Relationships, health and interests are key to a rich retirement

Well the Boomers are crying now. Market is down, 401k's are shrinking, and dreams of early retirement fading. The mad bull market that had us believe it would go up forever has faltered. The gains were so exciting it was easy to lose sight of the real goals and priorities. Financial accumulation became a mission rather than a means to an end.

I know, I know, what about retirement. Well what about it? Personally I don't believe in retirement, I believe in working. Work and activity are the measures of physical and mental health. Ideally, you are passionate about the work you do and it gives your life meaning. We are the only country in the world that has this ridiculous viewpoint of a magical age where we are not longer suppose to work. And WE didn't have it before the advent of social security. After all, the word retire was only used twice in the Bible, and in both cases as a punishment.But for those of you who believe in retirement, reconsider your asset allocation. I don't mean moving your money around...I mean looking at how you invest your time today to prepare for a better retirement. Some suggestions:

Focus on family and friends instead of funds.
In 20 years of working with people, I have never heard an older person deeply concerned about money. What I always hear is that they are lonely. They feel isolated from others, alienated from old friends, and separated from the community. Spend time and energy now enhancing the friendships and relationships you have and build even more. It is difficult to obtain new friends once out of the workplace. Network now with community groups, associations, and clubs that reflect your interests. Make the extra effort to stay in touch with friends, connect with relatives, and participate in activities. I personally would like to stockpile more friends than money.

Invest in health instead of wealth.
So you retire, have money, and don't have the health to do any of the things you wanted to do. Good health in later years is rarely an accident or a genetic miracle. It is based on decades of habits and routines that put your physical and mental well-being ahead of other demands. If you don't have time to exercise because the work hours are long, you have banked your whole future on a depreciating asset. If you can't plan for healthy meals, you are neglecting the most important annuity you have. If you need alcohol to cope with the job so you can save more in your IRA, you're investing in a poor return.

Pay more attention to the interests in your life than the interest in your accounts.
It never ceases to amaze me how people plan to retire with few interests, hobbies or passions. The healthiest and happiest older folks I know are the busiest. They not only do physical activities such as swimming, walking, biking and golfing, they are seeking out new interests on a regular basis. My mother and her friends have recently bought computers and attend classes at a local community college. She informs me she is now working on a web page. I'm scared to see what's all on it. A health rule: never "give up" an activity without replacing it with something else. If you don't feel like skydiving anymore...replace it with golf.

Barbara Bartlein is a relationship expert and author of "Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the Myths that Hinder a Happy Marriage." For more tips and tools to build your relationships, please visit: Marriage Tips. For a FREE e-mail newsletter, visit the author's website at
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