Four areas to invest in today for your well-being in twilight years
I am back to my favourite topic after a short break; preparing for the reality of aging. I write particularly for those entering or are in their early 6th floor. To you, the next ten years are probably the best.
Your productivity is at its optimum. You are energetic. Your health is largely unaffected by the years.
Your expenditures have lessened after years of child-rearing, which hopefully you have now exited from.
Once you enter the 7th floor, the body will start sending messages that you need to start slowing down. In the 80s decade and thereafter, the body will itself slow you down.
During this easier decade, four Cs require reflecting on and investing in if one is to make the later years less tortuous.
These are cash, community, care, and a calling. That you will need cash is self-evident. Once your days of active earning are over, the investments you have made over the years take over.
The challenge for most of us is that we have invested in assets that do not easily convert to cash. We have plots and farms and lovely houses we reside in. The result is that we will be asset-rich but cash-poor.
In my years as an estate planning lawyer, I have come across many asset-wealthy clients struggling with basic needs as they tried to sell some valued assets.
Unfortunately, one is not in charge of the market, and medical or other expenses cannot be told to wait as some sale goes through the motions.
We have always been advised to diversify our investments, but I want to suggest additional counsel; whatever you invest in, ensure a significant part of those assets is easily cash convertible and the cash is aligned to what you would need to finance a reasonable living.
The next need is community. I have watched many people age and get very lonely. When we are up and about, we attract people and have vibrant relationships.
Many of these are related to career or other social acquittances with people we never relate to beyond the occasions.
In particular, we men do not invest in close friends that last beyond the projects. Even at home, our spouses are just technical, we relate around children and ventures.
It is no wonder that many husbands have been left at home for months, nay years, as wives go to America to “greet the grandchildren”. Invest in friends, including spouses, for this will be your valued community in the years when you are not the social asset you used to be.
Most importantly too, work out how that community will engage with you effectively in the later years. In our parents’ generation, many retreated to the village where they were welcomed into the village community. That option is not available for many of us.
The third need is care. This is related to the first two. If you have cash, you can buy care.
Unfortunately, purchased care can sometimes be brutal, unless there is monitoring. I am aware of many old parents who are ill-treated by caregivers and who never complain out of fear of consequences.
A story was recently shared in media of octogenarians being “disciplined” regularly at an old people’s home. Of course, if you have a community, some of these concerns are resolved as the community becomes both a care giver and a monitoring organ.
Finally, one needs a calling as they age. The years you have lived have equipped you with many skills and capacities that can be of value to society. The later years will be most fulfilled if those skills are directed to something you enjoy giving your energies to before you depart this earth.
Start planning for that option early enough so that these years will not be a strain but an exciting season as you give of yourself for the benefit of others.
I restate these issues knowing that for many of us, old age seems distant and remote. But it creeps on you. It arrives without warning. Plan early enough to make the later days even more fulfilling than the early years.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya