I am a huge believer that physical fitness, both exercising and diet, play huge roles in retirement planning. The quality of life issues that going with being fit or otherwise healthy are obvious so I will focus on the financial aspect. A few years ago Fidelity published a paper that has become the benchmark for expected healthcare costs in retirement. It has inched up some since the paper was first published but I believe it now stands that a couple retiring today at 65 should expect to spend about $275,000 on healthcare needs during their retirement. Spread out over 25 years it isn't so onerous but would still be the largest expected expense unless the house has not been paid off by retirement.
It is quite feasible for people in their 60's, and into their 70's (hopefully older) to have very little in the way of medical expenses; just the $150-ish medicare expense and a prescription or two. Where some prescriptions are inexpensive, a healthy scenario for young retirees could mean spending $200/mo instead of $1145/mo (the $275,000 assumes 20 years). I meet people all the time here in Prescott in their 60's with few to no prescriptions so it is plausible.
Obviously we help our chances here with fitness and dietary choices. Someone posted this article on Facebook that explains the importance of not being sedentary, getting plenty of vitamin D (cheese is a good, low/no carb source for vitamin D), getting a full night's sleep, having an exercise routine that includes resistance training and cardio and figuring out how to enjoy your job.
In a related note, Jason Zweig blogged a long list of resolutions including the need to get outdoors more.The psychic benefits of being outdoors is widely chronicled and also contributes to what I think of as successful aging.
We are seeing more and more about the ill effects of sitting all day even for someone who exercises. Even basic movement for a couple of minutes throughout the day can help mitigate this threat but not as a substitute for exercising, more like in addition to exercising. Cardio of course varies your heart rate and offers plenty of fitness benefits but the idea behind continuing to do some form of resistance training is that starting in our late twenties we begin to naturally lose muscle mass. If nothing else, a goal could be to simply stay ahead of deflation. Lifting weights though increases blood flow in the body which has many benefits related to joint health, not just muscle mass. Stretching is also critical, I need to be better about this, but maintaining/improving flexibility it very important.
While most people know they should eat less sugar, I didn't realize how important it is and I didn't realize that carbs are sugar. It is a tough one to wrap your head around but bread, breakfast cereal, rice, potatoes and pasta have a lot of carbs and carbs are sugar. A bowl of Trader Joe's Raisin Bran has more carbs than Lucky Charms (about 33 to 22) and again carbs are sugar. When I clued into this last spring and cut my carb count dramatically, I lost 25 lbs that I didn't know I needed to lose. I didn't set out trying to lose weight, I just wanted to take in less sugar and carbs are sugar.
As I researched further, I learned that all the stuff that we thought is bad about eating fatty foods, actually pertains to carbs, not fatty foods. Do the research yourself and don't be afraid to consult a professional.
I would add a few other things to the list. First is to have varied interests. My day job obviously is working in the stock market but anyone who's been reading my content for a while knows of my deep involvement as a volunteer firefighter. I have 15 years in and have been the chief of our department for six years. Focusing on different things helps the brain stay healthy and the type of problem solving required in firefighting can crossover to help with problem solving for my day job. My firefighting also addresses volunteerism which I also believe is very important to do.
Do something artistic every day. I don't remember where I got that one from but I have become increasingly interested in photography and try to post something every day. All of the pictures on my posts here at TheMaven are ones that I have taken. As I understand it, creative pursuits exercise a different part of the brain. Finally, get a dog. If you have a dog, then you already know. If you don't have a dog, it won't take very long on the internet to learn why.
By delaying when you need to start really forking out for medical expenses can help bail out a retirement plan that might be borderline for being successful. The reality is that while $500,000 or $600,000 might sound like a lot for retirement, using the 4% rule for withdrawals (4% widely accepted as being the basic strategy for sustainability), that amount will only generate $20,000-$24,000 which combined with other income source can get the job done but a life saving, uncovered medical procedure might cost $100,000-$150,000 and blow up that scenario. Would you spend a quarter of your nest egg to save your life? I sure as hell would and being able to delay regular medical expenses increases the chances for a better outcome in the face of something very expensive when you're 75 or 80.