8,000 Days – Longevity & Impact on Our Future

Retirement is seen as an endpoint by many. Preparation and planning is critical for a successful retirement lifestyle, but is “retirement” the goal? Maybe there are changes ahead in remaining actively employed, where you may live, and with whom you spend your time with.

Longevity is impacting what is retirement and the choices people make in this stage of life. Joseph Coughlin, Director of MIT’s AgeLab, has written extensively on the subject. He’s the author of the book, The Longevity Economy, along with numerous articles on the subject. He has calculated that a person’s lifespan can be broken down into segments of 8,000 days each. Birth to College at age 22 can come to about 8,000 days. Then, young adulthood into midlife represents another 8,000 days. Midlife to retirement age of 66 is 8,000 days. Beyond that in the “Exploration” time period is an additional 8,000 days. Coughlin writes that the first three segments contain reasonably clear storylines for what’s to come. It is the exploring component which has people wondering.

Instead of thinking about retirement as single time period, consider that there are four phases of retirement. Would your time be filled with the same activities on Day 100 as on Day 4,000? Breaking it down into phases can help create foresight and envision what’s to come.

First is the Honeymoon Phase, next is the Big Decision Phase; third is the Navigating Longevity Phase, and, fourth is the Solo Journey Phase. How you see yourself moving through these phases will certainly vary from someone else’s path, but some key components will likely be the same.

The Honeymoon Phase is generally a shift from full-time work. New interests and hobbies, along with travel fill this initial period. There may also be needs to support both adult children and aging parents, hence this segment referred to as the “Sandwich Generation”.

The Big Decision Phase may contain more leisure time, but key items will need to be addressed. At this phase housing and cash flow strategies will take precedence. Housing can entail staying in the family house, making adjustments to accommodate physical needs, or downsizing. If relocation is planned, then where to move is a prime factor. Family in other cities may be the major criteria or proximity to cultural attractions and services may be the essential decision drivers. A plan also needs to be formulated for the cash flow funding this phase. Will it be primarily Social Security benefits or a pension? What about retirement savings from qualified plans, such as IRAs, or other assets?

The next phase that covers longevity will look at plans for care from allied professionals and family. Discussions with trusted people will help the preparations for this time period.

The Solo Journey may impact a person’s life. There are numerous resources available to people in this phase. That may lead to the individual becoming a mentor that leads to embracing a new future. Organizations in the community also offer chances to get involved in volunteer roles. Managing new tasks previously handled by a spouse or partner can steer the individual to new experiences and personal growth.

As you see, considering this segment of a lifespan as uniform will not allow someone to make the most of it. Understanding the 8,000 days and its phases ensures that realistic strategies are employed rather than allowing chance to intervene where controllable elements could have been addressed.