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Retirement's 'Golden Trinity': Health, Lifestyle, Budget

Underlying our retirement search is the golden trinity we have to consider: our health, our desired lifestyle, and our budget. This trio is symbiotic and if one goes awry, it becomes a poison pill for the other two.
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I have no desire to live with my children. Neither do most of my boomer pals.

Having spent our adult years roaming the country as standard-bearers of the new mobile society -- changing jobs, buying three or four homes over the years, choosing the weather as the basis for putting down roots -- we're not likely to be near our children anyway.

For the most part, we tossed aside the idea of living and dying in the same town, the same house, with our children close by, and our aging relatives taking up the guest rooms.

So traveling to see our children and grandchildren is a given for most boomers. For our aging parents, if we still have them, assisted living and nursing homes have become the accepted paths. We maintain our independence.

As a result of our choices we find ourselves, the cusp boomers in our late 50s to mid-60s, on the prowl for new and creative ways to live in retirement. Fortunately, we have options. And if we don't like what we see, I suspect we'll create what we want. I know that sounds arrogant, but it's true, given our track record.

Underlying our search is the golden trinity we have to consider: our health, our desired lifestyle, and our budget. This trio is symbiotic and if one goes awry, it becomes a poison pill for the other two.

The most powerful retirement spoiler is our health. Or is it our budget? I think it's our health. Without the ability to get out of bed every morning, breathe fully, walk easily, eat and digest food well, and have a healthy mind that says life is full of possibilities, we are sunk.

Our determined self-care in owning our good health becomes increasingly necessary in the face of stark statistics: Every single day since January 1, 2011, and for the next 18 years, we will see 10,000 boomers reaching the age of 65. Every single day. I shiver when I see that number. It's a staggering reality with implications wide and deep. So we need to take care of ourselves.

We've known for decades what to do for good health: eat well, exercise regularly, stay light on the scale, pray or meditate, keep our minds busy with good work, help others and love strangers, friends and family. Now I have to add: take that little blood pressure pill, monitor the cholesterol, drink milk, get 15 minutes of sunshine, accept reality and be intentional about being grateful.

The second critical aspect of our retirement involves the state of our finances. What can we afford to do? We've all read the disconcerting stories about investment portfolios devastated after 9/11 and again by the market collapse in 2008. Even as I write this, banks are advertising rates of 1 percent or 1.24 percent for CDs, and an insulting 0.24 percent for savings accounts. How they sleep at night is totally beyond me. Having been bailed out by us, they now hold us captive in investment purgatory, giving us little or no prospect of safely building our assets at this time of life, so that we may continue to take care of ourselves.

As a result, even conscientious retirement savers find themselves knee-deep in mud, trying to stretch the corpus of money to add to Social Security checks as they look forward to the prospect of a long life. It's hard to imagine what will happen to those who, for all the reasons life can hand us, couldn't or didn't save money for retirement. The government tells us there are millions of those unprepared boomers.

All this leads to careful lifestyle choices. For many the golf course community is out of the question now. Instead a condo or small home near a good public course may be the way to go. For others the all-inclusive 55-plus Active Lifestyle communities may be an appealing choice, combining shared facilities and services with smaller and more affordable homes. According to, we now have 4,559 of those communities around the country, at least one in every state.

Cohousing choices, the exciting alternative housing/aging concept of Tim Carpenter in his EngAGE college model communities (see Huffington Post,, and living together with friends in shared spaces are all retirement lifestyle choices boomers will need to consider.

Fortunately, we do have evidence that cusp boomers are choosing to live more simply. A 2011 survey of 1,300 Caldwell-Banker agents who serve mostly older boomers found that only 6 percent of those boomers wanted a bigger home; 80 percent of them wanted to sell or trade to a smaller home; only 22 percent wanted vacation properties, and 47 percent of the agents reported the older boomers were not interested in single family homes at all. They were looking for apartments to buy or rent, or condos.

In the end, as we take our stage bows and trail off into retirement, our music will change. I suspect we'll still hit some high notes as we adjust to new lives. But the lyrics definitely won't be familiar.

"Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" will be replaced with "lights out, take your meds, and what time's Canasta tomorrow?"

All in a space we'll call cozy.

For five ways to live simply, check out the slideshow below.

Ways To Live More Simply