I recently watched the Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, with author Dan Buettner, to discover five unique communities where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives. That got me thinking about longevity and the need to plan for it financially. Who doesn’t want to live a long and vibrant life, with the money to match?
Get acquainted with the Blue Zones: National Geographic explorer and journalist Buettner and his team of scientists and demographers traveled the world in search of communities where people not only lived longer but also enjoyed a high quality of life in their old age. They drew on the demographic work of Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, who had drawn blue circles around these regions on a map of the world, thus deriving the name “Blue Zones.” Buettner and his team, including Pes and Poulain, extended their explorations to find other such areas around the world. They found these regions shared nine specific lifestyle habits known as the Power 9 ® and Buettner wrote about them in his book, The Blue Zones. Other publications soon followed and attained New York Times best-seller status, a testament to the growing popularity of the Blue Zones movement.
What are the nine principles of the Blue Zones? Move naturally and a lot; develop a purpose to your life; live at a slower pace; eat your smallest meal in late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat at night; eat a plant-based diet that includes meat only occasionally; drink alcohol only moderately, with meals and with others; belong to a group or community; put your loved ones first and create lasting friendships.
Consider your financial situation as you aim for a Blue Zones lifestyle: According to the Social Security Administration, the average 65-year-old man can expect to live to roughly 84.3 years of age, whereas the average 65-year-old woman can expect to live until age 86.6. This means that on average, Americans can expect to spend about 20 years in retirement. But your retirement, especially if you follow the Blue Zones way of life, could be considerably longer, so you will need to plan to have enough savings and investments to last for three decades of retirement.
Don’t count solely on Social Security to keep you financially comfortable: The 2022 Social Security Trustees report finds that in 2034, retirees will start receiving a reduced benefit if Congress doesn’t fix funding issues for the social program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, half of seniors at least half of their retirement income from Social Security. An aging population and longer lifespans are also putting more pressure on Social Security. By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than 65!
Save to build a healthy financial base for longevity: Saving more money is a fundamental solution to retirement challenges.Despite economic challenges like inflation, finding ways to increase savings is crucial. Pare down your spending now and put yourself on a budget, if you haven’t already. We offer free, downloadable
Check out our retirement worksheet for help. Know how much you need for retirement and take stock of your financial assets. Do they match your current and future needs?
Invest wisely to boost what you will have in retirement: Max out your retirement account, especially any that provide matching contributions. Look into opening a Roth IRA account or converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA with the help of your financial advisor; doing so will give you tax-free income in retirement. Diversify your investments: Maximize your returns while managing risks.Rebalance your portfolio: This will target asset allocation and risk. Year end is a good time for a financial checkup; your financial planner can help you set goals for 2024 and make any necessary adjustments for your retirement goals.
Health care costs and the Blue Zones techniques: With health care typically being one of the biggest expenses for older people, you can almost certainly save money by practicing Blue Zones principles. (See above). Pay special attention to diet: an eating pattern of less meat and fewer processed foods and more plants and whole foods is not only healthier, it’s almost always cheaper!
Embrace a flexible approach to retirement: Retiring at 65 may not be affordable or even desirable for many people who expect to live longer than previous generations.
You may want to work longer, either full-time or part-time, to increase your income and savings, delay drawing down your assets, and reduce the number of years you need to fund your retirement. Remember, people of the Blue Zones stay active for life, take part in group activities, continue to have a purpose throughout their lives and, yes, many even continue to work.