Shooting from the HIP: Reflections on Retirement
There are only a few things that matter when thinking about retirement. And it’s not all about the money.
My friend calls the 50’s the puberty of old age, a roller coaster ride of changes and upheavals. Having recently entered this age group, we often chat about nearing retirement and leaving our jobs after decades of working.
We vacillate between looking forward and dreading. The emotions are a blend of excitement, anticipation, worry, anxiety, and, sometimes, terror.
The wise say we should live in the moment. But is it possible to live in the present too much at the expense of the future? How can we prepare for our impending retirement and how early should we start planning?
Various retirement podcasts and my own reflections suggest that it’s never too early to prepare for retirement and that there are three areas that may impact our happiness after graduating from the wonderful world of work.
According to Wikipedia, “hip” means continuously changing and staying informed with the latest ideas and styles. I use HIP as a prompt to remember wise and cool choices to consider going into the best years of our lives. And, as you may have guessed, it’s not just about the money.
H is for Health
The adage “health is wealth” couldn’t be any truer as we plan for the third act of life. We could have all the money in the world, but without health, our experience of our golden years may be greatly diminished.
- Engaging in Movement and Exercise. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against a sedentary lifestyle as a leading cause of disease. Did you know that as little as 30 minutes of daily moderate activity such as walking can make a difference in our health? Authors and health experts Juliet and Kelly Starrett encourage incorporating practices into everyday life for better mobility and longevity. One test and practice I’m having fun with is sitting on the floor and standing up without using my hands and knees as if I’m holding a baby in my arms. Try it! It’s supposed to help strengthen hip muscles for better balance and strength.
- Healthy Eating. Like many of you, I’ve become confused with all the information about what to eat, when to eat, and what not to eat. There are various diets – plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, intermittent fasting, keto, and others. This topic is still a mystery to me and I hope to soon figure this out. In the meantime, I’m trying (operative word: trying) to be mindful of my eating habits by limiting refined sugar and simple carbs from my diet.
- Managing Stress. Stress is an inevitable part of life. It’s only apt that we are able to manage and navigate it as we approach retirement. I noticed though that, as I grow older, petty things don’t matter so much and I’ve learned to let go of trivial issues and situations. I often ask, “What is this in the light of eternity?” Suddenly, the mind softens the edge of a charged situation that used to rile me up. Prayers, meditation, and a strong support group also help to convert the “fight-flight-freeze” stress response to one of “tend-and-befriend.”
I is for Investments
A recently retired colleague has started preaching to non-retired friends: Save, save, save! In retirement, income in the form of salaries and bonuses will stop and one needs to ensure a steady cash flow for daily expenses.
- Starting NOW. As we approach retirement and estimate how much we need to live a comfortable retired life, we can worry and ask: “Will I run out of money in my old age?” We can beat ourselves up for not saving more and earlier. This feeling of regret can be debilitating and should not stop us from starting now (if we have not started yet). I am fortunate to have a friend who worked in trust banking and her first assignment to me when I asked her help is to consolidate all financial information in one file. Next is to record all expenses to get a sense of how much is needed today and how much is required in retirement. Having all this data in one place can be liberating and can create intentionality in managing finances.
- Spending on what matters. Perhaps you are at the peak of your earning capacity, having climbed the corporate ladder in your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. And yes – you likely deserve to treat yourself to designer fashion, the latest technology, and lavish indulgences. The advice of money managers is to spend on what are important without guilt but to ruthlessly cut out expenses that are unimportant. In simplistic terms: by all means, treat yourself to a business class ticket on your next vacation if you can afford it, but pass on the 150-peso blouse from Shopee that you will never wear. Again, intentionality is key.
- Focusing on sustainability. My friend and I often talk about longevity risk which is the financial risk of outliving one’s expected lifespan, resulting in a shortfall of funds in retirement. If you plan to retire at 55 or 60, will your cashflow from income or savings sustain you if you live up to 80 years old? My friend said: “I don’t want to be a burden to my son.” Focusing on sustainability means protecting ourselves as well as our loved ones from future problems as much as we possibly can.
P is for Purpose
After retirement from the 9-to-5 office set-up, we can do whatever we want, unbounded from the oppressive bundy clock. Now, what to do with all that time? Of course, you’re thinking travel, play golf, read, catch up on your Netflix back log. But can we sustainably entertain ourselves with recreational activities five days a week for the next 30 years? What are the most meaningful ways to occupy our newfound free time?
- Turning Hobby or Talent into Purpose. A friend lamented once: “Gusto ko na mag-retire, pero ano naman ang gagawin ko? (I want to retire, but what will I do?)” Maybe you have a talent in baking, cooking, or gardening. Perhaps you can pivot from your current career to something related, like teaching or consulting. Or could you rediscover a lifelong passion that you never had time to explore like painting or dancing? Now is your opportunity to reflect on who you are behind your professional mask!
- Establishing a Legacy. Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk said, “The goal isn’t to live forever but to create something that will.” Retirement is not the end but only the beginning of making a mark in the world. How would you want friends, family, and the community to remember you?
- Deepening Relationships. Finally, there is no joy in a successful retirement if there’s no one you can share it with. Dr. Peter Attia, author of Outlive, writes that the most important ingredient in the whole longevity equation is the why. Why do we want to live longer, healthier, and wealthier? And for whom? Family, friends, partners. Having high quality relationships makes our retirement so worth all the effort.
Some years ago, I met a stylish couple in their 60’s at the airport departure area. The husband-and-wife team was on their way home to the Philippines after a holiday in Thailand. Sun-kissed from their recent vacation, they regaled me with stories about their blissful life: settled on an island near Cebu, sprawled on the beach every day, satisfied with simple and healthy meals, surrounded by peace and quiet and responsibly supporting the community they belong to.
I expressed my admiration and envy of their brilliant life to which the man replied: I designed this retirement on purpose. I’ve been planning since I started working at age 21! It’s never too early to prepare for retirement. And instead of fear and dread, may you look forward to the next chapter with excitement, anticipation, and boundless joy!
JUDY CAPILI is the HR Business Partner Lead for Financial Markets and Institutional Banking. She is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher (CMT-P) accredited by the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA), having completed her teacher training from the Engaged Mindfulness Institute (EMI). She leads Metrobank’s weekly Mindful Moments, a 30-minute drop-in meditation and reflection session for employees who need to de-stress over their lunch period.