Investing in ourselves doesn’t need to involve money. In fact, many of the best retirement investments do not involve greenbacks at all. Instead, they are investments that use our time to the fullest, allow us to spend precious moments with the people we love, enable us to focus on those things that make us happy.
Investments in ourselves are more important than our finances — they are much more primal, touching on our most basic human needs of emotion, happiness and a feeling that we belong.
Here are 10 awesome investments for retirement that don’t involve stocks, bonds, mutual funds, savings accounts or any other financial product.
1: Spend Money to Save Time
Scientific research and common sense suggest that time is a hotter commodity than money. While money comes and goes, time just goes. It’s fleeting, and we tend to feel the passage of time more than we do the passage of money.
In fact, a study from the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School has found that spending money to buy time is linked to increased happiness and greater life satisfaction.
For example, you could begrudgingly spend several hours a week mowing your own lawn and maintaining the landscape around your house. Or, you could pay a landscaping crew whose job it is to make a maximum impact as quickly as possible.
Buying extra time adds additional productive hours to our day. This time can be used to do anything, from catching up on the news, to managing a small business or spending time with your family or friends. In other words, time well spent.
Buying time is an investment in ourselves.
2: Invest in Friendships
At virtually any age, our friendships with other people are a huge component of our happiness. As living organic creatures, we naturally crave human companionship. It has been bred into us for centuries – isolation kills us. Friendships make us stronger and healthier people.
In a 2017 study, researcher William Chopik found that “people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than those who didn’t.” The study also found that the older participants got, the more meaningful and influential friendships became in their lives.
Other research has found that loneliness is actually as dangerous for your health as smoking and stress.
Friendships give us a reason to get up in the morning. To meet at the local coffee shop. To talk and learn. To socialize. Friendships are a crucial part of making us well-rounded and productive individuals.
3: Focus on Your Future
There is wisdom in living in the moment. But, there’s also wisdom in thinking ahead and in planning for where life might take us in five or ten years. Our future plans not only give us purpose, but they also provide us with something to look forward to; a light at the end of the tunnel.
As we plan, we focus on our strengths as individuals and consciously think about our hopes and dreams. Remember that our future selves will one day become our present selves. Thinking ahead helps to ensure that we will like the people that we become. And, it puts into motion small habits and activities that we can do now to help ensure we reach our future goals. These goals might include saving money or practicing a skill.
Or, moving into our dream house by the ocean. Without an eye to our future, it’s tough to know what we should be doing today.
Explore interesting ways to imagine your future.
4: Set and Follow Priorities
Setting priorities can help you alleviate stress and insure that you get what you really want. Sure, sometimes you might “feel like you want it all and you want it right now,” but that is not usually realistic — especially in retirement when you are dealing with a limited set of resources to last the rest of your life.
Priorities keep us focused on meaningful elements in our lives and help to ensure that the time we spend each and every day is efficient.
It is especially important for you to think about how you want to spend your time. If your family is your priority, make sure your lifestyle reflects this. Do you live near family? Do you communicate with them on a regular basis? (Try texting to keep up with the grand kids!) How else can you foster close relationships?
Of course, going hand in hand with prioritizing how you spend your time, is also setting priorities for your finances — how you spend money. Make trade offs like retiring early but spending less each month. Try different scenarios in a retirement calculator.
5: Look After Your Health
Staying healthy not only keeps us looking and feeling better, but it helps stave off expensive and painful illnesses throughout life. Fitness and exercise routines keep us active and energetic.
In fact, a study published by the New York Times said that if we work out regularly, we’ll save around $2,500 a year. In this case, “regularly” meant working out moderately for about 30 minutes, five times a week. “Those numbers included annual savings of about $400 on prescription medicines and far fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations for people who regularly exercised.”
Added up, costs associated with living a sedentary lifestyle are enormous. “The study concluded that inactivity costs the world economy almost $68 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.” The United States accounts for over a third of that – $28 billion.
To feel more productive and energetic, not to mention save a couple thousand dollars every year, consider routine exercise to be an investment in YOU.
6: Have a Purpose
Retirement is no fun if you’re without anything that makes you feel alive. A purpose not only gives us direction, but it also provides us with an incredible sense of accomplishment and confidence. Like our daily schedules at work, purpose helps us to tick the boxes in life, steadily heading in a healthy and deliberate direction that fills our lives with happiness.
Having a purpose also prevents us from slipping into depression, a phenomenon that plagues too many people in the world. When we get depressed, refocusing on our purpose rejuvenates us and gives us renewed hope and strength and a reason to grow.
7: Celebrate Small Victories
Setting goals and celebrating when those goals have been accomplished is a huge key to success.
However, celebrating small victories along the way is critically important to achieving your bigger goals. Teresa Amabile, Director of Research at Harvard Business School, conducts research that shows that tracking small achievements enhances motivation to keep going.
While your big goals can take weeks, months and years to achieve, celebrating a daily accomplishment can give you the motivation — a little jolt of energy — to keep going toward your big dreams. Celebrations give a reason to smile and, yes, maybe even dance or toast. They also help drive momentum and build confidence deep within us along the way.
8. Develop Gratitude
Things are not going to get easier as we get older. It is therefore that much more important that we are able to see the bright side of things and be grateful for whatever it is we have and not focus on what we don’t have.
Research on gratitude has found that it increases your well being. In one study, participants who wrote about what they are grateful for each day were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, says that gratitude has a positive impact on a wide range of mental and physical systems, including: mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), reproductive hormones (testosterone), social bonding hormones (oxytocin), cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine), inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines), stress hormones (cortisol), cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Learn about ways to increase gratitude.
9. Foster a Sense of Meaning in Your Life
Some people call it religion. Others refer to spirituality. Many psychologists refer to it as meaning.
Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” says: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Psychologists say that an important metric of well being in older people is how they feel about their lives. Can you feel good about the life you led? Can you find meaning in the choices you made and continue to make?
One of the most celebrated poems of all time is “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats. This poem celebrates the idea that having meaning in your life can sustain you.
Explore 3 ways to find meaning.
10. Create and Maintain a Retirement Plan
Focusing on your future is important and, for people near or of retirement age, the best retirement investment is creating and maintaining a detailed retirement plan.
Retirement planning goes way beyond savings and investments. A good retirement plan takes into account where you live, how much you spend, how you spend your time and so much more.
Use a great retirement planning calculator to keep your plans up to date.
Check off #10 on the list:
Update your retirement plan
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