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Retirement Questions That Have Nothing to Do With Money

Preparing for retirement is not entirely financial.

Your degree of happiness in your “second act” may depend on some factors that don’t come with an obvious price tag. Here are some non-monetary factors to consider as you prepare for your retirement.

What will you do with your time?

Too many people retire without any idea of what their retirement will look like. They leave work, and they cannot figure out what to do with themselves, so they grow restless. It’s important to identify what you want your retirement to look like and what you see yourself doing. Maybe you love your career and can’t imagine not working during your retirement. There’s no hard and fast rule to your dream retirement, so it’s important to be honest with yourself. A recent Employee Benefit Research Institute retirement confidence survey shows that 72% of workers expect to work for pay in retirement, whereas just 30% of retirees report that they’ve actually worked for pay.1

Having a clear vision for your retirement may help you align your financial goals. It’s important to remember that your vision for retirement may change—like deciding you don’t want to continue working after all.

Where will you live?

This is another factor in retirement happiness. If you can surround yourself with family members and friends whose company you enjoy, in a community where you can maintain old friendships and meet new people with similar interests or life experience, that may be a plus. If all this can occur in a walkable community with good mass transit and senior services, all the better.

How are you preparing to get around in your eighties and nineties?

The actuaries at Social Security project that the average life expectancy for men turning 65 is 84.1 years old, and the life expectancy for women turning 65 is 86.6 years. Some will live longer. Say you find yourself in that group. What kind of car would you want to drive at 85 or 90? At what age would you cease driving? Lastly, if you do stop driving, who would you count on to help you go where you want to go and get out in the world?2

How will you keep up your home?

At 45, you can tackle that bathroom remodel or backyard upgrade yourself. At 75, you will probably outsource projects of that sort, whether or not you stay in your current home. You may want to move out of a single-family home and into a townhome or condo for retirement. Regardless of the size of your retirement residence, you should expect to fund minor or major repairs, and you may need to find reliable and affordable sources for gardening or landscaping.

These are the non-financial retirement questions that no pre-retiree should dismiss. Think about them as you prepare and invest for the future.

  1. Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2021
  2. Social Security Administration, 2021

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2022 FMG Suite.

 

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Housing in Retirement

In this week’s episode of my podcast, I’m talking about housing matters. Because where we end up living in retirement is a big issue that many pre-retirees begin to think about.

I know it’s been on the top of mind for me the last couple of years as I faced becoming an empty nester in 2021 and with the lease on my current rental coming to an end in 2022. Both of these circumstances gave me a chance to consider where to call home.

It actually ended up being more thought provoking, soul searching, and stressful than I imagined. There were so many considerations that ended up influencing my decision. Even though I’m closing on a new home in a week, I don’t know if this home will be my “retirement” home. I have dreams of living on a lake in New Hampshire someday, so this might be a short stopover before that point. I’m keeping my mind and my options open at this point and am looking forward to living in a new town and a new neighborhood. Change can be good.

While I’ve been in the midst of this home-buying process, I was interviewed for an article that appeared this week on the Bankrate.com website written by a gentleman named Jeff Ostrowski. The focus of the article is on the trend of women emerging in force on the home-buying front, despite affordability challenges.

As Jeff points out in the article, many women are unknowingly joining a trend: single women are a growing force in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors says single women made up 19 percent of all homebuyers in 2021, a share that has been trending up since it hit a low point of 15 percent in 2014. Single men make up just 9 percent of buyers, while couples, both married and unmarried, do nearly 70 percent of deals.

A separate survey by Bank of America found a similar house-before-spouse trend: 65 percent of single female prospective homebuyers said they’d rather not wait for marriage to buy a home, and 30 percent of women who already own homes bought when they were single.

Many young women are leaving their parents’ home to venture into their own homeownership because they consider renting a waste of money.

Many single women are deciding not to find partners before becoming homeowners. Because people are delaying getting married until an older age, women aren’t waiting for homeownership as part of the traditional coupled-up decision to buy a home.

So what’s driving the trend?

Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors, told Bankrate that for single women homebuyers, financial stability is an important part of the decision.

“Women have a very strong preference for homeownership,” Lautz says. “They think it’s a good financial investment. They also are willing to make financial sacrifices. They traditionally have a lower household income, and they’re willing to cut expenses in other areas of their life to achieve homeownership.”

“In something of a paradox, single women make less money on average than single men but are more eager to buy homes,” Lautz says. That could reflect the certainty and stability that go along with a monthly mortgage payment, as opposed to renting in an era when monthly rents have been rising sharply.

“Knowing exactly what your payment is going to be for the next 30 years, especially if you’re a single mom, could be incredibly important for women,” Lautz says.

Renters can also face the possibility that the landlord could not just raise the rent but decide not to renew their lease. While I wasn’t surprised by my landlord’s decision to renew my lease this coming April, it did spur me to look at home buying vs. renting again. For me, it was about stability and not being at the whim of a landlord who could choose to end my lease. At 56, I kind of want to be settled. By the time I move into the house I’m purchasing next week, I will have moved 6 times in the last 6 or 7 years. I know that I’ll have much more peace of mind owning my home versus renting. The financial side of the equation is another story. Some of the benefits of homeownership are writing off the interest on the loan.

I was careful to find a house that is completely re-done, low maintenance, in a great location, and appealing to future buyers. Although, I don’t really have any plans to move… at least not until I get moved in first. My realtor says it’s a great house to “age in place,” a single level ranch, not a huge yard, etc.

There are significant challenges facing single buyers, however. The process, especially for self-employed people like me, has been extra challenging. But I think I’m in the home stretch with a closing scheduled 7 days from now. I guess I should get some packing done.

As we’ve all witnessed and as the Bankrate article states, “Home values soared to record highs during the pandemic, and that price jump makes buying homes difficult for those doing the deal on just one paycheck.”

The competitive bidding market has also been really challenging. I was outbid on three occasions, and I’ve heard of people making 10-20 bids and being outbid. As one person interviewed in the Bankrate article said, “I would put in a high offer, and someone would swoop in and pay all cash.”

On the upside, purchasing a home in this market has been attractive because of interest rates, but because of Covid, many people were able to stash away a lot of cash that they used to lure sellers into accepting their offers.

The Bankrate article offers some suggestions for singles in their home-buying efforts:

  • Take a realistic look at your finances. If you’re drowning in credit card debt or facing other financial challenges, address those issues first. “Making sure that you’re financially ready to buy a home is the most important place for any buyer to start, but this could be even more important for single buyers with one income,” says Robert Heck, vice president of mortgage at Morty, a mortgage marketplace.
  • Raise your credit score. Your credit score is the most important factor in determining the mortgage rate you’ll pay, so pay all bills promptly and don’t run up large balances on your credit cards.
  • Research first-time buyer programs. Toomey is tapping into Massachusetts’ grant program for first-time buyers. Most states and some cities offer down payment assistance for first-time buyers.
  • Be prepared to do battle. While the U.S. housing supply has eased a bit in recent months, this remains very much a seller’s market, one characterized by tight inventories and aggressive competition among buyers. Full price offers remain common.
  • Shop around for a mortgage. Once you’ve found a place, make sure to research your mortgage options. Shopping around for a home loan can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.
  • Consider a low-down payment mortgage. For single women who can’t come up with 20 percent down, there are plenty of mortgages that offer down payments as low as 3%, Bank of America’s Cummings says.
  • Don’t forget maintenance costs. One downside of homeownership is shouldering the responsibility for repairs. Pipes leak, appliances break, and roofs wear out.

On another front, many single and coupled up women, and their spouses and partners, are open to moving across the country or the world. But how does one choose where to live?

Today, I found out about a pretty neat tool that helps you pick a place to live. It’s kind of a fun little creation by the New York Times. I tried it and based on how I answered the questions, towns in Arkansas, California and Florida were suggested to me. I was kind of hoping for Asheville, NC and was really surprised that my new town didn’t come up. Just kidding. By checking a warmer climate on the list, kind of eliminated any towns in the Northeast. Truth be told, I don’t mind winter as I enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, skating and cross-country skiing. But, around March I’m ready for warm weather.

Back to the tool….it uses 35 different factors that help predict which American cities best match users’ preferences. Some of the factors are, for example:

  • A region’s average cost of living (West, Midwest, South, or Northeast)
  • climate
  • racial diversity
  • political affiliation
  • population density, to name a few

The New York Times said “We created a quiz using data for almost 17,000 places across more than 30 metrics… And we’ve quantified health care quality, snowfall and crime rates – criteria that might be top of mind for retirees. Realtor.com shared housing prices with us; Yelp contributed tallies of restaurants, music venues and gay bars; and AccuWeather helped us collect statistics on temperature, sunshine and snowfall, to name just a few of our sources.

The tool even allows people to focus on the qualities that matter most to them by double voting for those qualities. Once search results are narrowed to a user’s satisfaction, they can then drill down further to get details for individual cities and their demographics. Then, users indicate their favorites by liking them with a heart. Once they’re done, they click “Compare and Heart” to view a table that compares the various cities.

I’ll provide a link to the tool in the notes of this episode, but be warned, you need to be a subscriber to the New York Times to use the tool, but it’s pretty inexpensive subscription. In addition, you can check out: bestplaces.net and www.MapTitan.com

There are several other sites that help you find best places to live:

  1. Niche is a great way to find ratings and reviews for towns, school districts, colleges, and neighborhoods
  2. Livability
  3. AreaVibes
  4. Teleport
  5. BestPlaces
  6. HomeSnacks

CNBC just put out its 2022 listing of top 10 states to retire to. The criteria used: was affordability, quality of life and access to quality healthcare.

The top 10 states are…

  1. Florida
  2. Virginia
  3. Colorado
  4. Deleware
  5. Minnesota
  6. North Dakota
  7. Montana
  8. Utah
  9. Arizona and NH in a tie

NH is on my list of states to eventually retire to. The affordability rank is 34, but quality of life is number 2 and healthcare is 8.

The worst states to retire in are Mississippi, NY and NJ.

To wrap things up, I just want to hit on a few thoughts on the Upside of Downsizing. Mainly because when we retirees decide to move from or sell our family homes, it will typically involve downsizing not only our physical space, but also our stuff. And getting rid of that “stuff” can sometimes be hard. I know because I’ve been downsizing for the last 6 years even though I have no plans to retire anytime soon. It seems every time I move, I get rid of more stuff, only to collect some again.

It’s hard to part ways with stuff you’ve been living with for a long time, but the process can be pretty cathartic. I just got rid of a lot of sheets, pillowcases, towels, pie plates and mismatched socks, and I had a new skip in my step the next day. Seriously, there are many, many upsides to downsizing and chief among them is lower housing costs if you’re going to a much smaller home. And because this podcast focuses on financial wellness, anything we can do to be more efficient with our money is a win in my book. Even if you don’t have plans to move in the near future, decluttering, simplifying and getting rid of stuff is good for everyone. And the guys that rent dumpsters love it too.

There’s a pretty interesting website I just came across called upsideofdownsizing.com.  Their “about us” page says “helps those 50-plus gain freedom by downsizing, leading to a happier and healthier life balance. Through educational events and professional consulting, we provide ideas and insight on downsizing topics, including eight steps to successful downsizing, tackling the emotional challenges of downsizing, selecting the right home, and more. In addition, we can stage your home for a quick and profitable sale. Our educational events and services are designed to enrich those 50-plus and their families by promoting healthy, safe, and meaningful lifestyles.” While I cannot vouch for their services, this sounds like a great service to check out.

To close out this week’s episode on housing, I do believe that home is where the heart is. If you focus on this, you’ll be okay. I will be practicing what I preach as I move out of my lakefront rental that I’ve loved living in the last 4 years.  But I know home ownership will be better for me in my little retirement ready ranch home. And the silver lining is that I’ll be next to a different lake with a mountain in the backyard. There is an upside to downsizing.

Thanks for listening and don’t forget, knowing more is having more and you too can get her done.

Check out the podcast episode here!

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Happiness Before and After Retirement

Hello and welcome to the Her Retirement podcast. I am your host Lynn Toomey, and here in my podcast each week, I talk about how to live a better, more intentional, and financially secure life now, and in retirement. Whether you’re single, suddenly single or a partnered-up woman, your only sure investment is an investment in yourself and financial wellness, also known as financial security. It isn’t just a dream. It’s a decision. And when you decide to make a commitment to yourself and change your financial destiny, our fresh modern platform will help you know more and have more, now and in retirement. Welcome to Her Retirement. Welcome to my know more, have more financial wellness platform and welcome to my podcast. Are you ready to get her done? Let’s do this.

Hello there and welcome to this week’s episode of the Her Retirement podcast. I’ve been pondering a question lately pretty much since 2022 started about two weeks ago. And the question is how much of your happiness is actually under your control. And, you know, we talk about happiness and what it means to be happy. There’s the happiness you experience before retirement. And then, you know, how much happiness will you experience in retirement? Will your happiness level change because you don’t maybe have the pressures of pre-retirement life working, saving money, taking care of children, uh, so on and so forth. So, I’ve been pondering this myself lately, as I’m going through some major life transition going through empty nesting, moving to a new town, a new home, pondering what the rest of my life looks like, redefining it, deciding what are the things that are going to make me happy and probably questioning it a little bit because of COVID.

I was commenting the other day on Facebook. I saw that there’s people going on cruises and traveling and having the time of their lives. And then there’s other people that are hiding out in their homes, afraid to go to the grocery store. And it’s such a crazy spectrum. And I think a crazy spectrum of, of happiness and contentment, as we all struggle through this pandemic and trying to figure out, you know, what is going to make us happy, um, will it make us happy to stay home and stay safe and stay away from people and not get sick? Or should we just go on and continue to live our life? I think this is just one thing. And one of the recesses of my brain kind of affecting my own personal happiness and my happiness outlook. And I also wonder as we age, what impact happiness has on that aging process, or do we get happier as we get older?

So I wanted to talk about this a little bit and dig into it and also give you some ideas that I’m, I’m going to walk the talk and practice what I teach, but maybe go through some of these ideas that if you aren’t feeling as happy as you would like to be, what are some things that you could do to change that daily things that you could do? And then a few big picture things that you can do. I know for one thinking about my new home and how I’m going to decorate it and furnish it is giving me a little extra boost of happiness, I guess. And also what is the relationship between money and happiness? Because Her Retirement is about financial wellness. What part does money play in that happiness factor?

So, let’s dig into some of this. So, one of the things that I wanted to look into is how much of our happiness is under our control. And researchers created something called the happiness pie chart in an article in 2020. They talked about some of the things they’ve learned over the past 15 years. And I’m wondering how many of you have seen or heard of this happiness pie chart, but you know, if you’ve read a book or listened to any talks about happiness in the last 15 years, there’s a good chance that you heard that percent of our happiness is determined by our genes 40% by our activities and 10% by our life circumstances. And you know, one of the interesting things about this is that there’s direct relationship between our life circumstances and activities that allow us to impact our happiness directly. So by engaging in healthy mental and physical happiness, we can exert a lot of control over our own happiness, but of course there’s the biology and the genetics. And sometimes, you know, the life circumstances that we don’t, won’t always control.

Sometimes we put ourselves into those circumstances and we have to figure out a way out of them. But in the article that I just mentioned, they talk about some things that can give us a happiness boost, and thanks to research we also have an understanding of what we can do to give ourselves the best chance of happiness success. And one of those things is choosing activities that fit our personality in our interests. Activities fit us better when they feel natural, enjoyable, and aligned with our values, rather than driven by guilt or other people’s expectations. Number two, choose activities that are virtuous and meaningful rather than obsessing about feeling good all the time. I know that sometimes I go down that rabbit hole and I’m constantly checking like, okay, what’s my mood. You know, how am I feeling? Uh, what do I feel like doing today?

Hedonism won’t necessarily make you happy. Even if you feel good in the moment, if we pursue pleasure, it shouldn’t be at the expense of living a meaningful life. We also need to pursue a purpose and practice forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity. Those give us a set sense of competence, autonomy and connection, which are core human needs. According to this article, number three, commit to and put effort into the process. Okay? Unsurprisingly, people who invest more effort into these new habits see greater improvements and their wellbeing. And lastly, it’s important to add variety to our routine. You know, it can get very boring. And, and perhaps this is to another side effect of COVID. Some of us are kind of living this very routine daily, like mask wearing, stay in the house, don’t go out in public, don’t socialize. And as human being, we are very social creatures and having that interaction is important to our overall wellbeing.

So if you are one of those that are, you know, trying to isolate a little bit more, staying home, staying out of the public, so to speak, maybe there’s some things you can do to change up your routine at home. And, you know, they might include things like doing an exercise, like writing letters, to friends, maybe doing a new walking routine, maybe changing up your daily routine, take bath in the morning. Instead of at night, do some self-care. You need to keep your brain alive to possibilities and to up those routines. Next, I want to talk about why you don’t need more to be happier and live better. I believe that we all already have the keys to a better life. I wanna give you some ideas, how to use them few questions. We, what would make your life better? Would it be a new house, a car, a bigger paycheck, a bigger bank account.

It’s easy to want more when you think of being happier and living better. And I think there’s a little doubt that money can buy some more happiness, but the happiness we get from money is fundamentally limited. It leaves us wanting more and it’s not enough on its own to enjoy a truly satisfying life. Research has proven this over and over again. The reality is a lot of things that can make us happy and enrich our lives have nothing to do with money. And some of the things that bring us the joy could already be within our reach. So what are they and how can they improve our lives? Well, I’m gonna talk about some little life upgrades, I talked about a few things in just a short time ago, but now I’m gonna give you some other ideas. These things that I’m going to suggest can transform the way you experience and enjoy life.

So, let’s talk about these seven little upgrades that can make life better and big ways. Number one, I want you to go outside as little as 20 minutes. Outdoors can make you happier and healthier. Even if you don’t exercise, simply being outside can be good for your mind and your body. It can relax you and lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. And it doesn’t take long to feel the effects. In fact, last night, my significant other said about 10 o’clock, do you wanna go for a walk? And I was being lazy, sleepy getting ready for bed. You know, my mental mood at the moment was, oh, I’m all cozy. I’m warm. I really don’t wanna go outside in the cold, but guess what? I threw on my boots. I threw on my coat, hat and mittens, and I’m so glad I went for a walk. It actually eased me into a relaxing night of sleep. This is why. So doctors are even writing what we call nature prescriptions. These days, prescribing time outdoors for all sorts of conditions. So, make it a habit, get it done, set aside at least 20 minutes, a few times a week to get outside. If you’re short on time, try bringing parts of your daily routine outdoors in night. So climates, obviously dining El fresco or exercising outside. Obviously weather permitting. I know here in Massachusetts earlier this week, it was about seven degrees outside. So, I did do some walking, but it was very short walk.  I dressed for the weather obviously.

Now number two, say no to things that drain you. And I think this is an important thing. As we age, we tend to think about how we want to spend our time, because we realize that time is our most precious commodity. And I know that I think about it a lot more like, do I really wanna do this? Is this specific thing going to bring me more joy, more happiness? Is it going to drain me? Obviously, there’s things that you’re going to do that drain you, that you can’t ignore, but how often are you scrambling for time? Most of us say we’re too busy to enjoy life. At least sometimes about one in eight people feel that way. Most of the time, whenever we get busy and stressed for time, it’s often our own psychology, not the clock. That’s the source of our stress. In fact, we tend to feel the most press for time when it seems like we don’t have control over our schedules and we fill our time with activities, we don’t really enjoy. So do a checkup, see how you’re spending your time, your activities, and make adjustments saying no to activities that can drain us can help put a stop to this. It can open up more time and more opportunities for happiness. So out with the clutter of the drains, you know, the stuff that clutters you and drains your time and open up those opportunities for more happiness to come in and make it a habit, identify the activities in your schedule that are draining your time and energy, delegate. What you can say, no extra favors, consider setting up some boundaries for your time like off limit days for certain activities. Self-care is very, very important and setting up your time is critical.

Next practice, gratitude daily. I know I get those moments where I feel anxious and my former psychologist. I hear her in my head saying, think about what you’re grateful for. Think about what you’re grateful for. And it’s true if in those moments of anxiety or stress or unhappiness, if you really focus on what you’re thankful for and have gratitude, negative emotions start kind of falling by the wayside. It’s a really interesting practice and feeling gratitude is closely linked to happiness and wellbeing. And when we appreciate the things that bring us joy, we focus on positive words and emotions that positivity can radiate inward and outward benefit. Both the person expressing gratitude and the recipient of it. It’s no wonder then the gratitude can be a mood and relationship booster. It also strengthens our immune systems promotes better sleep and makes us more resilient. So make it a habit commit to expressing gratitude at least once a day. Tell someone why you appreciate them or write a thank you note, or send an email for more meditative practice journal, or think about the three things that you are thankful for at the beginning or end of each day. I know some people keep a gratitude journal in their bedside table and they may write in it in the morning.I know my yoga teacher does like a 10-minute meditation every morning where she focuses on gratitude and she just says it opens more space in her mind, in her heart for the day.

Next prioritize self-care. I mentioned it just a short time ago, but nearly half of us put self-care on the back burner because we don’t think we have enough time for it. How much time do you have in the day to set aside time for self-care?  When we do this, we’re just making life harder for ourselves. When we don’t make time for self-care, we’re making it harder to manage our emotions, cope with stress and stay connected to the things that matter. And we’re undermining our self-esteem. Investing in some genuine self-care is the antidote to all of that. Just last night during the day, actually I was kind of pondering. Okay. I feel like I’m being sucked dry. Uh, I don’t feel like I, I have enough to go around to everybody that needs a piece of me. And I said, you know what? I’m going to make the rest of the day about me. And I really did a great self-care afternoon and it ended with a nice bath and this wonderful scrub that my sister-in-law, hand makes that she gave me for Christmas. And, you know, I followed that, up with a good night’s sleep. And obviously I mentioned that I went for a walk. Also, so that whole combination just set me up for good night’s sleep and a good start to today. And hence why I’m doing this podcast episode. You know, one of the other important things is that self-care can help us focus on our physical and psychological needs while making room for self-compassion.

It can also help you accept your imperfections and discover new paths to self-improvement. So, make it a habit, make self-care a habit, prioritize, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. The combination of eating, sleeping and exercise is wonderful. Powerful trifecta of self-care. Also recognize self-care is about nurturing and not shaming yourself. Doesn’t mean like standing in front of the mirror and looking at the bumps and the bulges and you know, the wrinkles and the sags and whatever else that we see when we look in the mirror, the bags under our eyes, our crow’s feet. It really means appreciating the value of our self-care over getting one more task done by the end of the day. And self-care, isn’t about tearing ourselves down. It’s about building ourselves up and seeing our beauty next don’t let negativity take over. Negativity has a place in our lives, but optimism can do a lot more for our health and happiness studies show optimist have lower risks of heart disease and higher rates of cancer survival when compared to pessimist.

And I think it’s important that I bring up my mother here because she is in the middle of, ovarian cancer. And she’s doing amazing. Like her doctors are so happy and, optimistic about how she’s fighting her battle. She’s been in remission twice at 84 years old, the treatments she’s getting are not that severe that she can’t handle them, but she is the most optimistic person. I know. And I believe it. I believe that her optimism is helping her battle cancer successfully. So far. Optimist also tend to be more persistent and better at managing stress that can give them better chances of achieving their goals. Still that doesn’t mean optimism should go unchecked or blind you to real risks, finding a balance between staying positive in acknowledging life’s challenges is certainly the healthiest approach, but make it a habit. When you talk about your day, bring up the best parts first, even if you’ve had a rough day, if certain situations or people bring up negative emotions for you, do your best to minimize or avoid them and try to turn disappointments into learning lessons.

Next volunteer. Volunteering can support the causes in communities you care about while being personally rewarding. They can strengthen your social connections and give you a greatest sense of happiness. Purpose, pride, and accomplishment. Volunteering can also spark your creativity and renew your motivation. Beyond mental benefits. Volunteering can improve your physical help. It’s been linked to lower risk of hypertension and slower cognitive decline as you age. So certainly something to consider in retirement and why many retirees do volunteer over time. All these benefits can add up, making volunteering deeply enriching and fulfilling experience. Make it a habit, consider your skills, your interest in your time. As you choose some volunteer opportunities, try out a few options to find out which organizations and opportunities will be a good fit for you. And remember volunteering should be fun instead of something else to drain you. So start small while you figure out what time commitments will work for you enjoy just a couple hours a week. This can benefit you and cause you to volunteer even more down the road.

Next nurture your relationships. Relationships are so critical to happiness, good strong relationships benefit our and wellbeing beyond making us happy. The emotional support we get from the people we care about can help us through trauma while influencing us to make better decisions and adopt better habits. Psychologically that can lead to us feeling like we belong, giving us better coping skills and improving our quality of life physically <laugh>, which I love. Good relationships can boost our immune systems and even help us live longer. In fact, not having strong relationships can increase the risk of early death by about 50% that has roughly the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And speaking of relationships, you know, even though we were going through the height of COVID not long ago, it was winter here in Massachusetts. And our group of friends believed that our relationships with each other were so important to our wellbeing in getting through COVID that we all created outdoor living rooms, and we would bundle up and we would go to each other’s outdoor living rooms, and we would sit by the fire and we would visit and laugh and try to forget all the craziness going on in the outside world. And I truly believe that those outdoor living rooms really got us through that dark cold winter when the pandemic was at its height. So I want you to make relationships a habit. The impact of having positive relationships is also why some say that doubling a group of good friends can benefit you as much as seeing your income go up by 50%. So definitely the research and the statistics are real. Make relationships a habit, connect with at least one person you love every day.

For me, that’s my mom. Typically my children, also my significant other. And if problems arise, try to listen, show understanding, and don’t jump to conclusions and be honest, admit your mistakes and apologize if you’re in the wrong with those relationships. Remember to find even small ways to show the people that you have relationships with, that you care by giving a thoughtful compliment or anticipating a loved one’s needs. Certainly when you are thinking about other people that has been shown to increase your happiness factor, also for most of us, the barriers to being happy, come down to a few things. Really, it comes down to our attitudes, our behaviors, expectations, and fears.

So final lesson, the things holding you back could be in your power to change. Living better doesn’t mean we have to make radical changes and we don’t have to wait for some benchmark or gold post to start enjoying life more. With a few simple upgrades, we can reshape the way we experience life every day. And we’re likely to be happier and healthier for it. That sounds simple. And it is. So, what stops us from getting there and why can happiness and a better life feel also elusive? Sometimes the answer can be different for everyone. For most of us though, the barriers to being happier, come down to a few things. It’s our attitudes, our behaviors, expectations, and fears. We can start to break down those barriers by not trading what we really want in life for what want right now. And we can stay in touch with what we really need to be happy and live better by staying connected to the people we trust.

I wanna wrap up this week’s episode by talking about seven habits that happy retirees have in common, a long fulfilling retirement takes more than just money. Most of us understand this, you know, ask any retiree and they’ll likely tell you that money and knowing that you have enough is only half the story, of course you’ll need enough money to get by, but you don’t have to be super wealthy to be happy. In fact, life satisfaction tops out at an annual salary of $95,000. On average, according to a study by psychologist from Purdue University, enough money to never have to worry about going broke or paying for medical care is important, but money is not only, or even the most important piece of a fulfilling retirement. So once you have a retirement plan in place, it’s essential to focus on all the things that money can’t buy.

:           And so, let’s talk about seven healthy happy habits that studies show can improve life satisfaction in retirement habit.

Number one, happy retirees work at staying healthy. What good is money if you can’t enjoy it. The majority of retirees say that good health is the most important ingredient for happy retirement. According to a Merrill Lynch age wave report, studies show that exercise and healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions, increase energy levels, boost your immune system, and improve your mood. And guess what? It’s never too late to get moving and eat right. Even those who become physically active and adopt a healthy diet late in life research shows they too can lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses and have a lower death rate than their appears. And the centers for disease control and prevention recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. And so if you need some ideas, the National Institute on Aging has all sorts of really good information on how to get started with a physical activity exercise program in retirement, it’s all about living longer, living healthier habit.

Number two, they foster strong emotional connections. As I mentioned earlier in the podcast, relationships, hobbies, and activities with people we like can boost life satisfaction, especially social networks typically shrink after leaving the workforce, happier retirees were found to be those with more social interactions, according to one Gallup poll. And we talked about social isolation, it’s been linked to higher rates of heart disease and stroke increased risk of dementia and greater incidence of depression and anxiety habit.

Number three, happy retirees find a clear sense of purpose. The notion of retirement as time spent golfing strolling, the beach or reading classic novels is kind of outdated while fun. The stereotypical leisure activities associated with retirement don’t provide a sense of purpose or meaning, which is what many retirees say is important. One place retirees find a sense of purpose is work in a Gallop poll, nearly three and four Americans said they plan to work beyond traditional retirement age with the majority planning to do so because they want to not because they have to. And this is kind of where volunteering comes in. Retirees gained meaningful benefits from volunteering and that same age wave Merrill Lynch report referenced earlier found that retirees were three times more likely to say, helping people in need brings them happiness in retirement, then spending money on themselves. And for those who donated money or volunteered, they felt a stronger sense of purpose and self-esteem and were happier and healthier. And there’s an organization called volunteermatch.org, which lists volunteer opportunities that are searchable by city and category. So, you could go check that out. If you’re interested in doing volunteer work.

Habit number four, they never stop learning. Experts believe that ongoing education and learning new things may help keep you mentally sharp simply by getting you in the habit of staying mentally active exercising, your brain may help cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia. In fact, my father-in-law who is 92 years old, he is actually talking to one of his clients <laugh> and you know, just engaging with him and keeping his mind sharp. He still comes into the office a couple days a week. That is how you keep dementia at bay. How you keep happiness going on, on and on in your life, challenging your brain with mental exercises, believe to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. This according to Harvard Medical School’s Health Beat newsletter. So, here’s a tip to take away. Exercising your brain. Isn’t all that different from exercising your body. It just requires consistent stimulation. And I love that word consistency, because it applies to so many factors in your life. One study found that people with dementia who did crossword puzzles delayed the onset of accelerated memory decline by 2.5 to 4 years. So try to choose something that’s new and that you enjoy consider taking a class at a senior center community college there’s online learning platforms like Coursera and teachable, all kinds of opportunities. The National Institute on Aging provides a list of activities.

Also, habit number five, they train their brains to be optimistic. A glass half full attitude may pay huge dividends. In fact, in my masterclass that I teach, I have a picture, a graphic of a glass half full, and I talk about how at Her Retirement we approach retirement planning and education from a glass half full perspective. So many people kind of start thinking about retirement from the glass half empty perspective, but you know what, it’s really important to think about what you have and not what you don’t have in an article published in Gemma Network. Researchers found that participants who rated highly in optimism were much less likely to suffer from heart attacks or other cardiovascular events and had a lower mortality rate than their pessimistic counterparts. And as I mentioned earlier in the podcast, my mom is the most optimistic person I know in my life. And up until the point where she got ovarian cancer a couple years ago, she didn’t take any pills. She took a multivitamin, if you can believe that crazy as it sounds, that was my mom. And I believe it’s because she was optimistic and happy.

Habit number six, happy retirees, practice, mindful gratitude. And I talked about this earlier in the podcast and it doesn’t change once we’re in retirement, really, really important. And it’s really supported by work by a psychologist named Nathaniel Lambert, he finds his stronger feelings of gratitude or associated with lower materialism, gratitude and enhances people’s satisfaction with life while reducing their desire to buy stuff. And one of the most effective ways to cultivate gratitude, I think is by writing in a journal. And there’s a journal called the five minute gratitude journal that you can grab off of Amazon. It’s a great little, um, uh, thing to have to help you develop your practice of gratitude.

And finally, habit number seven, they have a furry or feathered friend. It turns out that Fido or in my case, Finley and Nala, my two dogs can provide more benefits to you than grabbing the newspaper. The only thing is they were both barking incessantly the other night at like 3:00 AM. That didn’t make me very happy, but we figured it out. We got them to settle down and everyone was able to go back to sleep. But older dog owners who walk their dogs at least once a day, got 20% more physical activity than people without dogs. And they spent 30 fewer minutes a day being sedentary. And it’s really interesting statistic because my significant other, since we got our new puppy, Finley has been walking consistently for about nine months. He’s lost about 10 pounds, not the dog, my significant other, and he’s getting outside. And he didn’t ever really used to like walking that much. I would try to get him to go with me, but now does it. He’s enjoying the physical and mental benefits of it. Research has also indicated that dogs can help. So those suffering from cognitive decline and the physical and mental health benefits of owning a dog can boost the longevity of the owner. And if a dog is out the question, cats and birds are lower maintenance possibility, or you could even consider pursuing home visits from a therapy dog. Therapy Dog Internationals has a home visit program with over 20,000 volunteer dog handler and teams registered throughout all 50 states. So, consider the companionship of a furry friend as it can be just as beneficial as another human.

So, thank you for listening to this week’s episode. I certainly hope that after hearing some of these ideas, you go out and you improve your happiness factor now. And in retirement, it’s all about getting her happy, done, and I’m here to help you. I’m here to help you on the financial or lifestyle side, whichever you need. I’m here for you at Lynnt@herretirement.com. It’s all about knowing more and having more and getting her done. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.

Check out the podcast episode here!

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What is a Happy Retirement?

What is a Happy Retirement?

The most successful retirees are the ones with the biggest bank accounts, right? Not necessarily. Although good financial planning and a solid retirement strategy play major roles in being comfortable and content after leaving the workforce, there’s more to it.

Retirement is more than dollars and cents or a red-circled date on the calendar.

More money doesn’t hurt, but health and relationships with peers matter just as much to retirees. If you’re looking for happiness in retirement, you can forget relationships with adult children, buying a slick car to cruise the cul-de-sac or lounging at a beach cabin in Mazatlán, Mexico.

Instead, there are three categories that lead to satisfaction—when you have enough money, when you have relationships with your peers and community, and when you have your health. These three things might seem different, but they have one critical thing in common: They all require investment before retirement.

This was the upshot of a panel dedicated to finding happiness in retirement held at Morningstar’s September Investment Conference in Chicago. The panel took the unusual tack of not just presenting thought leaders (although they were there), but also giving first chair to an actual retiree who could verify or dispute the points raised.

“I wish I had heard this [discussion] 10 years ago, because I probably wouldn’t have as many marks and scars on my shins from bumping into things finding these things out,” said Jim Linday of Chicago, who is now a retired individual investor but was once a financial professional and teacher. “The one thing I can add from somebody who has been through that transition is that when you plan for retirement, it’s like staging a very beautiful still photograph. And the very first day you’re in retirement it becomes a full-motion video. And you have to accept that retirement is not going to be exactly the way you planned it out because of a whole host of reasons. That’s not to say you were wrong, or you didn’t get it right. It’s just like when we were at work: Things change.”

According Dorian Mintzer, Ph.D., retirement coach and co-author of The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together, it’s also about attitude. Understanding that this stage is just as much about good planning as it is about taking on the unknown with an open mind and enthusiasm is an important step. Ms. Mintzer stated in a recent interview with annuity provider Athene, “The happiest retirees embrace the range of possibilities and new beginnings in store for them.”

 

Ms. Mintzer suggests that there’s four shared traits of happy retirees and gives us suggestions on how to make them our own.

  1. They’ve found a new purpose in life.For many of us, working and raising a family provide meaning and structure to our lives, both in terms of how we spend our days and in how we see ourselves (“I am a lawyer” or “I am a nurse”). Those who transition most successfully into retirement find new ways to shape their days and new ways to identify themselves. “Smart retirees think about what they’re retiring to, rather than what they’re retiring from,” says Mintzer.Make it yours. Before saying goodbye to work, ask yourself some questions to help you find your path to happiness.
    • How do you want to spend your time in retirement?
    • Do you want to work part time or start an encore career to stay active and socially connected?
    • Do you find your sense of purpose in helping others?
    • Do you want to spend more time with family — babysitting grandkids, for example.
    • Are there hobbies, like woodworking or learning a new language, that you want to pick up again or something new you’d like to learn?

Have some fun when you leave the 9-to-5 routine behind and then answer these questions to help you find new purpose.

Sidenote: the Her Retirement personalized retirement readiness platform has an entire module dedicated to envisioning your retirement with questions like I just mentioned. You can access the software via the Her Retirement website at: www.HerRetirement.com.

Trait number 2: They have their financial house in order. People who do well have taken time to realistically look at what they can afford to live on, and they adjust their retirement date if they’re not fully ready. Many people may be retired 20 or 30 years … or more. “And that requires careful forethought,” says Mintzer. It’s not necessarily about having a huge nest egg but rather about being honest with yourself. For example, our money will last XX years with this budget. When you know what you have to work with, it’s a matter of planning accordingly.

As best you can, calculate how much money you will need to live on. If you’re nearing retirement or have recently left the workforce but feel you aren’t near your financial goals, you may want to consider different options to help bridge the gap — downsizing your home to lower housing costs or paying off debts, such as car loans, for example.

Sidenote: our readiness software platform helps you get your financial house in order and does all the calculations to identify your gaps, risks and opportunities.

From a financial perspective, you should also consider what we call our Personal Pension & Protection Plan. With its growth potential, protection from loss due to market downturns and guaranteed income to help your money last as long as it needs to, this type of plan may be a part of your diversified retirement strategy.

Trait number 3. They live life with zest but are realistic about their health. It’s not easy to think about your health declining, but it’s a fact many people may face as they age thanks to longer lifespans and better medical care. The retirees with the best futures are those who take their well-being seriously. An upbeat outlook combined with frequent exercise and plenty of activities that keep your brain active can help you feel better and may help improve your overall health. Surround yourself with friends and family who are there to help if you need it. I’ve heard many reports that ballroom dancing is one of the best activities for physical and mental health as we age.

In addition, think about how, and where, you want to age. For example, while it’s never easy to uproot your life, you may be happier relocating to a home in which you’ll have less to care for. Proximity to public transportation, neighbors and family are also important considerations. At 56, my significant other and I are trying to figure this out. We are having a really hard time determining where we want to live next and if we should plan on it being our “retirement home.” We still have significant family needs to consider and would like to stay close to our 6 kids, or at least to as many of them as possible. I guess you can plan, but you also need to have some flexibility in case the plan changes.

And trait number 4. They’re good communicators. This is especially important for couples who want to negotiate different visions of retirement. If one of you worked while the other stayed home, for example, retirement represents a big shift in how your days are spent. Happy retirees find ways to strike a balance between time together and time apart. It’s important to maintain outside friendships or find new ones in addition to your together time.

If you’re part of a couple, it’s important to be on the same page so this stage of life can be the best for both of you.

  • Start conversations before one or both of you retires.
  • Share your dreams and visions, as well as your individual and combined bucket lists.
  • Talk about the ideas you share and the ones you don’t.
  • Prioritize and look at your finances to decide the best way to reach your goals together.
  • If you haven’t listened to my podcast from last week, episode 27, take a listen. It’s about issues to consider when couples retire together or separately.

So What Makes People Happy?
In another study known as the Health and Retirement Study, Michael Finke, professor of wealth management at the American College of Financial Services and a researcher in the areas of retirement spending, life satisfaction and cognitive aging, looked to the data to make some of his own conclusions.

This was a study of 20,000 retirees that began in 1994, following them up to 2018.  Looking at the data from the study we see that there are three core elements to life satisfaction: The Three Pillars of Life Satisfaction in Retirement. According to Finke, the first pillar is money. Having more money does make you happier, and it seems to have a relatively linear effect up to about $4 million. With $4 million, most people will experience peak happiness. The second pillar he mentioned is relationships with peers and community, and the third is health.

In his analysis, Mr. Finke commented, “All of these three things are investments. And what I mean by an investment is it’s anything you sacrifice during your working years in order to live better in the future. So our health is an investment when we exercise and eat better,” he continued. He said relationships are an investment too. But no pillar leads to happiness on its own, especially not the simple accumulation of money during one’s working years. It’s an investment in all three—money, health and community—that leads you there.

For Her Retirement, I created what I call the Good Life pyramid. I use it for coaching and retirementorship. When women engage with us, we have some pretty deep conversations not just about money, but each level of my pyramid. The result of the conversations is a good life plan that makes you happy.

The top of the pyramid is your purpose. Re-defining your purpose in retirement is critical. You want to retire to what inspires you.  The next level is your vitality because without mental and physical health you can’t do much in life or retirement. Making sure to prioritize your vitality is a critical component of your Good Life plan.

Next comes your connections. I believe that a retiree’s happiness is very closely tied to their social network and relationships. And I’m not alone. Susan Pinker, a well known psychologist shared her viewpoint on what leads to longevity and happiness. In her TedTalk, she tells us about the Italian island of Sardinia and the fact that it has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? Well, it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy — it’s their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.  Check out Ms. Pinker’s TedTalk for more of her thoughts on this topic and how to live to 100 or more.

One of the challenges is that during our working years we may want to get away from social interactions because we get enough of it during our weekdays at work, but in retirement we can easily become more socially isolated to the point where we actually crave more social interactions. In retirement we have to learn to make friends again…just like our first day of school. My partner Brian has a client who recently relocated from Massachusetts to Margaritaville in Florida for this exact same reason. Alan has reported back to Brian that he’s meeting friends and having the time of his life. That’s what it’s all about folks.

One surprising outcome of the Health and Retirement study is that friendships and maintaining them outside of the workplace is every bit as important as socking another $500 into your 401(k). According to Finke’s analysis of the survey. “The one relationship that does not provide greater life satisfaction in retirement is the relationship you have with your children. This is a bit surprising. The frequency of contact with your children is not a source of greater life satisfaction. Even the depth of the relationship is not a source of life satisfaction as it is with your spouse and as it is with your friends. I see a lot of retirees thinking they’re going to spend a lot more time with their children, and that relationship is going to deepen in retirement, when the reality is there’s not a whole lot of data to back that up.”

And speaking of children… What Can Dampen Happiness?
Since the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, there are things that panelists at the Morningstar conference see as potential speed bumps on the road to a happy retirement.

One of them is adult children that haven’t fully launched. “If a child begins to come back to the well too often for financial support, learning how to say no is very  important. Stressing about your children’s wellbeing is a big happiness detour. Trust me, I know.

In more data from the Health and Retirement survey, we find that we’re not very good at imagining what’s going to make us happy in the future. Very often what we do is we look at what makes us happy today, but retirement is different. And what makes us happier is a new lifestyle, a new lifestyle that gives us the opportunities for social interaction, for living a more meaningful life. Going out to eat with friends, or going on vacations, or going to special events, these are things that actually provide true happiness in retirement.

Next in my Her Retirement Good Life pyramid after connections, comes your contributions. What do you want to contribute to society, your family, and your friends. I don’t call this work, because it’s more than work or volunteering, but it certainly can include one of both of these endeavors. As we plan for retirement happiness and fulfillment, you need to plan how you will continue contributing.

And finally, Financial Wellness is the base of my Good life pyramid because without financial wellness, retirement may not even be possible.

Financial wellness refers to having a happy, healthy, and relatively stress-free relationship with your finances. Typically, people who have financial wellness have the following four elements in place:

  • Their income covers their expenses and allows them to stay on top of their debt repayments.
  • They have savings for emergencies or financial upsets such as critical home repairs, unexpected medical bills, or job loss.
  • They are working, saving and investing toward long-term financial goals.
  • They have the freedom to make choices that allow them to enjoy their lives.

Financial wellness, like physical wellness, isn’t something you should ignore. Instead, it’s a critical concept for anyone who wants to be knowledgeable and confident about their finances, and in fact, financial wellness is so important that more than half of employers now offer financial wellness programs to their workers.

When I coach women, the main thing I want them to have is commitment to investing in themselves, and a commitment to building a retirement happiness plan that incorporates everything I’ve talked about so far in this podcast.

So how do we work on a happiness plan for retirement? Once way is to think of it as taking a new job. A very good job with great benefits. And approach it the same way. Do your research, ask more questions than you make statements and discover your answers.

I believe that having a happy retirement comes down to preparation and planning…whether that’s a plan for your money or your lifestyle. And I believe that when you do this planning you’ll know better, feel better, rest better, live better, and retire better. Heck, you’ll even look better too because you’ll be smiling ear to ear.

When you’re ready to Get Her Done, Her Retirement can help. If you decide to create your Good Life happiness plan on your own, remember our software can help too.

Reach out to me at lynnt@herretirement.com anytime. I’m ready to help you get her done, happiness, retirement and the whole she-bang!

Check out the podcast episode here!

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Passion to Profession: How to Work Doing the Things You Love

We’d all like to earn a living doing something we love but with bills to pay and mouths to feed, it’s not always feasible. Luckily, the working landscape is changing and, with all the time saved in lockdown (and from not-commuting), you may find your lifestyle allows for more flexibility. Here are some tips to take advantage of this singular moment in time and transition to a more gratifying profession.

Sleep Management

One of the best ways to recoup time, energy and motivation is to better regulate your sleep patterns. With a good night’s rest, you may find you have enough juice to carry out your day job and work on your side hustle. You’ll also benefit holistically if you can avoid sleep deprivation, which can impair your ability to concentrate and affect productivity. To get an overview of your sleeping timetable, it’s worth investing in a Fitbit or other sleeping monitoring devices – some of these will give you an insight into your sleep quality and break down behavior hour-by-hour.

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, there are a number of techniques recommended. These range from breathing exercises to visualization. You can also pay close attention to which foods and drinks aid or hinder good quality sleep – for example, chamomile can work as a sedative or you could try passionflower to help reduce obsessive thoughts that contribute to insomnia.

Education

Once you’re certain that you have the time, energy, and finances, you can begin to think about how to transition from a job you’re not so keen about to a job you know you’d love. A good first step is to acquire a degree or diploma. Many job markets are inaccessible unless you’ve got the right credentials. Going back to school can open up new career paths and allow you to develop the critical skills that are required for success in a chosen field. Best of all, plenty of degrees (including Batchelor’s) can be fully accessed online so you won’t need to worry about geographical restrictions.

If you’re skilled in a craft but don’t know how to monetize, you could look into studying business. This will help you to develop management, leadership, marketing skills as well as improving your financial acumen. A degree in business may also have applications in your day job, so you can be sure to progress your earning ability.

Time Management

Even if you have the energy and qualifications, transitioning from one job to another or potentially even giving up a living to pursue a dream can be enormously complicated. Depending on the circumstances of your life, you may have to navigate around family obligations, financial risk, relationships, and other constraints. To help with this, it’s worth addressing time management. There are a number of apps to help you better track your time and ensure you’re not wasting any.

Apps and organization, whilst useful, can only ever get you so far. If you want to hold down a job whilst preparing to safely transition into a new one – you’ll have to get to grips with monotasking. Studies show that only 2.5% of Americans can effectively multi-task and that multitasking often leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity whereas monotasking is the practice of ‘dedicating oneself to a given task and minimizing potential interruptions’. If you can focus in small bursts, you may find at the end of the day you get more done.

If any of the above makes chasing your dream sound difficult, that’s because it is. Taking the leap from a steady job to a full-time passion is risky and hard work, but the rewards can also make up for it. As the saying goes, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

At Her Retirement, we use a fresh, modern approach to show women of all ages, in all walks of life how to be financially smarter, stronger, wealthier, and wealthier – now and in retirement. To learn more, talk to a RetireMentor.

 

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Confessions of an Almost Retired Mom – BetterAfterFifty.com

Check out Lynn’s article that is published on the website: BetterAfterFifty.com

My twin girls left for their freshman year in college just about a month ago and all I keep thinking about is that I didn’t get a chance to teach them my personal finance class. I’m a personal finance and retirement coach and educator for crying out loud. Teaching is what I do. How could I possibly let my girls escape the nest without imparting this critical knowledge?

We were supposed to use the extra time they had doing remote senior year to go through my curriculum. When that didn’t work out, we planned to take some rainy days this summer and go through the class. That didn’t happen either. The end of August was here before any of us knew it. Now I feel guilty I let them down, and disappointed that I didn’t make it happen. It was the ONE thing I really wanted to do with them before they went out on their own.

Truth be told, I think it’s just a distraction from the raw emotions I’m feeling of being an empty nester, or part of that silly mom guilt we impart upon ourselves for all sorts of perceived parenting failures. Sending them off to college has been one of the hardest, emotionally challenging things I’ve done as a mom. They are my best friends and now they’re off living their own lives…without me. I deserve a distraction damnit. I guess I don’t really deserve to beat myself up over one failed attempt at a personal finance class. LOL. Afterall, shouldn’t their high school have taught them this stuff? If only.

Aside from my failed attempt at educating them on financial matters, I can’t really think of other regrets. I think I prepared them well for this next chapter in their lives. I know I told them to avoid drugs and partying (too much), and to be careful with dating and sex, and walking alone on campus and paying attention to their health (freshman 15). I reminded them to lock their dorm room door, to join clubs, to be social and soak it all in. I also reminded them that they are there to get an education and this is their job for the next four years (or more). I think they know all this. I think they are prepared. I don’t know. I hope they are prepared.

I’m only a month or so into this new empty nest thing and so far it’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve been crying about them going off to college for about a year now (maybe longer), exacerbated by the s@%# show of a senior year they had as a result of Covid!

The actual moment of saying goodbye to them was perhaps the hardest because I knew that an amazing, fulfilling, and happy time of being a parent was over for me. I’ll probably mourn this for the rest of my life. You see, I made a choice to leave corporate America when they were born so that I could be a hands-on mom. Yes, I chose them over climbing the corporate ladder and building up a big fat 401k. I have no regrets. And I wouldn’t change a thing about the last 18 years. Except maybe teaching them my damn personal finance course!

Seriously, while I’ve made sure to have my own life and income from entrepreneurial lifestyle businesses, my kids have been the MAJOR part of my life, and by far, my greatest accomplishment. I’m one of those parents who loved parenting…everything about it (except those first few months when they would cry and I had to wake up and feed them…that was a b@#$%)! I was the parent who welcomed all their friends into my home, never really saying no to much of anything. Luckily, I have really good kids who didn’t need to hear “no” often. I was/am a hands-on mom, friend, playmate, coach, and all around “cool mom” and the parent who had a gaggle of kids for sleep overs, vacations, pool parties and Patriots games. I lived at my kid’s sporting events. I was here when they were here. My Land Cruiser SUV seated eight for a reason! Parenting was how I defined my life and one of my main contributions to this life.

I know that parenting never ends. I have a 28 year old son and three step sons in their 20s and 30s and I know for a FACT that parenting never ends…it just changes and I just need to look forward to new and different parenting experiences with the two youngest now.

I remember when my girls got their licenses, I cried that day too as they both got into their cars and headed off to school. I was happy for them because I remembered that awesome feeling of finally having the freedom to just get in your car and go. But, I was a little sad for me because I knew the Land Cruiser would never be full of kids again. The only constant in life is that it changes.

Adjusting to your changing parenting role as life marches on is really hard. I know it can be done because I’ve witnessed my mom who had four of us go through all these transitions. She’s my role model. She’s embraced every chapter of our lives with happiness, love, and excitement. She always looks forward to what’s next in our lives.

As I sit here at my desk, with a damp tissue next to my laptop, I need to take this lesson from my mom. She told me once that my job as a parent is to prepare my children for life. The fact that my girls (and my son previously) went off to college happily and confidently (and so far no home sickness) means that I must have done a good job preparing them for this next chapter. I feel good about this.

Writing this article and thinking about the concept of preparedness makes me feel confident that maybe I already gave them all the personal finance knowledge they need up to this point? Maybe I didn’t fail them or myself on this point? They witnessed 18 years of watching me manage my careers: in corporate America, as an entrepreneur, and as a retirement and personal finance educator and coach. They watched me manage a household and all the financial obligations of that household. They learned about budgeting and credit card debt and checking accounts, interest rates and retirement savings, car loan payments, investments and even how life and medical insurance works, medical bills, co-pays, and deductibles. They learned about marriage and divorce, child support payments and the cost of raising children.

Having moved a lot, they learned about buying and renting a home, mortgages, and the real estate industry. They both learned the concept of loaning money when their big brother wanted to raid their piggy bank…they charged him interest and demanded repayment. They both earned an allowance and learned how to spend their money and save it, and how to open checking and savings accounts. Once they became licensed drivers, they learned how much it costs to get a tankful of gas! Later in high school, they both worked and learned the value of hard work and the value of a dollar, learning about the huge impact of income taxes too. They both completed their own tax returns.

They’ve also learned more than they care to at 18 about retirement planning. They have often complained that all my significant other (and business partner) and I talk about is retirement planning: 401ks, Social Security, investments, income planning, long term care and tax planning. Ugh! One of the twins gave me a women’s fiction book as we headed to California to move her into SDSU, insisting that I put down the retirement planning books and read something “fun.” I tried to explain to her that learning about women and money, and how best to help women is fun to me.

All three of my children also learned a lot about being an entrepreneur. They were intimately involved in my art-tainment business. In fact, one of them named the company, Let’s Gogh Art at six years old! They all worked in the company too. They all booked and ran art events. They helped me create a video that I submitted to be on Shark Tank, and one even talked about why she wanted me to be accepted on the show! Later, the girls had an intimate view into the process I went through to create and launch Her Retirement and my software platform that makes retirement readiness easier and more reliable. They also set up more than their fair share of lemonade stands, book fairs and science fairs where I helped them calculate their costs, projected their revenues, and determined their profits. Great lessons in self-employment and business finances.

When it came time to make a college decision, they learned about how to fund college costs and make informed decisions about how much of an investment they would make in their education. They learned about the debt they would take on and how much the debt would cost them once they graduate. They learned about their potential income in their chosen field of study and how far that income will take them with college loan payments and all the other costs of living.

Jeepers. I guess when I sit down and think about it, I’ve involved them in money conversations and decisions throughout their lives. I didn’t really hold anything back. Kids are sponges and they’ll absorb whatever you teach them. I guess they probably have learned a lot from me about personal finance since they were very little. I guess I don’t need to really stress about not getting around to my personal finance class after all. I do hope I instilled in them a healthy relationship with money. I hope they understand that money is just a tool. It cannot buy happiness, but it does give you choices.

I know they are both very motivated to finish college and start a good paying career. I have pounded it into their head, as my mother did, to get an education and be able to take care of themselves. And eventually, when they find a partner, they won’t “need” him or her to provide for them…they will be self-sufficient, money smart and money confident women. Yes girls, you can know more and have more. And of course, you can be the “her” in hero.

I’m actually pretty thrilled that I’ve taken this regret off the table. And the best part of this story (i.e. the happy ending) is that I’m still Jake, Emma and Kate’s mom…for life. And I’m here to be their best friend and teacher…regardless if they need personal finance and retirement advice or just unconditional love.

Sidebar:

My mom also taught me to find the silver linings in everything, and during Covid I kept telling the girls to find the silver linings. Here’s me practicing my own advice on the silver linings on empty nesting…

  • No more fights to referee
  • No more kid messes to pick up
  • No more tripping over shoes inside the door
  • No more worrying if they’re out too late
  • No more shutting off lights when they’re left on
  • No more arguing over who’s turn it is to empty or load the dishwasher
  • No more complaining there’s nothing to eat (this is a pretty legit complaint in our household)
  • More time for me to focus on building a business that I hope will be a legacy for my kids someday (or at least a way for me to catch up on my retirement savings) and…
  • New chapters of life to look forward to as the mother of three smart and happy kids (plus three step kids). 😊

Lynn Toomey, founder…Her Retirement

www.HerRetirement.com

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Caring for Aging Parents

Thanks to healthier lifestyles and advances in modern medicine, the worldwide population over age 65 is growing. In the past decade, the population of Americans aged 65 and older has grown 35% and is expected to reach 94.7 million in 2060. As our nation ages, many Americans are turning their attention to caring for aging parents.1

For many people, one of the most difficult conversations to have involves talking with an aging parent about extended medical care. The shifting of roles can be challenging, and emotions often prevent important information from being exchanged and critical decisions from being made.

When talking to a parent about future care, it’s best to have a strategy for structuring the conversation. Here are some key concepts to consider.

Cover the Basics

Knowing ahead of time what information you need to find out may help keep the conversation on track. Here is a checklist that can be a good starting point:

  • Primary physician
  • Specialists
  • Medications and supplements
  • Allergies to medication

It is also important to know the location of medical and estate management paperwork, including2

  • Medicare card
  • Insurance information
  • Durable power of attorney for healthcare
  • Will, living will, trusts and other documents

Be Thorough

Remember that if you can collect all the critical information, you may be able to save your family time and avoid future emotional discussions. While checklists and scripts may help prepare you, remember that this conversation could signal a major change in your parent’s life. The transition from provider to dependent can be difficult for any parent and has the potential to unearth old issues. Be prepared for emotions and the unexpected. Be kind, but do your best to get all the information you need.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

This conversation is probably not the only one you will have with your parent about their future healthcare needs. It may be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. Consider involving other siblings in the discussions. Often one sibling takes a lead role when caring for parents, but all family members should be honest about their feelings, situations, and needs.

Don’t Procrastinate

The earlier you begin to communicate about important issues, the more likely you will be to have all the information you need when a crisis arises. How will you know when a parent needs your help? Look for indicators like fluctuations in weight, failure to take medication, new health concerns, and diminished social interaction. These can all be warning signs that additional care may soon become necessary. Don’t avoid the topic of care just because you are uncomfortable. Chances are that waiting will only make you more so.

Remember, whatever your relationship with your parent has been, this new phase of life will present challenges for both parties. By treating your parent with love and respect—and taking the necessary steps toward open communication—you will be able to provide the help needed during this new phase of life.

  1. ACL.gov, 2020
  2. Note: Power of attorney laws can vary from state to state. An estate strategy that includes trusts may involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. Consider working with a knowledgeable estate management professional before implementing such strategies.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2021 FMG Suite.

 

 

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Three Ways to Avoid the Downside of Retirement

When it comes to retirement, it’s easy to dream about the perks: sleeping in, traveling, reading a good book, playing golf––name your fantasy. Even if your retirement is fully funded, the reality can be far less fulfilling if you don’t plan ahead.

Repeated studies have shown that people who do not have a rewarding retirement can suffer both physically and psychologically during retirement. Lack of mental stimulation is a primary reason. People are often forced into retirement before they are ready. Others think they are ready, and yet are not prepared for the day-to-day realities of a new lifestyle.

Working or volunteering can offer structure that is perceived both positively and negatively. When you move from working to not working, you can begin to wonder if you still matter. Even if you have financially planned for retirement, the impact can be more jarring than you may have anticipated.

If you want to get a real picture of what retirement might feel like, talk to someone who was forced to retire sooner than expected––as opposed to learning about it from someone who worked for 40 years in a job he didn’t particularly like and then retired at 65. “Sudden retirees” are those who ended up in a retired state because of unexpected events such as the merger or sale of a business, downsizing, injury, sickness, or the need to care for a family member. The experiences of these individuals might be a better looking glass for previewing your own retirement. Many of the people who have been cast into unexpected retirements are often still energetic and full of vision for their future.

Sudden retirees find themselves having to make many life decisions before they are ready. Ideally, we want to determine not only our financial needs, but also our psychological ones (i.e. work) that we’ll face at the retirement stage of life. We hear and read plenty on the financial aspects but not as much on the activity and existence facets of life.

Working is part of that equation––it keeps you both interested and interesting. Working may also help you stay married. Divorce among retirees is surprisingly high; in couples over the age of 50, the rate has increased from 8 percent in 1990 to 25 percent! The lesson here is that couples need space for relationships to grow and prosper, especially during the transition into retirement. Staying engaged and having outside pursuits––including work––is critical to both you and your partner’s health and well-being, In addition, keeping your individual identity through the retirement process leads to a better sense of self-worth.

If you are concerned with health issues interfering with your work life expectations, pay attention to the factors that can impact your health, including excess body weight, tobacco use, high-risk activities or behaviors, chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety or depression, and frequent alcohol consumption or substance abuse. Factors that decrease your health risks include a healthy body weight, no tobacco use, healthy diet and sleep habits, regular exercise, moderate to no alcohol consumption, avoidance of high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse, a healthy stress level, and effective treatment of chronic health conditions. The takeaway? Take care of yourself!

If you speak to retirees who did not plan ahead, you may hear, “First, you’re bored––then you’re boring.” Staying both physically and psychologically healthy prevents both.

Most of us recognize that the second half of life can mean a second wind––not just a breeze, but a gust to fill our sails. It is a time in life to contribute, learn, and try new things. But because many of us are living longer than our parents and grandparents, the bonus of extended middle age is still so new that we may have neglected to plan adequately.

Many of us walk into retirement with rose-colored glasses and naïveté regarding the impact on our emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual beings. Instead, be sure to also look at the dangers, pitfalls, and traps that can swallow you whole. If your retirement plan extends beyond what’s in your portfolio, you will, no doubt, be successful.

How do you avoid the downside of retirement? Have a conversation with your friends and family about activities and pursuits that fulfill you, and the things that you are concerned about. Even if you’re forced into retirement sooner than you’d like, don’t ever quit on your intellectual, social, or spiritual advancements in life. Here are three ideas for improving your long-term retirement outlook:

  1. Continue to work or volunteer, even if it’s part-time.
  2. Continuously update your job skills so you stay current––and relevant.
  3. Be a lifelong learner––seek additional education and training.

Focus on what’s ahead of you, not on what’s behind. Keep your eyes off the rearview mirror of life and the GPS, and focus on the road ahead…and keep the pedal to the metal!

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An Interview with Lynn Toomey, Women’s Retirement Summit

Retirement Summit Host, Maria Lucassen interviews Her Retirement founder, Lynn Toomey

Maria:                          So today I have a lady who knows a lot about retirement, the other side that I don’t talk of, the financial aspect. Let me welcome here today Lynn Toomey. Hi. Welcome to today’s interview. I’m so glad that you have time today to talk with us about this topic that I always keep aside and say no I don’t want to talk about, I’m not in a capacity that I can talk about it, so I’m glad that I found you to talk about it today with us. Yes. So welcome, welcome. And Lynn actually has a wonderful website, and we’re going to talk about what she does, exactly how she can help you or her website might be able to help you with all the things financially. So how did she get there? I can ask her. Huh. Okay, yeah. I mean I can read here while daydreaming, but you can tell us in a few sentences why did you start this website?

Lynn Toomey:               Thank you for welcoming me, I’m really happy to be here today, excited about this summit because I think women, as we approach retirement, we need access to these resources. So thank you very, very much for bringing these resources to so many women. And I had my ah-ha moment at 54 years old. So one of the things that I like to talk about is that even though you’re in your 50s, you can start. It’s never too late to start, never too late to launch. So I had a long career in corporate America. I got divorced and met my significant other, who is a financial advisor. He focuses on retirement planning, but he’s the traditional focused on investments and helping people figure out what they’re going to do with their money that they’ve saved when they retire. So rather than the accumulation phase of life, he’s actually helping people de accumulate. He’s helping people create that retirement income.

So in that process of working with him over the last seven years, doing some marketing and operations and co-hosting classes with him, I found that women have these tremendous challenges and tremendous risks and I didn’t really see a lot of resources and companies focused on helping women. So women as a demographic, there’s going to kind of be two sides of the story. There’s going to be women that just didn’t prepare properly, women that had some unfortunate obstacles that came into their lives. We have some natural obstacles that we need to overcome. And there’s going to be other women over the next 10 years that are going to be inheriting a large amount of money, because it’s called the largest wealth transfer in history. So as those baby boomers pass their wealth down, women primarily are going to be the recipients of that wealth.

And traditionally, women are not well equipped to make those financial decisions. Perhaps they weren’t raised that way, perhaps they have a spouse or a partner who handles that, so my ah-ha moment was in looking at this whole retirement scene was I need to focus on her retirement, so when I said that in my head, I said oh maybe there’s a URL for retirement, so I went to Go Daddy and put in her retirement, and lo and behold, I was able to get the website, and that’s how it started.

Maria:                          Yes. That’s probably how I found you too as being somebody who caters specific to women. Because my coaching practice is also mainly to women. I actually didn’t have a male client yet. But as I cater to women, some are still married. So there might be a spouse involved, and in that respect yes. I still have to deal with them and the impact that they have on the retirement of their wife.

Lynn Toomey:               Yes.

Maria:                          But I loved your website, how you have set it up all, and I was just all the information there and the way how you presented it, really did look good to me as something that many women would be looking for, needing to be able to retire in a way that they feel secure, most secure financially when they say okay I’m going to stop getting my paycheck, I’m stopping to work, I will not get that anymore, my social security is not going to be enough that I know okay I’m okay. There’s other ways how I can supplement my social security income or my pension if you still have a pension somewhere, and that is what I would like to give our audience today that I can see it’s okay to have multiple places where my money is that’s coming in for retirement. So what I found very interesting is that you say you are able to live your retirement that you have imagined, no matter your circumstances. You say you started this before, so many others are starting too late, this saving or looking at the financial situation. So what do you mean if we still can live that retirement that we would like to?

Lynn Toomey:               Yes. So I believe that no matter where you are, where you’ve been, it’s important to focus on the future. And there are some certain steps that you can take regardless of your starting point. I think the most important thing is for women to recognize and benchmark, if you will, where they’re at. A lot of women want to just procrastinate. They want to bury their heads in the sand and say, “Oh it’s ugly, I don’t want to look at it.” But that’s not the way to go forward. To move forward in anything, you have to recognize your starting point and where you’re at. Identify what you have, identify those gaps, and identify how you might fill those gaps. And the strategies to fill those gaps might not be exactly what you’ve imagined, right? But you have to take them. You have to take some action in order to get to your destination. It’s all about taking action.

So I think that what we are going to do through Her Retirement, number one, is to help women know more. It’s very financially educationally focused. So we talk about financial literacy. We want women to understand financial topics so that they can understand where they’re at and where they might potentially be able to go, and then address okay I have a shortfall, I have a gap in what my needs are based on my expenses, so we talk through this whole process of retirement planning which is very income based, because in retirement, like you said, you can be 30, 40 years, you want to make sure that you have the income that you need. By identifying your income sources and by identifying your expenses, you’re going to be able to understand if there’s a gap, and then you have some decisions to make. But those decisions should be knowledge based. They should be based on some proper background in education.

So for example, just one example is if you don’t really understand the basics of social security, you might just say, “Oh I should take it right at 62.” Well the fact of the matter is that might not be the best decision. Perhaps you’re widowed and you have widow benefits, so there’s so many decisions that need to be made around retirement, and my goal at Her Retirement is to educate women on making those decisions, and or if they decide to work with a team of subject matter experts, they can have more informed conversations with those people. I don’t want any woman to get the wool pulled over her eyes by some slick insurance person. I think I’m definitely on the side of the world is filled with good people, but every now and again there are those people that do take advantage of you. So I don’t want any woman to be taken advantage of. So in that way, I am an advocate. I do want to help women get educated, and then they can make some decisions. They say knowledge is power. So I want them to get educated financially, and then they can make some good decisions and know what somebody’s might not sound exactly right based on what I’ve learned.

So it does require some commitment, but it’s probably the most important thing you’re going to do in your life. A lot of people spend more time planning vacation than they do planning their retirement. I don’t want women to be afraid of the topics that we talk about at Her Retirement. I think a lot of women feel overwhelmed or afraid. It’s this kind of cloak and dagger, it’s really not. And my goal is to simplify it for women, so it is less overwhelming. In fact, I just did a podcast this week on social security, and a woman posted in our private retirement group, and she said, “Loved this, you made social security so simple.” So I was like yes, I achieved my goal, because it is a complex subject, but I wanted to simplify it so that one, you don’t feel overwhelmed and you just say okay, I’m not doing this. And two, so that you can understand it and know that there are some options and don’t listen to your neighbor, your brother-in-law, your friend on Facebook. I see so many Facebook groups where the women are like, “Should I buy an annuity? Or do I need life insurance?” It’s like don’t take advice from the Facebook advisor.

Maria:                          No, because what is good for one person might not be suitable for another person. And you can talk with your neighbor about it, but your neighbor only knows as much as he knows about that topic, and he only remembers and knows because he did it a certain way and he made a decision that was good for him, but might not be really the right one for you.

Lynn Toomey:               Absolutely.

Maria:                          So [crosstalk] that you are giving us women some ways on how we can educate ourselves a little bit more about the financial aspects in life, because I think there’s many of us who either have to do it, and they just do it because that’s what life asks for and so far you always were able to manage, like me. Or you might have had a husband who was taking care of all those things and there’s so many decisions that you have to make when you retire that have an impact on the next 30 or 40 years. So it’s really important and it’s really necessary to not just think about it and decide on a whim, but really find out more about it and then talk to somebody who’s knowledgeable like you or somebody in your team that can indeed say okay if you do this then that happens, but if you don’t do this then maybe you can do that, and that is good for, so you can see why a certain decision, what the consequences are. If you say yes to something of if you say if I have three or four options I go for A and I don’t want to go for all of the other ones.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah.

Maria:                          So thank you for, yeah, having first of all that possibility for all of us. So when you talk about financial knowledge, what have you seen from the ladies that you have worked with, where are the gaps most of the time? Is it, not everybody is an accountant or a bookkeeper, do we have to know what a debit and a credit is? Or how do you go about teaching women those basics in the financial of expenses and income and how they can balance that? Do you do [inaudible] things like that with them? Or how does that work?

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. So I’ll preface this by saying that I am not a financial advisor. So one thing that Her Retirement does or does not do is we don’t give you investment advice. So we would never say to you, “Invest in this fund. Or buy this insurance policy.” What we do is we educate you on these topics, it’s research based, research backed education from some of the top academics in the retirement planning space. We do our own research. So we are educating you on the basics, but we are not going to give you the specific investment advice. But we will say to you, “Okay, here’s all the things that you need to address, here’s all the risks that you need to address, here’s the challenges.” For example, longevity is one of the biggest risks, so we are going to live longer. How to you mitigate longevity risk? How do you mitigate inflation? How do you mitigate the effects of the market on your portfolio, on your retirement plan, your 401K, your 403B.

So we educate you on those things so that you understand all of those risks and challenges, and then there’s also opportunities that you should be educated about because we all have opportunities for improving what we already have. So you asked one of the gaps, if you will. So one of the gaps for not just women, but for men and women as they prepare for and transition into retirement, is taxes. There’s huge opportunity to be very tax efficient and to pay as little taxes as possible, to be taxed smart. But a lot of, I’ll say most CPAs don’t do this. They focus on tax preparation, I believe it’s actually just a field that there hasn’t been a lot of expertise developed. So I think that’s a gap and it’s not something that the lay person probably will figure out on their own.

Like lots of people will do their own investments and they’ll grow their assets and they might do an index fund. That’s pretty simple, but when it comes time to rolling over that 401K and what order should you be doing your distributions from your 401K, so creating that retirement paycheck, but in addition to that is creating that paycheck most tax efficiently. So there are some strategies that women and men should be aware of and should work with a retirement tax specialist. There’s raw conversions and things like that, so I think taxes is a big gap. I think just not even knowing how to create a retirement paycheck. I think that people might have been very good savers in some cases. They’ve got a half million dollars saved or whatever it is, but they’re like okay, we’re ready to retire, what do we do?

The other gap that I see for women, and maybe even a bigger concern or just as much of a concern because 61% of people fear outliving their income more than they fear death, but I think for women we have two other major concerns. One is our healthcare, because of our longevity, how do we pay for that healthcare? What happens if we have a longterm care incident? Or I’m single and I have no family, who’s going to take care of me? I have an 86 year old mother, and we’re talking about her next phase. She’s fine now, but when she can’t take care of herself, what does she want? What can she afford with her pension? What are those options? What is her Medicare? So I think healthcare is another big, big concern and knowledge gap. The Medicare guide is crazy huge, nobody understands it.

Maria:                          I know, and I had to choose this year and I made the simplest decision, as simple as possible, and it still is worrisome that it takes so much and that it’s so big that nobody understands it. That you really have to find experts to explain it to you and help you to make a decision that can, at least for the beginning, you can change it after a year once you are enrolled and everything, but still it’s not a good thing if that is the case. It keeps changing depending on who is in government.

Lynn Toomey:               Right.

Maria:                          That’s another issue.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah, and I think that, I really like to stress the importance of planning. I’ve always been a planner in all aspects of my life, but retirement planning is no exception. I have a statistic that 74% of Americans voluntarily receive reduced retirement income because they don’t know the facts. So I think that statistic could be exacerbated with women, and you’re leaving opportunity on the table by not knowing the facts and not working with those subject matter experts. But I kind of call any type of retirement plan, and I say it’s going to be written, but having a retirement plan is sleep insurance. So one of the things that we want to be is healthy. Well the stress of not knowing if you’re going to be a bag lady can have huge impacts on you physically, mentally.

Maria:                          Oh yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               So I think that there’s a very strong connection between acknowledging where you are, understanding your gaps, addressing them, putting together that written plan, and you’re going to just have this sigh of relief when you do it. But so many people don’t. I have another statistic that when you have a written retirement plan, you have 445% more in assets when you commit to a written plan. And I don’t think it’s too early to start. We focus right now on women 50 and over, but as soon as you graduate from college and you get your job-

Maria:                          Start, yes.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. If you’re 21 years old and you can commit $600 a month until you’re 67, you’ll have two million dollars.

Maria:                          Exactly. And that’s the hard piece to tell that to the younger ones, to say, “Hey, it’s something that you can start right now, and if you set it up properly, automatic withdrawal or deposit, then you don’t see the money, you have lived all your life without it, and it’s there when you need it.”

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah.

Maria:                          That’s the tough part for the younger generation to get it, because they want to spend it, they want to do their thing. Yes. It helps. I have done it periods in my life that way, and then something happened and I had to stop it, for the last, and then sometimes you don’t get back to it. But then there are other ways on how you can start saving on a regular basis, that’s really the most important thing. Whatever you can afford, start to do it on each paycheck, or on your monthly income, just make that decision and you can start small with $50 or $100 if that is the case, but as it’s going out on the regular basis for years and years and years, the compound effect will make it as big as possible, and you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of your life, because it’s going to be there. Yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah, one of the things we talked, we are coaches, so we offer free education resources but we also offer coaching. So it’s not unlike any other coaching, like a fitness coach. We’re not going to sit down with someone and say, our target’s a million. Because that can be overwhelming. We’re going to focus on $100 a month. Go through your expenses. See what you can cut. Cut the fat. My podcast is called Walk the Talk, because I’m doing the same exact thing. So I just, I’m in the process of selling a sports car, I’m in the process of reducing a cell phone bill, any little things that you can do to parlay some of that money into your retirement savings, it’s a win. And it’s not unlike dieting. Start with baby steps. Walk every day. Once you walk every day then you add, and once you start the train going and you establish those habits, you’re moving.

So I think there’s different types of people that we work with and that we educate primarily is the people that are feeling way behind, and then the people that have done a good job of saving and they have a lot of decisions to make. They’re not the high net worth people who if they have a longterm care incident they can self fund, it’s the people that can’t afford to make any mistakes and we want to prepare them. Our whole program is called The Retirement Readiness Program because we want to prepare them and educate them, and then turn them over to a network of subject matter experts whether you want a reverse mortgage because you learned in our master class that a reverse mortgage is a great income buffer. You have a home as a dead asset, you can turn that into an income buffer. So you could actually even use a reverse mortgage to fund a longterm care incident and save on longterm care insurance.

So these are the little things that you can learn, and instead of going oh woe is me, you might have some opportunities that you just don’t realize. Maybe you’re still paying for a life insurance policy and you really don’t need to paying for life insurance-

Maria:                          [crosstalk]. And that’s the thing, I still get those in the mail, hey do you need a life insurance policy? And I think why would I need a life insurance policy? And I think okay, they are just trying to get new clients that pay for it. But yeah, if you know the [inaudible] you think yeah life insurance, we’ve had it all our life, so let’s keep it. Then you don’t realize it’s really only necessary if you are taking care of your children, and if you don’t have, and maybe a few other reasons, you want to say that, it’s not a topic that we are discussing right now, but yes. There are certain things that you will be able to find out by going to your program for example where you teach them the different aspects of research and how shall I say possibility, like the life insurance, like the annuity. There’s a lot of terminology about retiring and how you can safeguard that where when you look online you find I don’t know how many articles people writing about it and not everybody might be a knowledgeable person because there are writers who write just for the sake of writing about the topic, and they’re just writers, they’re not an expert in insurance matters.

Lynn Toomey:               Right.

Maria:                          That’s what you are emphasizing here as well, talking to somebody who’s an expert in that particular matter so you know, okay I’m talking to somebody who knows about it and who can explain it to me in a language that I understand. That’s the biggest fear for many of the women to go somewhere and somebody talks to them and they have to say yes and you only understand half of what they are talking about. Yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. Absolutely. And I think one of the other important aspects of retirement planning is, and my philosophy and the philosophy at Her Retirement, I have this I call it the good life pyramid, I actually have a little picture of it here because we’re not doing the screen share. I don’t know if I can do it. Yeah, maybe not.

Maria:                          Maybe I’ll put that in a link for them.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah, but the pyramid basically that I like to go through with people and we discuss this is financial wellness, you get to financial wellness through financial literacy. So it starts with financial literacy, and you don’t get to financial wellness unless you take actions. So financial wellness is financial literacy plus action equals financial wellness. That I believe is the foundation. Health and wealth I think go hand in hand because you can be financially well but physically unwell, and then retirement is a bust. Health is everything. I was having an issue the other day and I was like my goodness, if this is how I felt everyday, what would be the point? That’s how bad I felt and when I get sick I tend to exaggerate in my mind that it’s worse than it really is.

But I think what we also talk to people about is that financial wellness piece we’re going to address because that is a foundation. It’s very, very important, its going to give you peace of mind, it’s going to give you that sleep insurance. But we also talk to you about the purpose, because it’s very important in retirement that you continue to have a purpose. I have 18 year olds that are going off to school in the fall, and suddenly I’m not Kate and Emma’s mom anymore. I mean I still am, but that whole identity, that whole part of my life, going to their sports, it’s going away.

Maria:                          Yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               It’s a new phase of life and I have to figure out well my purpose is Her Retirement, that’s one of the reasons I started it, but having a purpose is extremely important because sometimes in retirement often more times men than women, women have their to do list and they’re like oh my 2000 hours I’m going to fill no problem. But still a lot of women struggle with purpose and identity and we’re aging and so physically we might feel older. We look in the mirror and we say we become invisible in the world. So purpose is important. So we talk about that because your financial wellness helps in some cases fund that purpose.

The next thing is vitality. So like I said, making sure your vitality is in check, mentally, physically, you eat well, you move your body, you meditate, you do yoga, that’s a very important part of the overall mission of Her Retirement is it’s taking a complete look at your life and making sure that you’re basically firing on all pistons. And then connection. So there’s a TED talk that talks about the number one contributor to longevity and it’s relationships. So making sure that you have those connections to family, friends, community, and making sure that if you lose some of those connections pre retirement, co workers in so forth, or in my case my girls have friends and their parents and we’re going to lose connection, we established new connections. Those are critical. And then the other category is contribution.

So some people might not want to work. The first line in the book that I’m writing is this book is about retirement, but do you even want to retire? So oftentimes what I talk to people about is because they’re a little adverse to the term retirement, because they’re like oh no, my grandparents retired at 60 and they sat in their chairs and they knitted and crocheted and that’s not what I’m going to do. So what we talk about is financial freedom. Establishing your financial freedom date so that you can choose to work as one of your contributions, you can choose to volunteer, whatever it is, by having that financial wellness foundation gives you more flexibility to decide how you want to contribute in your second chapter, life 2.0, whatever you want to call it.

Maria:                          Yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               But making sure that you have contributions, because we all know that as human beings, that’s very important to us. We need to contribute. And for some, some work. I know lots of people who are actually making more money working in retirement than they did in their corporate previous careers.

Maria:                          Right.

Lynn Toomey:               So whatever contribution it is, we want to talk about that. Because your financial foundation needs to fund all of these lifestyle ideas. So one of the things we do is we go through an envision exercise where you really figure out what it is, what lifestyle, where do you want to live, what things do you want to do? Then we say okay, can your financial situation allow you to do those things? Will it allow you to stop working all together and take care of your grandchildren? Or travel twice a year? So it’s really life design, designing your life is really what we try to do working with people. I don’t really like the term life coaching, because it is very focused on Her Retirement and it’s focused on more financial focus I guess.

Maria:                          Yeah. I like how you now made that connection with all the other important areas in our life and the other areas kind of where I talk about, how to stay healthy mind and physical, activities, purpose, maybe leaving a legacy, something to think about, what you want to do. Yes, indeed, there’s so many things changing from I say it’s the first chapter, you call it the second chapter, everybody is in a different timeframe depending on where you are in the planning and the life process. So it’s great to see that your finances, the same as your health I think, are having an effect on your life in all aspects of your life. If you have saved, you have more opportunities and possibilities as if you are short on your savings and you need to fill a couple of gaps. Then there’s some things that you need to do in order to make it work, and depending on how many years you have in between that you see that and you want to retire, that will give you the possibilities to get there or not all which way to go.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. I tell my kids that I don’t believe that money can buy you happiness, but it buys you choices and choices in life is a very good thing.

Maria:                          Oh yes. I definitely, if you’re getting older where we feel and see and get changes in our bodies, in our mind, and also in our life, that if you are in the position that you’re financially secure, and not talking about financial freedom yet because that’s a different topic all together, but yes, that gives you better opportunities and choices as when you are living paycheck to paycheck and there’s nothing in your bank or savings account that you can fall back on and you really have to do is social security what you get.

So I hope that our audience listened very well, had something to write, wrote down what we talked about because there were some really great tips here and especially making a plan in writing will let you see where you are, and will get you an incentive to see hey, it’s not what it should be, I need to take action. And that’s another thing, just that one step, that one thing that you can do, like you mentioned before, start something small with saving, that’s the first step to amass a bigger amount for what you might need to live your good time and the way you would like to, the way you imagine. Yes.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. I was doing a book interview with a woman, and I was talking to her about her situation and she said, “The more we talk the more I realize I don’t know so much about what’s going on in my financial life. My husband’s always handled it. So I need to hang up from this conversation and schedule a date with my husband, a money date to understand where we’re at and what we have.” She’s like, “I just have always assumed that he would take care of it.” So if nothing else, plan the money date with your significant other. You should plan together. If you’re planning to be together, you should do it together. It shouldn’t just be her retirement, but you should have a role in it.

Maria:                          Oh for sure.

Lynn Toomey:               You should definitely understand, have a plan for if he kicks the bucket.

Maria:                          Yes. That’s very important. Yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               What you’re going to do, I’m actually working on a guide called that, kind of tongue in cheek, but I think my ultimate goal is for women to know more and have more, and more might not necessarily mean more money, because everyone’s lifestyle choices are different. They may desire more freedom, more independence, whatever it is, you can define the more.

Maria:                          Right, that’s going to make you happy in the next chapter of life.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah.

Maria:                          So that’s why when I say okay you don’t need a million dollar to have a happy retirement, it’s nice if you have it but there’s other ways how you can be happy without having first to amass and collect all that money and maybe postpone, postpone, that might not be necessary, depending on if you want to give up something in order to have a real life again and live a happy life, because that’s what retirement is all about, living the best time of your life, because you deserve it after all those years that you worked for it.

So last question, you have something special for our audience that they can get from you on your website. Can you explain to all the ladies watching what that is?

Lynn Toomey:               Yes. Absolutely. So it’s actually kind of a combination. I have a readiness platform, it’s a personalized retirement readiness platform. It’s software based. We actually use the software in our coaching programs, but you can certainly use it without coaching, and I’m going to give all the participants access to that retirement readiness platform, and in addition to that, within the platform or related to the platform, I have 100 page eBook called The Big Book of Retirement Questions and Answers. It’s actually going to be part of my bigger book that I’m writing called Her Retirement but that book isn’t finished yet because I keep going off and doing other things. As soon as my girls go off to college I’ll have a little more time-

Maria:                          You’ll have time, yeah.

Lynn Toomey:               To finish my book, but it is The Big Book of Retirement Questions and Answers, and basically the readiness platform, there’s something called the assess module, and basically what you do is you go in there and you identify and organize all of your financial inventory, so you enter real estate and savings and it will project, if you enter your expenses, it will do your cash flow. One of the most important things that you should do is track your net worth. So it will track your net worth. You can project your retirement expenses, it will project what your current retirement savings are going to me worth in 30 years, let’s say, when you retire, and if you’ve identified your retirement expenses it’s going to say based on what you’ve entered for income and expenses, you might have a gap, then it will suggest ways to fill the gap. So there is a ton of valuable information and calculations.

What you do with that information is up to you, because we don’t provide the advice, but we can connect you to people that can help you take the next step and say I have this gap analysis, it has identified these gaps, how do I fill them? And we can connect you with a subject matter expert. But all the women on this program will get access to that software and that 100 page book, and I want everyone to instead of going to bed at night and reading some women’s fiction book, you should be reading this book, and not watching Netflix. But there’s also an eLearning module there so you can go in and learn, take some eClasses on different topics like insurance, social security, longterm care. So there’s a whole eLearning component of the platform also.

Maria:                          Wow.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. There’s a lot there.

Maria:                          Yeah. It’s awesome that you are offering that as your gift to our audience, so by signing up they have a wealth of knowledge. I love that you also give them opportunity to do that gap analysis by putting in all their financial stuff and see hey where am I here, what do I need to do, can I sleep and know I’m okay, or do I have to buckle down and maybe do something, don’t go out for dinner tonight, but maybe cook a few more times at home, or whatever it is that you want to do to, yeah. Close that gap, as [crosstalk].

Lynn Toomey:               Give up-

Maria:                          Yeah, give up, some how you have [crosstalk]-

Lynn Toomey:               Starbucks. I say give up the Starbucks.

Maria:                          That’s another thing. I mean there’s many ways of, you mentioned it, expenses, you can look at expenses and the ways how you can start working on that.

Lynn Toomey:               Yeah. But I do want to mention one thing, Maria, that I believe in this process also because I don’t believe in extremism. I believe in balance in life, and I believe in enjoying your life. So one of the things that we talk to people about, talk to women about, is what are your non negotiables, because everyone has some non negotiables, things that are going to enrich your life that you want to be able to use your money on. So one of my non negotiables is my health and my wellness and my fitness. So I have a bike that I bought, I bought a stationary bike for the winters, I bought winter activity snow shoes and cross country skis. So me, that’s one of my non negotiables. Another non negotiable is spending time with my family. So yes, maybe I’m not going to build an empire. I actually left corporate America to raise my children, it was a conscious decision. Now I’m working and I’m going to work later in life, but I wanted to spend that time with them and that was a non negotiable.

So everybody has to identify in our process I say you have to identify your non negotiables, and then we can start getting rid of the things that don’t really matter that much to you.

Maria:                          Yeah. That are really nice words here for everybody where you can start thinking of when you are looking at your finances, and if you have access to your finances. Of course if you’re a couple, might be like we mentioned already some differences, but if you are single, then definitely you know what is going in and out, and you can apply a couple of those things that we just talked about and see do I indeed need to go to Starbucks every day to get my coffee or is there a different way that I can make coffee or things in the house and save a little bit more.

So I am fortunate, I have to say thank you for being here for enlightening all of us just about some basic stuff that we need to know, and hopefully give us all a reason to find out more and to come to your website, Her Retirement, and look at all the information that she has and how you can read up on it or do one of the courses and become a more knowledgeable person. So yes, I like know more, have more, is definitely something that you will experience when you follow her advice.

Lynn Toomey:               Hey there, Lynn here again. So just a quick reminder, if you have any questions about retirement, about coaching, about education, I am hosting an upcoming master class called Her Retirement Savings to Security, in September. So please reach out to me if you have any questions at lynnt@herretirement.com, and don’t forget, go out, get her done. Talk to you next week.

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Why You Don’t Need More To Be Happier And Live Better

You Already Have the Keys to a Better Life

(Here’s How to Use Them)

What would make your life better? A new house or car? A bigger paycheck or bank account?

It’s easy to want more when you think of being happier and living better.1 And there’s little doubt that money can buy some (more) happiness.2 But the happiness we get from money is fundamentally limited.3 It leaves us wanting more, and it’s not enough on its own to enjoy a truly satisfying life. The reality is a lot of the things that can make us happy and enrich our lives have nothing to do with money.4 And some of the things that may bring us the most joy could already be within our reach.4

What are they and how can they improve our lives?

Find out the answer with these simple life upgrades. They can transform the way you experience and enjoy life.

7 Little Upgrades that Can Make Life Better in Big Ways

1. Go Outside

As little as 20 minutes outdoors can make you happier and healthier. Even if you don’t exercise, simply being outside can be good for your mind and body. It can relax you and lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. And it doesn’t take long to feel the effects.

That’s why some doctors are even writing “nature prescriptions” these days, prescribing time outdoors for all sorts of conditions.5

Make It a Habit: Set aside at least 20 minutes a few times a week to get outside. If you’re short on time, try bringing parts of your daily routine outdoors, like dining al fresco or exercising outside, weather permitting.

2. Say No to Things That Drain You

How often are you scrambling for time? Most of us say we’re too busy to enjoy life at least sometimes.6 About 1 in 8 folks feel that way most of the time.6

Whenever we get busy and stressed for time, it’s often our own psychology, not the clock, that’s the source of our stress.7 In fact, we tend to feel the most pressed for time when it seems like we don’t have control over our schedules, and we fill our time with activities we don’t really enjoy.7

Saying no to activities that drain us can help put a stop to that. It can open up more time and more opportunities for happiness.

Make It a Habit: Identify the activities in your schedule that are draining your time and energy. Delegate what you can. Say no to any extra favors. Consider setting up some boundaries for your time, like “off limits” days for certain activities.

3. Practice Gratitude Daily

Gratitude is closely linked to happiness and wellbeing.8 When we appreciate the things that bring us joy, we focus on positive words and emotions.8 That positivity can radiate inward and outward, benefiting both the person expressing gratitude and the recipient of it.8

It’s no wonder, then, that gratitude can be a mood and relationship booster.8 It can also strengthen immune systems, promote better sleep, and make us more resilient.8

Make It a Habit: Commit to expressing gratitude at least once a day. Tell someone why you appreciate them or write a Thank You note or email. For a more meditative practice, journal or think about the three things you are thankful for at the beginning or end of each day.

4. Prioritize Self-Care

Nearly half of us put self-care on the back burner because we don’t think we have enough time for it.9 When we do that, we’re just making life harder for ourselves—we’re making it harder to manage our emotions, cope with stress, and stay connected to the things that matter.10 And we’re undermining our self-esteem.10

Investing in some genuine self-care is the antidote to all that.11 It can help you focus on your physical and psychological needs while making room for self-compassion.11 It can also help you accept your imperfections and discover new paths to self-improvement.11

Make It a Habit: Make self-care a habit. Prioritize eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.9 Also, recognize that self-care is about nurturing, not shaming, yourself. That means appreciating the value of self-care over getting one more task done by the end of the day.

5. Don’t Let Negativity Take Over

Negativity has a place in our lives, but optimism can do a lot more for our health and happiness.12, 13 Studies show optimists have lower risks of heart disease and higher rates of cancer survival, when compared to pessimists.13 Optimists also tend to be more persistent and better at managing stress. That can give them better chances of achieving their goals.13

Still, that doesn’t mean optimism should go unchecked or blind you to real risks. Finding a balance between staying positive and acknowledging life’s challenges is the healthiest approach.13

Make It a Habit: When you talk about your day, bring up the best parts first, even if you have had a rough day. If certain situations or people bring up negative emotions for you, do your best to minimize or avoid them. And try to turn disappointments into learning lessons.

6. Volunteer

Volunteering can support the causes and communities you care about while being personally rewarding.14 It can strengthen your social connections and give you a greater sense of happiness, purpose, pride, and accomplishment. It can also spark creativity and renew your motivation.15

Beyond mental benefits, volunteering can also improve your physical health.16 It’s been linked to lower risks of hypertension and slower cognitive decline as you age.16

Over time, all of these benefits can add up, making volunteering a deeply enriching and fulfilling experience.17

Make It a Habit: Consider your skills, interests, and time as you choose volunteer opportunities. Try out a few options to find out which organization and opportunities will be a good fit. And, remember, volunteering should be fun instead of draining. So, start small while you figure out what time commitments work for you. Even just a couple of hours a week can benefit you and the cause you volunteer to support.18

7. Nurture Your Relationships

Good, strong relationships benefit our health and wellbeing.19 Beyond making us happy, the emotional support we get from the people we care about can help us through trauma while influencing us to make better choices and adopt better habits.19 Psychologically, that can fulfill our need to belong, give us better coping skills, and improve our quality of life.19

Physically, good relationships can boost our immune systems and even help us live longer.20 In fact, not having strong relationships can increase the risk of early death by about 50%.20 That has roughly the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.20

The impact of having positive relationships is also why some say that doubling your group of good friends can benefit you as much as seeing your income go up by 50%.21

Make It a Habit: Connect with at least one person you love every day. If problems arise, try to listen, show understanding, and don’t jump to conclusions. And, be honest. Admit your mistakes and apologize if you’re in the wrong. Remember to find even small ways to show you care, by giving a thoughtful compliment or anticipating a loved one’s needs.

“For most of us, the barriers to being happier come down to a few things—our attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and fears.”

Financial Lesson

The Things Holding You Back Could Be in Your Power to Change

Living better doesn’t mean we have to make radical changes. And we don’t have to wait for some benchmark or goal post to start enjoying life more. With a few simple upgrades, we can reshape the way we experience life every day. And we’re likely to be happier and healthier for it.

That sounds simple. And it is. So, what stops us from getting there? And why can happiness and a better life feel elusive sometimes? The answer can be different for everyone. For most of us, though, the barriers to being happier come down to a few things—our attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and fears.22-24

We can start to break down those barriers by not trading what we really want in life for what we want right now. And we can stay in touch with what we really need to be happy and live better by staying connected to the people we trust.

Sources

1 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/hedonic-treadmill

2 – https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/22/new-wharton-study-people-are-happier-when-they-earn-more-money.html

3 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-instincts/202101/money-can-buy-least-one-type-happiness

4 – https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/04/how-increase-happiness-according-research/609619/

5 – https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness/

6 – https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/05/how-americans-feel-about-the-satisfactions-and-stresses-of-modern-life/

7 -https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_you_never_seem_to_have_enough_time

8 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude

9 – https://www.healthline.com/health-news/self-care-is-not-just-treating-yourself

10 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201906/the-cost-caring-without-self-care

11 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201905/self-care-is-important-why-is-it-so-hard-practice

12 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_overcome_your_brains_fixation_on_bad_things

13 – https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-optimism-3144811

14 – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

15 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_volunteering_can_help_your_mental_health

16 – https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/volunteering-has-some-surprising-health-benefits-here-s-how-find-ncna932196

17 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_the_warm_glow_of_giving_ever_get_old

18 – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

19 – https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/03/life-saving-relationships

20 – https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships

21 – https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/why-personal-relationships-are-important

22 – https://time.com/5356657/trying-to-be-happy/

23 – https://www.verywellmind.com/science-says-these-3-things-will-make-you-happier-1717532

24 – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321248