Living Longer, Healthier, and Happier

By Cicily Maton, CFP®

There are roughly 75 million baby boomers living in the United States. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, millennials actually outnumber baby boomers (83.1 million) and now represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population. That explains why much of the research on longevity is being funded by companies who are trying to figure out how to make money from the growing numbers of us who want and need new services, products, and facilities tailored just for us.

Just look around you. You don’t need to read a bunch of statistics to recognize that we are all living longer. Glance at any crowd and you realize that not all of us are living healthier and happier.

Most of the focus on increasing longevity is on the latter part of our lifespans. In reality, longevity is having a major impact on every age group and every cycle of life throughout society and the world. Seemingly, all of the research on people approaching retirement (including those in their “go-go, slow-go, and the no-go” years) promises to provide us with insights into how to be healthier and happier.

Masterpiece Living®, an organization that promotes successful aging, has these Ten Tips for Successful Aging:

  1. Use it or Lose it
  2. Keep Moving
  3. Challenge Your Mind
  4. Stay Connected
  5. Lower Your Risks
  6. Never Act Your Age
  7. Wherever You Are…Be There
  8. Find Your Purpose
  9. Have Children in Your Life
  10. Laugh

Notice that having an impressive social media following and accumulating a lot of money are not on the list. While not having enough money can deprive us of living our “dream” life, the research seems to indicate that having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness or better health. Of course, no one can deny having enough helps.

I like this list. But tip number 5 “Lower Your Risks” triggered further thoughts. Does that mean don’t climb really high mountains, or don’t go skydiving, or don’t fly in small airplanes? Or does it mean don’t smoke, or don’t eat desert first, or don’t drive 100 miles per hour? Or does it mean exercise every day and eat healthy meals? It seems like if we followed most of those nine other tips, that would lower our risks.

Naturally, there are also numerous tips on how to achieve goals or make changes in our lives. First, set a goal or an intention. Second, write it down. Third, tell everyone you know. Fourth, enlist a friend to do it with you. Fifth, set a deadline. Sixth, reward yourself after achieving even a small part of your goal. Seventh, don’t beat yourself up if your slip up or miss a deadline.

I have a suggestion about all these great tips we are getting from people we don’t really know. I don’t need research to tell me that most of us will not be following all of these tips. (Research does back me up; we humans don’t necessarily do something just because it is good for us). Following some of these tips will be easy. Concentrate on the easy ones. If you chose only one, let it be number 10.

When I was much younger, I went through a divorce. After that experience, I announced that if I ever married again my partner would have to be tall, rich, a good dancer, and possess a great sense of humor. Well, I did fall in love and marry again. Is he tall? No. Is he rich? No. Is he a good dancer? Not really. But he has a terrific sense of humor. One out of four isn’t bad! You know?

Which just goes to prove that we think we know what will make us happy—when in reality we don’t. We often find happiness where we least expect it. Perhaps living longer is simply a blessing. Staying healthy might be a matter of having the right genes, and have little to do with how often (or if!) we work out. I am not sure; I work out anyway. And being happier? In my humble opinion, love has a lot to do with it and having a good sense of humor helps immensely.


Cicly MatonCicily Maton, CFP® is a Financial Planner in the Chicago office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm.

Please email her at: cicily@theplanningcenter.com.

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