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Plan the work, work the plan

Happy retirees often spend much of their careers actively laying the financial groundwork for their retirements. Careful deliberation about investment strategies, diligent and regular savings and other planning helped position them for a relaxing and financially independent life.

It’s no surprise that many don’t just turn that switch off once they exit the workforce. That habit of planning and being prepared is forever useful, whether it’s remixing their portfolio and adjusting required minimum distributions or mapping the ideal European vacation.

This age-agnostic practice can also prove invaluable when health issues or other sudden changes arise that necessitate a backup plan.

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Check in on your money

Whether you’re 10 years from retirement or right on its doorstep, you might be tempted to put your assets on cruise control.

Many of today’s younger investors choose target-date mutual funds that act as a sort of autopilot portfolio, ramping down risk the closer they get to retirement. Similarly, many retirees choose strategies emphasizing conservative returns to protect their capital against market volatility.

Both moves have their merits, because they promote a meddle-free, risk-averse approach to savings.

But young or old, it’s still prudent to keep a sharp eye on your investments and income flow, and to stay atop any government rule changes or other situations that could change how much you receive (along with any new taxes you may owe) in retirement.

A “set it and forget it” mindset may keep you in the market, but don’t completely check out.

Stay healthy and active

Hitting the gym regularly now? Great. Keep it up, because paying attention to your health now can pay off in retirement, quite literally.

While seniors can take advantage of fitness discounts, like the Silver Sneaker program and other breaks, staying fit can offer long-term security against increasingly steep medical and health expenses.

Emulating seniors and their active routines will help avoid some of the costly medical scenarios that contribute to the estimated $315,000 in medical expenses older Americans can expect to spend in retirement. Walking, strength training and regular mobility exercises are key to longevity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Learn new tricks

Picking up a hobby or learning a new skill is not only fun but keeps your mind sharp and actively engaged. The mental exercise and problem-solving required to learn guitar or take up painting is rewarding and can slow cognitive decline.

Consider doubling the benefit by combining exercise and continuous learning through things like tennis lessons or ballroom dancing.

Keep up your social network

Research shows retirees report higher levels of happiness when their social engagement increases, while similar studies found isolation has links to heart disease, stroke and dementia.

Loneliness can exacerbate inactivity and lead many older adults to pull back from the activities that made them vibrant in their earlier years, raising the risk for rapid health declines as we age.

Even before you retire, think about the ways you’ll find stimulation, purpose and community in your later years. You may want to join a club or get involved in volunteer work so that when your career ends, you already know what you’d like to fill your time.

And most importantly, maintain your connections with family and friends, which as the research shows, will keep you happy and reduce your stress. But you probably didn’t need Gallup to tell you that.

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Chris Clark Freelance Contributor

Chris Clark is freelance contributor with MoneyWise, based in Kansas City, Mo. He has written for numerous publications and spent 18 years as a reporter and editor with The Associated Press.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.