questions we can ask about what next, however perhaps the most important is 'What is meaningful to me, today?' What if you could negotiate your ideal life - mix work (maybe new work), and life in a way that meets your needs, maybe you would prefer to work 25 hours/week rather than 40; maybe you want to work eight months/year rather than eleven.
Even if you've been told you don't have sufficient money to retire, this third option is still viable. Take time to reflect on how you can creatively use your resources, including your talents, to develop the life you desire. How can you design a life that meets your intellectual need, feeds both your soul and brain, and ensures that your savings last longer than if you stop work altogether? Work with someone to help you think of innovative ways to use all your resources (abilities, time and money), to create the live you want. Maybe you develop your own job or business? Statistics Canada shows that the majority of small and medium businesses started in 2014, were by those in the 50 - 64 age range. I believe this growth continues, everything is possible.
Mitch Anthony talks of ROL or Return on Life, Mark Aardsma, talks of time.(www.amazon.ca/Investing-Purpose-Capitalize-Create-Tomorrow/dp/1501262491. Time is special, 'given to everyone at an equal rate for free' and although we may not receive the same amount as others, we are given it at the same pace, and each day we are given another 24 hours. We can't save or store time, however we can decide how we want to use that time - we can complain and worry that we don't have enough money, we can't retire with the lifestyle we see others seemingly enjoy, OR we can use time to reflect on what we can do, and pursue those things so that we can invest in the future we want at any age.
Many people assume that they need to be rich, to do what they want. What does rich look like to you? For me rich is living a life where I have lots of interaction with people I love, rich in experiences and I'm living my purpose - that is working with, and helping others live their lives to the fullest; happy and able to deal with what life throws at them. One gentleman I met said, I've retired, now I'll wait until I get bored and then I'll decide on what I want to do!'. That's great, but why wait until you get bored - what does boredom feel like to you, and if you wait, will you recognize it is boredom that is making you irritable, depressed, or unhappy?
As we look at our Third Act, we may or may not have the financial resources to do what we believe we want, however we always have the time to research and review what excites us, what aligns with our values and passion. There are always opportunities hidden out there, you don't have to suddenly change, you can take change in small steps - set your goal and then lay out the steps to get there. If you need support, find a coach who can support you on your journey and help you articulate and reach your goals.
The past is behind, learn from it; the future is ahead,
prepare for it; the present is her, live it.
Thomas S. Monson
The Third pillar of the Third Act is spirituality. When they hear the word spirituality many people think of religion, but that couldn't be further from the truth - spirituality to me is at the core of who I am as a person. It is about how I operate in this world, what I hold dear, what my values are, and how I live them daily... Spirituality to me is about my soul.
The word 'spirituality' comes from Latin, a noun: spiritualitas, derived from the Greek noun pneuma, meaning spirit. The Oxford English dictionary defines spirit as
'The non-physical part of a person regarded as their true self,
capable of surviving physical death or separation'.
Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul (www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/care-of-the-soul-twenty/9780062415677-item.html?ikwid=Care+of+the+soul&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) says that care of this soul 'is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness'.
I believe that people can be spiritual, and religious, but that people can spiritual without being religious, or can be religious without being spiritual. Often spirituality shows itself in individual behaviours, contemplative practices such as private prayer, meditation, reflection, journalling and yoga or other meditative activity. And, there is growing research that demonstrates that these spiritual practices are associated with better health and well-being. In the Third Act program participants are encourage to look at values and beliefs that may have been imposed or unconsciously adopted at an early age, and examine whether they still serve today, a kind of self-mastery review. As James Hollis states 'A mature spirituality requires a mature individual. A mature spirituality already lies within each of us, in our potential to take on the mystery as it comes to us, to query it, to risk change and growth, and to continue the revisioning of our journey'. (Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/finding-meaning-in-the-second/9781592402076-item.html?ikwid=finding+meaning+in+the+second+half+of+life&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0)
Spiritual people are often described as compassionate, empathetic, and open hearted. Galen Watts suggests that 'there are certain virtues which have come to be associated with spirituality: compassion, empathy and open-heartedness'. He goes onto say that these virtues, or values, denote a high level of self knowledge that demonstrates knowledge of why we act in certain ways, and most importantly, knowledge of our interdependence. (http://theconversation.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-spiritual-87236)
You may ask, surely spirituality and mental health are the same, they do overlap, however I believe that there is a difference. Spirituality is curious, it asks questions about finding meaning and connection, it's internal; Good mental health is about developing a positive state of mind, it's external. They're separate, but intrinsically linked.
My first experience in deepening my own spirituality was during coach training, the premise being that you can't really coach others well, if you haven't looked deeply into yourself - it was an experience that at the beginning I hated, who would want to do this stuff? Literally taking out all my baggage, beliefs and things that I clung to for many years, and ask why? This internal sh*t, who wanted to do it? It was painful, and something I resisted, for a long time - however once I got serious, I was able to let go of a lot of baggage, and more importantly, I was able to forgive and let go of blame and negative feelings. Many spiritual traditions, including traditional religions include a practice of forgiveness. Again, science shows that forgiveness has many health benefits, including longer lifespan, lower blood pressure and fewer feelings of anger and hurt. It can be transformational, looking back and reflecting where we have been, and what we have achieved, then looking forward and seeing possibilities - letting loose our imagination and expanding our mind.
How is your spiritual life? Is it time to take a few minutes each day and examine your being, try meditation, study spiritual ideas or as Thomas Moore suggests: Begin your spiritual life 'with an appreciation for the soul of the world and of all beings'. Your spiritual health is as important as your mental and physical health. Remember you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, man cannot live without a spiritual life - Buddha
The four pillars behind the Third Act program are Mental, Physical, Spiritual and financial health. In my last blog I spoke of ensuring that we remain healthy in mind, and in this one I'm going to focus on the second pillar - body or our physical health.
'Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness' Edward Smith-Stanley
Now there are millions of books out there that talk about diet and physical fitness, you may consider yourself fit, you meet the 10,000 steps a day recommendation, you eat healthily, you only drink the occasional glass of wine or beer, and you drink your eight glasses of water per day. However physical health is not just about keeping fit, it's also, and you have probably heard this before, about what we put into our bodies. As Rick Steiner, PhD, in his book Retirement, Different by Design states 'In the end, life at any age is what we choose to make of it..... We can pursue lifestyles that promote physical and mental health, or we can choose to live in ways that seemingly go against our own best interests'. (www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/retirement-different-by-design-six/9781578265565-item.html?ikwid=retirement%2c+different+by+design&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0)
Exercise also doesn't mean you have to take up a sport or train to run a marathon, more it's about balance, 30 minutes of walking each day is shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you already walk each day, try adding a few minutes each week, what about having an accountability partner to walk with. I love walking on my own, I've always loved it even as a teenager I would take off for hours often coming in late at night from my 'strolls', probably worrying my mother silly, wondering where I was. When I had young kids it was more difficult to get away, however, now I try to get my walk in daily, and when the weather is really foul, I take to my treadmill. I also try to walk with a friend a couple of times a week, it keeps both of us accountable and we have such interesting discussions, often not noticing how far we've gone. Or, you could take up a sport once you have finished your day job. I know of a gentleman who on retiring felt it was important to get fit and so proceeded to learn how to run. He continued well into his 70's competing in seniors games and winning medals until his doctor advised him to shorten the runs due to a heart condition. He continues to do short runs and he took up the pole vault, setting a Canadian record at 85! His attitude on aging is one we all could emulate, 'take care of the body, and keep on learning new things to take care of the mind'.
If you haven't thought about your physical being, or think it's too late, think about the gentleman above, who for most of the 40 years when working had no exercise plan. He certainly didn't feel it was too late. Start small, Spring is an ideal time to get into the habit of walking, begin with a 10 minute stroll and build by 5 minutes each week, or if you have a step tracker spend a couple of minutes each evening for a week, average the number of steps you take each day - try adding 100 steps to that average over the next week and build your plan from there.
Obesity is a real issue in the baby boomer generation, and continues to grow. Unfortunately, people can be obese and malnourished at the same time. Looking at what, and how much you eat as you age is an important strategy against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a host of other horror illnesses. As the saying goes, you are what you eat - think about becoming a little greener, or at least more green. Once a week have a vegetarian meal, or even a vegetarian day, buy a different vegetable, one you haven't tried before; ask or look up the best way to cook it, experiment with food, make your food life more interesting. A current favourite author right now is Dr. Michael Greger, author of How not to Die, www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/keywords=How%20not%20to%20Die#internal=1 Dr. Greger tells great stories, and favours a plant based diet. I follow his instructions 95% of the time, and 5%, well let's say I have my moments of indulgence. I believe that this is okay, my diet has definitely improved over the past few years, and as a consequence I feel better. His website: https://nutritionfacts.org is where he investigates nutrition research and provides it free of charge in 'bite size videos'.
I would also suggest you look up what a portion of meat, fish, vegetables look like, and practice portion control. Here's the Dietitian's of Canada website link: www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Healthy-Eating/Week-3-Portion-Size.aspx . I thought I knew what a portion for each of these food groups looked like - I was so wrong! We all could improve on what and how much we eat, think about how you measure up, and then think about taking mini steps to improve your eating habits.
A third part of being fit in mind and body is ensuring that your emotions don't 'convert into physical systems', as Thomas Moore talks of in his book, Ageless Soul. www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=ageless%20soul#internal=1 Anxiety and worry affects a large number people as they age, and it's effect can be devastating to many individuals. Keeping yourself fit, healthy in mind and body is so important at all stages of life, but particularly as you age, because you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
If you would like to learn more about the Third Act program, or want to know more about career transition and/or retirement, contact me for a free consultation.
Yesterday I read an article about Antonio Banderas and how his new role (Picasso) was a way back into more serious roles now he was entering his third act. He talked of how a heart attack last year has brought about a new respect for his health, but that doesn't mean he wants to live life like he's already dead. "I'm just going to live it, and if I die, I die." (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/08/antonio-banderas-i-dont-want-to-live-my-life-like-im-already-dead). I wonder how many of us once struck by a serious illness or chronic disease have the same attitude, and how many others decide that this is a sign that they have become 'old', and therefore it is time to stop doing certain things because they're now old. I've known both types of people, and those that seem to have the most fun are those that spend time reflecting on what it is that they want to do, and how they can support those dreams, whether or not they are living with a serious illness.
The Third Act program is based on four pillars: physical, mental, spiritual and financial health - each of these pillars are important as we move forward to embrace this next phase of life. In North America we often only only review whether we have the financial resources to keep us as we retire. I believe we have it backwards. How can we know whether we have sufficient funds to keep us in our retirement if we don't have a plan, or at least an outline, of what we want to do, and how we are ensuring our health will be the best it can be so that we can continue to enjoy life to the fullest. I think we need to start at a place of what next?, go about planning much as we did as teenagers looking at 'what do we want to do with our lives?', asking similar questions, but with less judgement and, of course, more experience. What excites me? What did I dream of as a child/in my twenties, and couldn't do because of.....?, What would I like to achieve, now? Remember, if you are 60 today, you have a 50% chance of living until you're 90+, that's a third of your life - do you want to look back at 85, and say I wish......
Going back to the pillars although they are all interconnected let's take them apart and then, in part five of this series of blogs, we'll connect the dots. Let's start with mental health, as it was part of a conversation I had with friends last week. Today in most cultures there is less shame about admitting to mental health issues, however agism can still be a problem, both in Canada and elsewhere in the World. As people age, health issues, lack of transportation, loss or illness of a partner or spouse, and low income can promote the feeling of aloneness. People may be unaware of opportunities in the community to help them, or they may be too proud to ask for help. As a result many elders may suffer from depression, which may bring shame and then isolation.
Now you may say, not me! But how are you safe guarding yourself? The conversation I had with friends last week centred around one person looking forward to retirement and my question about her social circle - if many of her friends come from her workplace, how can she be certain that that connection will stay strong after her retirement, and what is she putting in place today to ensure she continues developing new friendships, based on common interests and values? Interestingly in a couple of recent surveys, (in the interest of transparency, one was a small one I did), when asked about worries in retirement, no one mentioned mental health, they may have meant it within the response 'health', but I'm not sure many of us think about this aspect of aging.
Health Canada recently put out a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/focus-areas/seniors), which states that over 1.8 Million people 60+ live with mental health problems or illness. Using data from interviews with older people it speaks of the increasing number of older adults with mental health issues, how to approach the subject with them and keep in mind their changing needs. It was mainly targeted at health professionals, but also has a course for the everyday Canadian, to increase the capacity of individuals to recognize and help elders suffering from mental health issues. It also has other initiatives including tips for cities to promote aging friendly initiatives, and a program call Fountain of Health (https://fountainofhealth.ca/), which supports people in changing their own attitude on aging. The program provides resources to improve individual longevity and happiness, how to reduce the possibility of illness as well as steps to support mental and emotional health. If you are a self starter and can hold yourself accountable, this may be all you need to support you in this new journey, however if you are like many of us you may need an accountability partner . This may be your spouse or a friend, or you may wish to hire a coach who can help you initiate new goals and habits and then hold you accountable.
As we age, we must remember that each of us is responsible for our own mental and physical health, and our perspective on aging and how we value and enjoy those years may be one of the most healthy ways we can prepare for our elder years. If you would like more information on the Third Act program, or how I can help you as you plan your retirement years, contact me for a free consultation. Remember, you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
'A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully'.
(Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2009) Immunity to Change).
The above quote really set me thinking about how difficult some habits are to change, and how we rarely think of some as addictions; we are accustomed to them, we have years of repeating them and have forgotten why we began them, and also, that we have the ability to stop them. What is it about habits that make them so difficult to change? Some habits are formed in childhood and are so inbred within us that we often aren't even aware of them. Others are formed as we go through life to make things easier, to be cool (often in the case of habits formed in our teens), to cut down on time (driving to an appointment), as a reaction to a situation, and so on.
One of the first books I read on habits was Charles Duhigg 'The Power of Habit', Why we do what we do in life and business. (charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/). I had heard a discussion about his book on the radio, and then seeing the cover at the bookstore I was attracted to the colour (yellow), and then seduced by the narrative on the inside cover. The book explains in easy language why some of us, individuals and companies, can change overnight, while others continue to struggle for years. He talks of focus and understanding how habit patterns shape us. Through reading I was able to recognize a particularly bad habit and one I wanted to get rid of: each time I went grocery shopping I would buy myself a chocolate bar, because it was a task that I really don't like and feel/felt I should be rewarded for doing it. Once I was aware of the habit, I could work on replacing it with something that had less of an impact on my person, and as a consequence lost the couple of pounds I had gained in the few years since it began. Can you guess what my new reward is?
The next book I found was Immunity to Change, (www.amazon.ca/Immunity-Change-Overcome-Potential-Organization/dp/1422117367) quoted above. Now as a coach I'm always trying to understand the struggles I, and my clients, have in meeting our goals, and the vision of who we want to become. I loved this book, and half-way through asked permission of a client to use the strategies outlined, in our coaching sessions - this meant extra work for her, asking her to be vulnerable to her community, and extra work for me as her coach, however I was convinced that some of the challenges she was experiencing in life could be addressed by using the tools outlined. After some time, even before finishing all the exercises she was able to experience a break through in consciousness around a habit that had begun in childhood, an awareness as she moved into the habit, and with the power of awareness was able to, using small steps, move toward breaking the habit that was causing her such grief. Did I say I loved this book?
Habits are often unconscious, we're so accustomed to them that we forget why we formed them in the first place, what it was that we were trying to accomplish. We don't realize that because they were made by us, we also have the power to break them. Sometimes as a habit becomes more, an addiction and we may need extra help, however just the act of recognizing that this action/reaction is habitually can be the first step in changing, and choosing a different response.
More recently I read Gretchen Rubin's book 'Better than Before. Mastering the habits of our Everyday Lives', (www.amazon.ca/Better-Than-Before-Habits-Procrastinate/dp/0385348630). Again a thoroughly absorbing book, filled with ideas and science related to habit formation she also states the obvious: ' the true secret to habit change is first, to know yourself'. She uses herself, family and friends to test her theories and tells of the outcomes and her own thought process on the science. A fun book to read.
But to get back to the quote at the top of this blog. Many of us would like to think that if it was a life or death situation, we would be able to change a habit, but science is telling us differently - only 14% are able to do so. As we age, some habits are important to examine and maybe change. What about an introvert whose main social interaction takes place during work hours, as they move toward retirement, they may want to look at how they will socialize once they stop working, and begin to cultivate the habit of getting to know people outside their current circle. For many people as they age, isolation and loneliness can bring on mental health issues.
Physical health is always a big topic, and as noted in another blog, science suggests that as little as 20% of health problems are inherited, so we can no longer blame Mum & Dad! It is sobering to visit residential care facilities and see the myriad of health challenges our elders have - how can we avoid these as we age? Are we willing to change some of our eating and exercise habits to move the dial away from chronic illness, heart problems etc.? If we are expected to live to 85 - 90+ years, how do we want those last ten to 15 years to look? Do we still want to be able to physically and mentally enjoy ourselves - what part do diet and exercise play in helping us reach that goal?
How can we begin to replace habits that no longer serve us with ones that may be initially difficult to practice, but in the long term will allow us to live physically, mentally and emotionally in a more healthy way?
Me, there are still habits I'd like to change, and I'm working on them. What habits do you want to change? How are you going about changing them? Leave a comment below and tell me your ideas for changing unhealthy habits into those that serve you better?
ps. You've probably guessed it, my new shopping reward is buying books, slightly more expensive but so much better for me!
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