Jill Steinberg, Ph.D. discusses how to make the retirement experience successful and purposeful. This is not a financial discussion, but rather a discussion of how to prepare yourself for a happy and fulfilling retirement.
Jill Steinberg, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor at SJSU, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Salzburg Fellow, and author and Founder of MyRetirementWorks.com.
She received her undergraduate degree from Boston University in 1972 and doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Ohio State University in 1978. She teaches classes and has presented her research on Successful Retirement to universities including B.U., Google and other professional organizations.
Her research, "Successful Retirement: From Retiring to Rewiring" was published this year in: The Aging Consumer: Perspectives from Psychology and Marketing, 2nd edition, Eds: Drolet and Yoon (Routledge, 2021). Additionally, she has been working with the University of Michigan Ross Business School since the beginning of COVID.
Hosted by the Pre-Retirement and Early Retirement Life Stage chapters. Recorded on November 10, 2021.
Chat from the recorded meeting can be accessed here.
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Bogleheads® Chapter Series – Jill Steinberg - Successful Retirement: From Retiring to Rewiring
Carol: Welcome to the Bogleheads Chapter Series. This episode was jointly hosted by the Pre and Early Retirement and Retired Life Stage Chapters and recorded on November 10, 2021. It features Jill Steinberg Phd, a licensed clinical psychologist and emeritus professor at San Jose State University. Her topic is titled Successful Retirement: From Retiring To Rewiring, and addresses non-financial aspects of retirement. Bogleheads are investors who follow John Bogle's investing philosophy for attaining financial independence. This recording is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice.
It is my pleasure to introduce tonight's speaker, Jill Steinberg Phd. Jill is an emeritus professor at San Jose State University and a licensed clinical psychologist. She has published research, taught classes, and given presentations on successful retirement to universities and professional organizations.
Our interviewer tonight is Gouri, who is one of the co-coordinators of the Bogleheads Starting Out Life Stage Chapter and also the coordinator of the New York City Boglehead Chapter. So Gouri, I think we're ready to turn it over to you.
Gouri: Fantastic. Thanks so much Carol, and thanks to the broader team for helping set this up. It's really phenomenal how the Bogleheads community helps so many others in the community within itself. and that's a great segue to have Jill here. It's such an honor and privilege. Your work is, I think, so beyond the normal boglehead theme that I think this audience will get a lot out of what you're about to cover. So many questions were submitted via the RSVPs. So I'm going to start, as Carol mentioned, with how they were chosen.
The first question is, I'm ten months retired and doing what I've always wanted, which is reading more and spending all my time with my wonderful wife. We're introverts and don't get out much. Should I expect to need a purpose at some point? And the “purpose” is in quotes.
Jill Steinberg: Okay so if you'll let me, great. I’d like to just answer this first question a little bit longer so the audience can get an idea of the kind of information I know and how I think about a question. And I'm going to-- you'll see I don't give advice. I give in the research information that addresses the question. So that the person can be as informed as they can be in thinking through decisions they want to make. And because I don't know any of you. If I knew you and knew you well, then I feel like I could tailor my information more to you. So maybe that'll happen later, but for right now let me address it.
So it sounds like not a very complicated question. It was very clear and thoughtful, to the point. And it's actually very complicated. So I’m going to tell you some of the dimensions that I look at when I think about it. So the person's been retired and happily at home reading. Will they need a purpose?
First of all, let me congratulate them on the fact that they're home and they have a partner that they like being with. That's remarkable, and if you look at the literature, the longest term study on happiness is the Harvard study. The thing that came out there, so it's over 80 years now they've been following people, and eventually they followed the wives at first. They didn't-- and they were following heterosexual people, or that's how they identified anyway--having a partner that you feel good about, they use marriage, I use partner, because that's too limited anyway, having a life partner that you feel good about is one of the best predictors of happiness.
So congratulations on that and congratulations that you created the money that you can have this experience. Or the resources. It is a privilege and amazing that some of us can do that. So in terms of purpose, what I want to say to you is there is a huge literature on the importance of purpose in someone's life. In terms of their mental health, their physical health, the literature says that you can predict better about how happy or how healthy a person is going to be using purpose, more than if they're abusing alcohol, they're abusing cigarettes, how stressed they are. That's how important it is. It's a huge literature.
So given I don't know you, for all I know you're living your purpose, reading, learning, being with your wife might be how you identify purpose. It can come in many forms, so I'm going to just tell you a couple other things that come up in my mind. So there's a huge literature throughout life about social connection. So you have your partner, and you'll see later, depending--something that came up to me that was very interesting in the literature is how different things can be for men and women in retirement. But anyway men tend not to be as good at forming relationships as women, and there's a huge literature that that's important.
And I want to--oh just two things, the literature I'm going to tell you about is pre-covid, so even though I'm up to date with the covid statistics, this wasn't so much what's covered in covid. But if you want to know about that, and I'll just give you the punchline to that, I just wrote an article. People over 60 have been doing the best during covid in terms of mental well-being.
So we figure out how to have our connections, our purpose. Let me see if there's something else I was thinking about. Oh, the other thing i wanted to tell you.The research says that usually when people start retiring there's kind of this honeymoon phase. They're so happy to have time to think they're free to do what they want, or away from a boss they didn't like. Whatever it is, they're so happy that most people do well in the beginning and then there's a major dip. The literature does not talk about when this happens, so I can tell you experientially what I've observed, but the literature is consistent. Usually people are really glad, then there's an absolute major dip.
When people wake up to this, all there is, you know I've already gone to every restaurant, or I've traveled everywhere. Now they wake up to that and then it usually stabilizes. So most people are at least as happy in retirement as they were before. But about 25% of people have trouble adjusting and 10% at least just can't be happy. They have not figured it out. So is that good, did I do it?
Gouri: Yeah that one. I think there's a lot of insight there. And it almost implies one shouldn't wait until retirement to start exploring happiness,right. One should totally, like there's so much research already and it's accessible, digestible.It's not just academic. I mean the self-help section is kind of infinite. So yeah, that was great, and I think it's a great segue into our next question. which is How far in advance of retirement is it helpful to start shifting to a retirement mindset, with regard to goals, purpose etc. And the question asker says I realize this will be highly individual but hearing what's typical would be a helpful reference point. In terms of reference point, the reference here is financial. I know that you are responsible, your suggestions won't be financial necessarily, but the reference point they're citing is akin to when pre-retirees typically start shifting from equity to bonds, or more conservative shifting ratio on the financial side.
Jill Steinberg: Would it be okay with you if I answered it in turn. Instead of financial, if I answer it about thinking about your life when you should start planning that way.
Gouri: Okay, yeah.
Jill Steinberg: And let me also say I was kind of stunned and amazed at how informed people are in your group. It's really amazing that you're just way ahead of most people thinking about it. So in terms of planning there is again no definite answer. But I'm going to give you an example of somebody, two people, to illustrate it.
One person was a university professor. She said she started ten years in advance of everything. We, the people that I'm relaying information, would say they're having a successful retirement and they were able to do it financially. So she would say it took her at least ten years in advance.
I want to tell you about Arthur. When I use names, they're people's real names and they've all given me permission, from the hundreds of people I’ve interviewed. Anyway, Arthur retired from Google when he was 47, and I guess that's about eight years ago when I first interviewed him. And when he interviewed when he retired, you know he was responsible largely as one of the main people. He was an early googler, and he was responsible for text messaging. So he had the opportunity, should I retire or not. He wasn't planning on it. He didn't grow up wealthy. But people--two things made him want to retire--one is people said to him, if you have the chance, if you have young children, to spend time with them, do it. And that he and his wife, who also was professional, They both decided to do it.
And in terms of planning, he knew this woman who was 103 years old, who retired when she was 50, and she told him you better start planning in advance. You do not want to wake up one day and kind of jump off a cliff. People don't like to be adrift, it's a very bad feeling. Plan in advance. And he listened to this woman. And what he did, he started thinking about it years in advance before he retired. But two years in advance he started getting very serious about his planning and he started writing down three categories. One is projects. He wanted to work on goals he wanted to achieve. And his description of what he wanted a typical day to look like. And he knew he better be concrete and specific and building a routine. He had had a life that had a major schedule always, and he didn't want to all of a sudden have no schedule. So that helped him.
And now I want to tell you about somebody else, Leslie. Leslie was a very big mental health in the state of California, and by trying to retire she took a less huge position, but still very big. And she planned with her husband all the things they were going to do. So it was very good planning.
But shortly before she retired her husband died. And then her dog died. And what she's told me, and this woman is amazing. I only met her by interviewing her, and have spoken to her many times. She actually can enjoy life. And it was such a shock. They were a tight couple that didn't really have other friends. So they didn't do that, and all of a sudden she was left by herself. What do you do? But what she did, she shifted her planning from instead of thinking ahead months or days or years, she now plans her days based on what she called elements. Things that are important to her.
I would use the word, maybe values. What do you want to have happen in your day? And she uses these elements to determine how she's going to do her day. Physical activity, social connection, meditation, creativity. And for her that could be cooking, or writing, or a musical activity and service to others. And if you wanted to ever know more specifically, I can tell you what she does because it follows from her work. But as this person who ran mental health in the state, she also started meditating many years before. So in retirement one of the things she does is teaches other people meditation. From people living in old age homes to lawyers to people she mentors. So I don't have an exact answer for planning but that gives you an idea because it's not in the literature.
And I will tell you what I know about--well I'll tell you right now terms of planning the literature is very clear again. One of the most important things if you want to have a successful retirement is to plan and people who plan figure out not just their money how it's going to be with their time because that's a really big one. Usually when people plan, they plan as if it's going to be a weekend,a long weekend. Yay I have free time. Those are the planners, they're not good planners. But the people are like, oh I'll figure it out. I've always wanted to do something. It just doesn't go that way. You could have up to 20 years of retirement. So that's a long time.
And by the way retirement now is more an evolving process. Where we used to say it was an oxymoron that people worked during retirement now it's becoming more the new normal and oftentimes it's defined purpose. But in terms of planning, you ask what's typical. If you look at the literature from Social Security about 22% of people it's been six months before they retire dealing with it. Another 22% up to a year. The research has 38% of people don't plan at all. And most people are sorry when they retire that they didn't plan.
The other thing is people plan for their own happiness but if you look at the literature on behavioral economics people can't predict well what will make them happy. For example with retirement 41% of people retire earlier than they said they were ever going to retire. So I could give you more of those statistics, but I hope that gives the person an idea of how I think about planning.
And my research found something new that got published, that was not in the literature. Planning is very important, and what I found and Arthur illustrated. Implement things before you retire. In other words, if you think you might want to take a class, or you might want to get an animal, or whatever it is you want to do, try something, it doesn't matter whether that's what you like or not, it's the act of being actively engaged and trying to figure it out. You want to start trying that because, like I said, it's evolving. You're going to change. So okay
Gouri: Yeah. Well thanks Jill. That makes perfect sense. So that you're not newly testing something in retirement. So that it's not the first time to adjust and make these kind of tweaks to make it work. You've already tested it, perhaps decades before, at least years before. So that you're ready and you know what works or what doesn't work, right. So that you enter retirement with more familiarity. I think that's a great segue to our next question. You mentioned the importance of a few things, planning and community specifically. So this question is in terms of building community and friendships in the real world. So many retirees seem to cling to Zoom. There simply seems to be fewer people available to build friendships with than I planned. Any suggestions?
JIll Steinberg: First of all I want to tell you these questions are exactly right on. You are bringing up the real issues that people live with in retirement so I’m going to say a big theory name, Carstensen is the person and so much literature on aging retirement, successful this and that, they quote Carstensen. And she has this theory called socio-emotional selectivity theory. And what she says in her theory, and there's a lot of research to support it, is that as people get older their time frame shifts. We shift to how much time we have left and we shift to closer relationships, and don't want to make new friendships. So that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but the questioner is exactly right, it's tough. People don't want to do it. So they want to focus on their close relationship. So, say again was the person saying how do you do it, or should I do basically suggestions to broaden their community.
Gouri: They expected to be able to meet others and connect with others more easily but they're finding fewer people in retirement than they'd expected. And probably a comparison of Zoom. So they're finding that a lot of retirees to quote “cling to Zoom.” So I guess zoom is its own community, and then how to broaden the more typical physical community.
Jill Steinberg: Okay. I'm going to have to make up some ideas based on my life and what people have told me they've done. There isn't an abundance of research, but I'm going to tell this person something that's hard and interesting, which is I want to tell them about pets and about going solo. I don't know if you know this, but since the ‘80s there's been this phenomena of people wanting to live alone. So right now 28% of people in our country live alone. That is a more common way to live than the nuclear family. More people live alone than in a nuclear family. It's only comparable to childless couples. They're the highest family structure. And the reason I'm saying this is people that live alone, one out of three boomers live alone, one out of three retirees live alone, and people are choosing it. It's not that they want, if they had a partner to die, but if the partner dies people are choosing more to be on their own. And what that is encouraging is people that live alone are more likely to go out and be involved in their community.
So actually it was very hard for people living alone during covid because you'll see the literature on couples, good couples, it really helped people during covid. And the people living alone were very attached to their community. They're already giving and doing all these things and during covid they couldn't do it.
So why I'm bringing that up about one out of three people, they in non-covid times, and who knows what it'll be as we hopefully emerge from this, they go out and meet people and want friends and want to contribute to things. So there are people that even know the theory is we want to stay with whom we know, and get closer, first of all, people are wanting to put time into it and there are more people available now to do it.
The other thing is for men I would say definitely don't wait for retirement. What the literature says men at retirement have a hard time making friends or keeping people that they had at work. They have not developed the social structure or the skills to have friendships, and then they rely on their partner. So heterosexual or gay, one person is relying and you'll see, if we get to that question, that's tough on a couple.
So actually I'm an introvert and I have my long-term 50-year relationship friendships. But I made some friendships during retirement. And I’m a person who goes for my interests, So I like to learn. I've gone back to the university and I'm taking courses and I’ve met people in courses. We are like-minded. And this is the same as the literature. If you're telling college students how to make friends, you try to do it based on your own interests. So say Gouri and I were in the same history class. At least we have that in common. I'm not taking a course I don't want, in the hopes to meet Gouri because I want to meet him or make friends. I'm taking things that are interesting for me. So at least I'll get that need met. And then if we meet it's possible we'll have something to talk about when we have similar interests.
And where I live we have this thing called Osher Lifelong Learners. They're over 900 members. It's national, but it's very different all over. So mine has over 900 members of people like us, and pre-covid we would meet in person. And we have over 50 interest groups. So it could be cooking, it could be speaking French, it could be social sciences, it could be investing, it could be taking hikes. I think you have nothing to lose to do something like that. It doesn't cost you anything. We pay a little bit to be members, and that just goes to college student scholarships. But they have classes. It's a very small commitment for a big payoff.
And the other way I think you might meet people and I like to try and do two things at once. So let's meet your purpose, and maybe you'll meet people. So maybe you find a way of volunteering. And that's a whole other issue. But there's something that feels valuable to you, and you go for training for that. You could maybe meet like-minded people that way. But I wouldn't wait for retirement because, as you said, it's going to be harder.
So am I--you’ve got to give me just a little feedback since I'm answering.
Gouri: Yeah. No, I think that was great. There was a lot there. I'll highlight a few things that resonated. I think with the earlier questions, as well as upcoming questions, one is you can try out different things and see what resonates with you, right. I mean you, meaning that the broader audience, so that whether it's taking classes or volunteering or meeting one's neighbors, these things have commonality by design. right. Like if you chose a class other people in that class share that interest.
And then going back to the earlier questioners. The crux of the question. If it implied feeling isolated, there may be other people who feel isolated and want to meet other people too. So that's a commonality. One doesn't need to feel alone in their isolation. That might that might sound odd but there are many other people who feel isolated who are just as easily willing and able to connect. And all it takes is like a hello, sometimes in a hallway or a pantry or a sidewalk or community space. So those are things that at least resonated with me from your response Jill. That if you try these things out before retirement you can see what worked for you. Ao that by the time you're in retirement you're more practiced in meeting others and connecting with others, and figuring out okay, I tried this community or a church or volunteering and that didn't work, but I can try this camera club, or book club, or whatever it is, It sounds like there are many options available.
Why don't we develop some of what you said with the next question. You spoke about men in retirement tendencies. Maybe if you can elaborate on that, this question is: do men or women have a different experience in retirement. And what differences are there by gender. And of course, some of this will be generalized but you have so much data and interview-based experiences. Whatever you can present counts.
Jill Steinberg: Okay. So I'll tell you this. And if you can help me remember later. It's kind of a sweet thing about pets, the importance of pets. That in the covid research I found it more than before.
Anyway, men and women. Yeah, they tend to have a very different experience. I'll start with some stuff about women. First of all women are so focused on taking care of others, and you know how women get pushed out of careers to stay home with children.For women, they don't think about retirement as well financially, and they don't plan. So women that end up as widows or single tend to have more issues, financial issues, be less wealthy than men. And that's a big issue because you need finances to make other choices. So women tend to end up economically insecure.
And women in retirement, so again these are generalizations, but you'll see it makes sense, and I can tell you the data. Women tend not to be as satisfied in retirement as men because the burdens of family life, is that we tend to keep it. So here we're not just taking care of maybe children, and some people. We're so geared towards another, taking care of children. Now we're taking care of our parents, our grandchildren, our sisters, our brothers, and it kind of goes on like that. If you look at the literature of who's taking care of who during dementia caretaker,it's the women. It doesn't stop. And women over 65 who have a partner tend to spend an hour more a day with domestic work than they ever did before. From cooking and cleaning and stuff like that. So the other thing is we women tend to be so other oriented that they continue with these responsibilities. And then we tend to volunteer more, taking care of others.
For men a bigger issue is retiring from a job that the man felt really good about makes it more likely he's going to have a hard time. So women can do better leaving their jobs. I'll say a couple more things about men, but the thing about women and jobs. For many women their jobs, if it's a good job, a good career, helps them feel good about themselves. It's outside all their domestic responsibilities. They can feel good about it, and it can limit the time that they do domestic. So a lot of times women, we don't know how to say no. And other people know to ask us, will you take care of my kid, will you drive my neighbor, will you blah blah blah. And we say yes, yes, yes. Where if we can say, I can't I'm working it's better. You'll see, even being grandparents, there's some literature that women like being grandparents better when they work than when they were retired. Not always but that was a gender issue that came up.
For men I said the issue of it's harder adjustment if they really like their jobs.It's harder having friendships. Maybe they thought they had friends at work, but they didn't necessarily meet with them outside.They're not sure what to do, but the good thing for men is they tend to, in retirement, find better purpose. And we're not sure is that because they tend to take work longer, or go back to work. And here's a male/female gender--and usually you'll see my thing says she, I try to not be so binary, but the literature is binary, it's she/ he.
So anyway if your husband is sick, woman heterosexual, one you are 50% more likely to retire. Reverse it man, your wife is sick you're 50% less likely to retire. And if you have dementia-- so we won't get too much into health issues because that could take forever--but imagine you're going down this horrible path of dementia. Most women don't get informal care at home. They don't stay at home because who's going to take care of the woman. Is it their adult child who's going to take care of the man, the wife. So that just gives you ideas of things that come up later in life in retirement that are different for men and women.
Gouri: Okay, that's great to hear because you have so much factual evidence. I think that really helps a lot of people. I'lljokingly highlight one thing you said, which is men have a harder time if they enjoyed their work. So maybe a takeaway there is guys should find a job they really dislike a few years before retiring. You touched on some things that lead into our next question, which is as a stay-at-home mom and raising the kids while my spouse worked a lot of hours. how can I transition to a new life experience where we're together 24/7. and I'll add to the question which is, need folks be together 24/7, or can you talk about the alternatives. Like volunteers. I really like friends and separate shepherds.
Jill Steinberg: Asking this question, it's so insightful. I actually hadn't realized how much problems couples could have in retirement. I thought it was going to be, you know people say oh I’m going to do this, I can't wait to retire, we're going to have all this time. It's not always like that. It's not so great in the beginning of retirement. Couples tend to have more attention, and a big reason is what this person brought up. You're used to your own space, whether it's your office or a stay-at-home person. That's their office, whether it was their kitchen, or they have NPR on, or whatever they do. People reveal to me, and then the literature supports, space is a really big issue, and people have conflict over it.
And some of the people that responded to me went to extreme lengths to get their husbands, not just involved in other things, but involved outside of the house. So remember this is pre-covid. One woman even built the word aviary, where you have birds, an outside of the egg aviary, outside of their house, to even get them out of the house.
So here's when you asked me what to do. First of all, if your partner is there now, maybe you could go read this section, not this minute. But my research that is about couples, so you both can be informed and say, “Wow, this could be difficult. We weren't thinking this way.” Here's a funny quote. When the CFO of Google retired, his name was Patrick Pichette he, upon giving his leaving notice, he said, “Tamara and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamara and I have spent so little time together, that it's really too early to tell if our marriage will in fact succeed.” So that's kind of funny tongue-in-cheek. However it's really what happens in the literature. Couples can have a really hard time in the beginning, and then, if they make it through, they're in really the best shape.
So when I think about this.If I was that woman I'd be thinking about I'm home alone now what's really important to me. Is it that I have a space I got used to. My kitchens, my own. And I know I'm saying gender things ,but these things are really true, and they do come up. I've had women say to me, more than them, you know what, I like having NPR on. I've had women say you know I have my computer to myself all day, and all of a sudden he's saying who are you writing to, what are you doing.
So if these things are important to you, that you have your own space, then think about in advance what do I not want to lose. I like, for example,maybe taking my dog for a walk by myself, or I like spending time with my friends by myself. You're going to see if your life is like the literature. The man comes in and now he's dependent on you. He's so excited to have time with you, and he doesn't have these other people. He wants to do these things with you. And by the way, people say they're going to do all these leisurely things together. I think it's over half, it's higher than over half, of couples say it. But only 24% of people do so.
Again, we don't necessarily predict how it's going to be, but I would spend some time myself and say what's really important. And before you get in that situation, try and talk to your partner about it and say this is what the literature says. What are you going to want, because people are so not concrete, either to themselves or to each other. You'll read stories where people will say we were retired. I thought we were going to move to New York city and walk around and explore New York. The other one says, retirement, I want to be home and travel abroad. So they each thought they knew what they wanted. They never talked about it ,and then they're very disappointed because now one's wanting to move, the other one's wanting to travel.
So the more you can get concrete in your head what is working for me, what would I like to see continue. Okay, maybe you say I get up when my partner goes to work. I have an hour to myself where I exercise or I call my kids or I read a book, or whatever. You don't have that if two people are in the same space. What is it? Try and think through concretely what it is. Once you're in that situation people get their feelings hurt. Oh you don't want me around .Oh is that what you're saying, or I'm annoying you. If you say it in advance people aren't in the middle of it and upset. So as much as you can, think it through,.and say, oh boy the literature, it says this could happen. What could we do to make it better for us? So does that seem helpful.
Gouri: Yeah, that's absolutely helpful and I think it aligns with a lot of the the boglehead work of building portfolios and figuring out withdrawal formulas and timing. A lot of it revolves around how you envision retirement. And so this is probably something that folks have already hopefully practiced. How do they envision retirement? And like you're saying, spouses can have very different visions of it. But as long as you talk about it in advance you're not clashing as much when the time comes.
Something else that came to mind, as you described it, just the value of time alone. So I think time alone, a personal space--and I think this doesn't come up in the typical financial conversations, right--we're focused on what our portfolio can generate and how to get there and all these things. But I don't know that enough folks are really playing out the physicality of sharing a space 24/7, or having a private space, or sharing a space that used to feel private because someone else wasn't there. So yeah, I think there was a lot of wisdom there.
I’ll just share this one comment. The comedian joked that when he goes on vacation the whole family packs into the car. And his vacation is when he closes his wife's door, the passenger side, walks around the back of the car and gets to the driver's side door. That's his vacation. Once he sits in the car and closes the door, there's no peace of mind that would typically come from vacation. So that was humorous, how he presented it.
Jill Steinberg: But I think there's a lot of truth in that.
Gouri: Similar to a lot of what you mentioned, this next question appears to be from a widowed woman. But it could apply to still married or a single woman or anyone who's transitioning from working full-time to retirement. So I'll read it as it's presented. Any suggestions for a widowed woman who's likely retiring in the next year, on adjusting to life without full-time work.
Jill Steinberg: Well gee. Again it is a hard and very insightful question. Women in heterosexual relationships tend to live longer. We can spend 15 to 20 years alone, typically. And so there's the beginning and then it keeps going. So how to plan. I think all the things we've been talking about, what are your interests, what can you do before you retire that seems like something you might want to do. So do you have a goal? Maybe you've never exercised and that's an interest and you want to see if you want, don't wait, try now. It doesn't matter if it works or not. And Iwould say friendships, which hopefully you have them, because women are better at that. If you can rely on friendships and talking to them about what you do, and if we have time tonight or another time.
I really think our best resources are each other. I can tell you the literature but there are probably other women here who have gone through this and that they can tell you, this is what I did, this worked, this didn't work, it changed. So if there are things that you thought you've wanted to learn, maybe you could go take a course at the university. Maybe you could do something, do art with a group of people. That you try it. If you don't like it, you don't have to go back the second time.
But things like our Osher Lifelong Learner, if you were here I would say definitely check it out because it's a very low commitment. All you have to do is go, and you can leave right in the middle of the meeting. It's just there's 900 of us, so we're in all different situations. And if you took like a social interest group, or when I was doing focus groups on retirement, you're bound to meet people. Then you see them again and you go, “Oh hi, I saw you.”
So whatever you've done in the rest of your life to make friends, to be involved, I would say try doing it now. There is an enormous literature for everybody about the importance of exercise. So if i could encourage you to exercise, and I want to tell you something that came out in the covid literature about pets. How much pets helped people during covid. Cats and dogs are what they wrote about, and dogs even more than cats. First of all, cat, any animal, it said it gave people an excuse. Both have somebody, something to touch, and to talk out loud.
I have not reviewed this literature but since I thought about it, I don't even know if there is a literature. I think people have a need to talk out loud. When I'm walking at the beach, I live in Santa Cruz, so I start my day unlike when I worked. When I worked I was on the bus by 6 30 a.m commuting. Now I am at the beach walking my dog. Anyway people just talk to you about random things. They just, “oh look at this.”
So I think having an animal, and what they say about dogs more than cats, dogs during covid, but this could be generalizing, give you a routine. They make you go out, where a cat does not make you have to exercise it. You don't have to with a dog, but it's preferred if you're going to get a dog. And dogs make it more likely that you might interact with other people.
So anyway if you were wanting an animal it might be a good time to start thinking about how you could get an animal. But then you might go to a class about training your animal and then there are other like-minded people. So that's I would say go with your interests.Try and find purpose in retirement. Women tend to volunteer more. When we volunteer--oh I'll tell you about men too--when we volunteer it's usually helping others. Men tend to be administrators and what men tend to like is mentoring. So widow, widower, if there's a situation where you could have ongoing mentoring of somebody that was in your field, or a child that the courts have pulled out of their home. People tend to like helping others and if it's a chance to do it.
I'd like to think more, what else a woman could do other than everything that I've said before. So maybe it'll come to me now, or maybe I could write to her another time.
Gouri: Okay, That sounds great. Well thanks for those great suggestions. There was a lot there and I think it builds on a lot of the other things you said earlier. I'll also, for folks who are commenting in the chat, there's a lot of shared wisdom there within the community. You mentioned dog walking, Jill. Someone I think jokingly said my dog walks us. And I think a lot of us who pre-retirement, just walking around your neighborhood you see certain times a day there are definitely dog walking sort of communities. You see the same people, right. The same time a day, the same kind of dog walking route. So you become friends with these people sometimes, and that becomes your community.
So again, it's practicing things well before retirement. The next question relates to what you just addressed, and I think you answered some of it. I'll read it, but to not be redundant, I think it's still worth asking. There's an aspect to it that maybe you can elaborate more on, so I'll read the question: I've been a workaholic my whole life and fear the free time will kill me. Question mark: How should I adjust?
So I think practically and emotionally you've given a lot of suggestions, and again the chat has very specific resources about volunteer groups and meetups. So how about, is there an emotional component that people need to transition to or towards, if you know their time had been occupied, and now they have maybe volunteer, community things to fill it.But is there an emotional transition as well.
Jill Steinberg: Yeah. And let me tell you something. I just read an article that just came out very recently about discretionary time. It was really interesting. It's people in business, Wharton, but it's psychological. What they're saying, you know how when you work, most people are like I don't have enough time. It was a famine of time, I feel stressed. Well then, the opposite. They want to look at if you have too much time, how is that for you. And people don't feel productive. They feel bad. People don't want to feel adrift.
So this research says the best amount of discretionary time in a day time, when you can do just what you want to do--and for me a lot of that is just reading and learning-- but it's still, it's my time that I'm wanting it. Now they say two hours a day, from zero to two. It goes up from two to five hours,it peaks. So whether you have two hours or five hours, it doesn't get better. And after five hours it goes down. So that might help the person. I don't have research that says too much free time will kill you. But like you're saying, it's not a good idea. Loneliness might kill people not having a purpose, might kill people if you look at what correlates.So what I would say for this person, if you could be thinking ahead, are there things I wanted to do. You know, what could be my purpose.
And there is a literature on how to find your purpose. And one myth is people should do what they're passionate about. Well a lot of people don't have passions and never do. And a lot of times when you start something new and you start doing well at it,it can become a passion. So try things. And the literature says people in retirement that try new things, they give it the label innovators, they are happier. So I would say for this person, very astute question. It's too many hours in a day, let alone 20 years of it.
Think concretely, like Arthur did, what would I like a day to look like. What do I want to put in there? Or as Leslie gave you an idea, think about your values, what's important to you. So you might from this, maybe you're saying I'm not even sure. I'm so geared towards working, or taking care of others, I don't even know anymore what I want. Which is unfortunately very true for many people. Many people don't reflect, they just do. I would say well Jill said it's important to have friendships, Jill said it's important to have purpose, it's important to exercise.
Maybe if you don't know what you want, you could at least take from and say literature. I'm going to start trying to fill my life with some of these things and see how it goes. And then you'll say gee I have no idea how to find a purpose or an interest. Then you'll either email me or a boglehead and say, what did you do, how did you find this there. Because you're going to see there are no right and wrong answers where it's an evolving process, and we're trying to learn from each other.
Gouri: Excellent. yeah and I think that you can overlay that to so many other aspects of life, right. Like your favorite foods, or favorite music, or favorite cities. You need to visit and sample before you really know what resonates. And what you said hits home about some people not having a passion. There's a well-known author, Cal Newport. He's written So Good They Can't Ignore You and his more famous work is probably Deep Work. And he cites as a myth, as you did, this idea of passion. And so rather than, it's almost cliche to advise people to pursue their passion in terms of career, he advises to develop something and then in becoming really good at it, you're more likely to excel at it, and it can become a passion. I'm paraphrasing, he's much more in depth about the topic. But he tries to debunk this idea of pursue your passion because that's such a-- it's a very appealing thought. That a lot of people get that advice.
So the other thing that came to mind from what you said was regret minimization. So not just how you said are there things I wanted to do, you can also frame it as what will I regret not having tried ,right. So that's one way I think this next question aligns with what you were saying which is this feeling that people feel they have more to give and it is not being utilized. So I'll read the question. How would you advise dealing with the sinking emotional feeling that by retiring all our hard-earned professional skills that are so helpful to so many people will be unused and wasted and all for naught.
Jill Steinberg: Okay let me tell you that question could make me cry. And the reason you can make me cry, it's again very astute, because it's not really just an individual issue, it's a societal issue. We are, I feel like we are some of the best resources of our country. When you look at the literature about aging,yeah our memories go down, that is in the literature, but our emotional stability goes up, our knowledge goes up, and our expertise goes up. It's clear in the literature. The literature shows older people in so many ways have more to contribute because of those factors.
But we're not being utilized well. Even though if you look at the literature about work, over 50 is the only age category that seems to be increasing. Of people working more, it's that over 50s is the biggest age group. But anyway, we do have more to give, and it's finding how could you give what would be of interest to me. Like I said, that peace the literature says people find--oh there's a word they use about when you mentor younger people, or teach younger people,and younger could be just newer in your field. Generativity that increases satisfaction.
So we're finding you'll ask people and they'll go, “Oh, I had a job my whole life that made money, but now I'm teaching, or now I’m working in a classroom. I’ve wanted to do this. I could never afford to do it. So are there things you want to do either with your mind from your career or other ways. I would say find a way to try doing them.
And I'll tell you for me personally, oh I'm going to tell you two little things, and then i'll tell you about me. There's a big literature on gratitude. So people that are more resilient and have gratitude do better. So if you could, even in your day when things are funky or you're not sure what to do, if you focus on it, you'll probably feel better. And when you look at the literature about depression or wanting to feel better--and I know that you know am I really a cognitive psychologist--so I'm a clinical psychologist but focus on cognitive behavior. Anyway, people's thoughts affect how they feel.
The one thing you can do that can up your mood quicker than anything else is be kind. Do a kindness to somebody else. That is not woo-woo literature, there's a body of literature that says being kind to others, you end up feeling better. It can change race relationships, it can do all kinds of things. But anyway, I would encourage this person to think about it. You are valued even if other people don't quite get it. Now try and figure what you could do.
And when I retired, oh I'll tell you this, it hasn't come up, but to me actually there's one thing that is consistent in the literature about whether you're going to have a successful retirement or not is whether you chose retirement or you got forced. If you were forced into retirement you're going to feel less in control, all these bad things happen. So if you can choose your retirement, when you're going to do it, how you're going to do it, it's much more likely you're going to plan and it's going to go well. You'll implement things.
But for me, if I was in the literature, you would say I chose retirement, and I would say I was somewhere in between. I got tired of bad bosses. I had an amazing job, a career being a professor. Being a clinical psychologist is so meaningful. It always was, and most of my career I had bad bosses. As the literature says, most people do not like their bosses. And at some point I just decided I wasn't doing this anymore. And I started a program at the end of my career I’m presenting internationally. It's going as well as my career ever did, and I was just tired of this having bad bosses anyway.
So I left. I already knew about me because as a university person you have nine months on, you have a break. You have--whether it's a real break or not, whether you have to prepare--I had time off, and I already learned, in the beginning, I couldn't do well with just all this time off. So I learned in advance I better figure out what I'm going to start doing.
So some of the things that I learned by reading. Fortunately I had already learned and I did, so it took me personally about two years until I got into the real swing of loving retirement. Meaning I kept experimenting. I thought, well I'm psychology, I'm learning piano in adulthood. Maybe I could help musicians do well. So I start helping people with ukulele in Canada because that's how they're anyway. All these things I did I'm getting used, but it's not working for me. It's okay, and I keep trying.
But then it took about two years for me to say to myself, “You know, I don't really know how people do retirement. I'm going to read about it because I'm a researcher. I know how to do that. I took about a year to just read about the retirement literature and aging, and how people do it. And then I start thinking, “Well, why would I just ask myself. I'm going to ask the people at this Osher Lifelong Learner, right. Where they're 900 people, and I say, I’m going to do these interviews. I'm going to do focus groups. Within 20 minutes over 200 people signed up. People want to talk about their life, for retirement.
Well then, after I interviewed so many people, I thought this is such valuable information I shouldn't just know this. Other people should know. Why shouldn't we enjoy this time of life. So it takes time. I would say don't let people tell you in their direct, or in direct ways you're not valuable. The literature tells you, I'm telling you, we are more valuable in many ways than others. Even the science and engineering.
So I presented at Google. So I was up on all the tech stuff. People in science and engineering even are working longer. The median age is going up. One out of three people in tech are over 50 and that was as of 2010. I don't have, there isn't more current than that. So even though they get pressured to get out of tech because people say your mind is, and it's quick, or to get pressured to be managers, where they want to or not, they're staying in their jobs. So a lot of this is myth. And that person, I just really hope that you could figure out what you want to do.
Now the thing about volunteering. The literature says volunteering makes people feel happier and meaningful. What the literature doesn't say, and my experiences interviewing hundreds of people, is that they want to volunteer and oftentimes they volunteer for the non-profit they've always wanted to support, and they get crappy positions. They don't get responsible positions volunteering, like they had before. People don't take advantage of them. Don't quit. Ask other people where are you getting good experiences. And they can tell you well I work for a Red Cross, I'm working for the Seymour Center. They will train you. They will use your time. So I encourage that person be persistent. Persistence works.
Gouri: That's great Jill. I want you to hold that thought. I'm just going to comment quickly on time remaining. So as we approach a quarter after the hour we'll turn it over to the group for questions from the chat or verbal questions for those who want to present. There are four more questions that I'm hoping we can get to in that time. So that'll roughly amount to two minutes or so per question.
Jill Steinberg: Yep. What I want to say to you is I’ve been talking so much. I don't know can your listeners take more. Can you do thumbs up, thumbs down, and say do you need a break. It's a lot of information from her. Can we assess how it's going?
Gouri: I think, let's assume that the audience is enjoying it and those who are at capacity can always voluntarily exit. But I think the number of participants speaks for the amount of interest. I think it's pretty high. I just want to, despite my comment on time constraints, how common two things came to mind, which is gratitude. As you said,the science clearly supports it. Gratitude is a very well-known way of people reinforcing what they feel appreciative of. And I think some of the research even says the neurons in your brain, you can grow new neurons as a result of spending time consciously actively thinking about gratitude.
So that's one. And then folks who study stoicism, even superficially familiar with stoicism, gratitude is a big part of it. One exercise is imagine you lost your sight or you lost a loved one today. And then you wake up tomorrow and you can see again, or your loved one is right there. You can treat each day like a second life. So obviously we all take things for granted, but we needn't take things for granted as much as we do so often.
So that's one. This next question focuses on volunteering but it almost flips on its head. The balancing of the desire to volunteer, which is here, but also wanting to possess one's time more carefully. So I'll read the question. It's pretty self-explanatory but I wanted to frame it, that the person is interested in volunteering but values their time that's now their own, but is still interested in volunteering, how to navigate that conflict. So again I'll read it. “I worked long hours at my job and always expected I’d jump into volunteering when I retired. I've been retired for six weeks but haven't agreed to any volunteer work yet even though I feel strongly about some causes. Finally owning all my time has been intoxicating, and I feel miserly about donating any. Looking for insights about how to volunteer without feeling resentful.” And again, Jill, I'll say roughly, we're going to aim for turning it over to the group in about five minutes, and we have three questions left that I think you have a lot to offer on. So a concise, brief answer for this would be okay, would allow more coverage.
Jill Steinberg: That this is a little hard, brief. But I want to congratulate that person. The word intoxicating, that it is so great. I find too many people say yes before they even retire. They're on 20 million boards, or they're doing this, their friends ask them and then they regret it. They're as busy as they were and it's not even more meaningful. They just say yes to everything. So in some ways, I think it's good to yes, but to take time and think and relish, to learn to reflect. To me that's the essence. It's a process, so that you are enjoying this for now is great.
And I don't know if this person watched Brandon, when you interviewed Brandon, but he was saying when you get involved in things--that was his name.right Brandon-you're like…
Gouri: Yeah, that's right.
Jill Steinberg: …try things that are low commitment, low cost. And I thought those were good words. So if you could try things where they say you could just do this once a month. Or you could try it, this to kind of transition in, and then you might find that's intoxicating, or wow, now my mind is really fulfilled. Anyway, if you could try things where they're willing to train you and you can take small commitments at a time. That's what I would encourage you to do. Not jump in.
Okay it's a year maybe down the road you'll want that, but for now learning about yourself and trying to figure this out. It's also more likely that you won't go back to work. And by the way, of people that do fully retire, 30% of them go back after six years. They don't know how to do other things. And what I'm hearing is this person is saying I'm enjoying it, what else. So think about what else, but I am not encouraging you to rush.
Gouri: Well it's very practical, it's very actionable, take bite size approaches. And that probably worked in a lot of people's day-to-day lives pre-retirement. So it shouldn't be a foreign concept, I think for a lot of people. I mentioned hold that thought earlier--so I wanted, I mentioned that because it ties into this next question perfectly--when you were commenting on misalignment of someone's capacity or capability versus the role they're given at a not-for-profit or other volunteer role.So this question is what is the best way to match my skills and interests with a not-for-profit that can use them?
Jill Steinberg: I feel like I need help from the audience. What I can tell you, there isn't a body of literature for that. There's literature on the best way to use your time is by finding your highest skills and what you like doing, so that you can go to your own strengths. So I would say do that and then start talking to other people. This is what I’m thinking, do you know about retirement? The people that have told me they had the best retirement, other people told them,oh I am working here, I've retired and it's great. Or you could fumble like I did. Try this,try that and then I have created my own retirement by starting the retirement research. Then I created, I got convinced to do a website. Put it out, don't just go scholarly. You know people, two people read your scholarly stuff. Put it general. So I got a website and put my information because I wanted regular people to hear. Well then people start contacting me. Oh can you do this, would you. So I didn't want to sell myself. It unfolded, but I like reading so I can know. I need to learn more about a topic and can involve my mind that way.
With the nonprofits, I don't know if there's a list in your community of them. There probably is a list but it doesn't mean you're going to get a good position.
Gouri: So well, I think your suggestion of asking folks that you know who may know of groups or organizations or other people where they're content. It sounds like how people say referrals are so much more effective or increase the probability of an appropriate match. That sounds like a natural, that suggestion of yours sounded great.
I'm going to combine the next two questions and then just for folks, to give a sense of timing, we'll take a break following Jill's response to these two questions and then Carol will turn it over to Miriam and Alan for questions from the chat. So that whole piece may take say five minutes or so, if that works for folks.
So Jill, the last two questions, and again I’m combining them, seemed to me a great summary of a lot of what you've been talking about and kind of culminates a lot of people's interest in what to do with all this information. So I'll read the questions as they're presented.
From your experience with patients, what things in a retired person's life tend to bring the most happiness? That's question one, and then two. I think we hear this a lot. People are kind of at a loss in a way to answer this when asked, but: How do you spend your day? I retired three weeks ago and would love to know how others spend time during retirement. So those are the last two Jill. I want to thank you for your time and insights and just sharing everything you do. Your expertise and how well you share it so approachably and personably. So back to you.
Jill Steinberg: Do you want me in terms of spending a day, how I spend a day or are we going to open it to the audience, how do people spend the day.
Gouri: Let's start with you, but not necessarily you personally. In your research and interviews how do people spend their day. I think it might get chaotic if we turn it over to the audience.
Jill Steinberg: Well at some point I'd like that chaos thing because then you're going to learn from each other what to do. But the happiness, I think, is just to review. The theory says by being with other people, by exercising, having purpose and connections, also internet connections because you want to stay digitally attached, or you can learn that older people that are attached, that use the internet, are happier because of what we do with it.
Keep reflecting, take time to think. I haven't done this before. What's working, what's not. Or if you don't even know how to reflect, which many people don't. What she’s talking about, ask me or ask someone else, have you figured this out? And in terms of how people spend the day, it hasn't been my research, or in the research typical, but as Arthur said, he does not like feeling adrift, and many of us have had such scheduled lives that I would say some degree of schedule is a good thing.
Flexibility is good. so you might not be like me. I like to know I'm going to be taking a class. Or I like to know, waking up and going to the beach for a walk. I like to exercise, right? Walk right away and see the ocean. I didn't grow up by the ocean. It's amazing. And when I worked, I just, so I know the things that matter to me, so I have a semi structured life that changes.
And the people that I see that do best, even if they say they don't want structure, they are picking times to meet their friends, or picking time to whatever it is, to go to the gym, to this and that. And of course things got messed up during covid. But I think it is not a bad idea to have some degree of schedule. And of course we have the luxury of flexibility. You don't like it, you can change it. But most people don't like waking up to, oh no what am I going to do. It's oppressive. It's not okay. In the beginning it's intoxicating but then it's like what about today. So if you know you like seeing your friends once a week, don't wait till they're too busy. Or once or whatever try these things out. Maybe you never saw your friends once a week. Or maybe you try something, or you say can we exercise together. Then you're doing two things at once. You're walking and you're…
The other bad thing, is well first of all, usually people in the beginning of retirement, travel goes up. You've waited for travel and you're going to see--there's a word like you get taught--well I forget that word, but you get tired of these things if you do it too much. If you eat out too much, if you travel too much, all of a sudden it's like, ah that's what you're doing. You don't want to do too much of it. But people like traveling, and of course, with covid you can't. Well you can, or you can't. I'm not. But usually in the beginning of retirement that goes way up and spending on it.
And what makes people happy in terms of spending is leisure. if you spend it on your leisure. Whether it's walking somewhere or doing something, having an adventure, that kind of thing, and being with people.Those two things together make it more likely. So I would suggest figure out a way to have people in your life and in your day. Like Leslie picked elements of exercise, of creativity, of giving back to others. Maybe time for gratitude, any of these things. Maybe you wanted to meditate.If they sound good, maybe you'll gear it towards planned. Or maybe you'll say these things are things I wish I would have done. I'm going to start trying them out.
Gouri: Excellent, that is invaluable advice. And we thank you. And Jill, the way you said having people in your life, we're grateful to have you in the lives of the boglehead community. I'll just, I want to address your comment about enjoying the chaos of hearing from the community and how they spend their day. So we try to organize a separate call where there's more of an open forum, participatory, interactive, for people to do exactly that. For how they spend their days in retirement. So we can try to develop that idea. With that, Jill, I want to thank you again. If you want to take a quick break feel free. And I will turn it over to Carol for a recap of the rest of this meeting and thanks to all for making this.
Jill Steinberg: Okay. I'll be right back, thanks.
Carol: Thank you very much Jill. Right first I'm going to turn off--go ahead you can take a break--I’m going to turn off the spotlight view. And then if the audience wants to get your gallery view back, where you see little squares, for everybody, just click on view in the upper right hand corner and click on gallery and you'll get your gallery view back.
So while we're taking a little break I'm going to talk about feedback. Just in general, the Bogleheads Life Stages groups, we would love to get your feedback on either specific things on this presentation, as far as the format and the content, or just in general. What types of topics would you like to see as meetings in the future. We welcome any, feel free to give any kind of critical--we don't want just positive feedback--we would appreciate either. Just candid feedback about the content or the format of either this presentation or some past ones or what you'd like to see in the future.
And the way you can do that you can go ahead and put it right in the chat. And you know as we said, after we save the chat we're going to remove the name. So your names won't be part of the record. I'm going to post a little link in the chat and this is the link to what we call the master thread for the Pre-Retirement Early Retirement Group, which is one of the groups that hosted this meeting. If you go to that master thread, the first person that posted that, who's me, it's dfw bogleheads. You can send a private bogleheads message-- I think they call them pms-- u to give that feedback if you'd rather do it privately. So that's a couple ways that you can give us feedback.
So let me go ahead and go over a little bit about the format of what we're going to do for the questions. We do have a list of not all of the questions, we did cover maybe about half of the questions that were entered--pre-submitted through the rsvp forms--were directly asked through the interview process. We do have quite a few of those left that we could ask of Jill. And then also there weren't very many, there were just a couple questions asked in the chat window.
And then thirdly you're very welcome to do your zoom raised hand, and everybody knows how to do that. At the very bottom of your screen there's a little raised hand. I can just click on, just click on that ,and then we will call on you in the order that you raise your hand. And you could appear on camera and ask Jill the question. So feel free to go ahead and do that while we're gearing up our questions. Miriam, were there any questions in the chat?
Miriam: Yes there were a few. And by the way Jill, that was a wonderful presentation. It was absolutely delightful to listen to you and in the chat everybody said just keep going. keep going.
Jill Steinberg: Can I just say two things before more questions come. Would that be okay with you?
Miriam: Yes, yes, okay.
Jill Steinberg: FIrst of all, maybe people are going to leave and I want to make sure they know that you're going to give them my email, so if they have questions that they can contact me. And the other thing. When I was saying I like the idea of chaos so we can learn from each other, that's not exactly true. When I do classes or seminars on Zoom, I think 10 to 12 people are best. So if we want to pilot anything where people want to talk among themselves and ask these real questions of each other, and have me facilitate it, and give them prep work like Ted talks or reading I think they should do to prepare. I would rather it be like that because you'll learn more from each other. Okay thanks, your turn. Thank you for humoring me.
Miriam: Thank you. One question is how well do people who never retire who work until the end intentionally. I believe the question was for intentionally they do not retire, they keep working, how well do they do.
Jill Steinberg: I have to look it up. I don't know the literature, except that I know that more and more people continue to work. So some people continue to work because they love their work. Some people continue to work because they need the money. And some people don't know what else to do.They can't find purpose, so they go back to work because they're pretty miserable and can't find their time. So I don't have--could that person say more. Like what their concerns are about, do they want to just keep working and they think they shouldn't or what will they miss out on. Can they give me some more dimensions to this question. I don't have a research answer.
Carol: I guess we'll wait and see if they enter any more information into the chat. At that time we can revisit the question. Were there any more or in the chat.
Allen: I have one myself. I’m curious. We know that Scandinavian countries and citizens tend to have the highest happiness quotient. Is that the same for their retirees? Those countries that have a more robust social system and support. Are their retirees more successful and happier as well when they're out of the workforce?
Jill Steinberg: Oh boy, I think I once knew this, and I should know it from the covid literature because there's this world happiness report that comes out every year. It's like 100 pages long, and this one was on the 2021, so it was during covid and people in certain countries were doing better. So I wish I knew the answer, and I don't. I would guess yes because of the social services and the way people value each other and the time. So I would guess yes. I don't have a good answer.
Carol: There's another one, Miriam, from Ed. Is there another one?
Miriam: One question is on moving and downsizing when you retire. And you mentioned about space being a really big thing. And what have you read about moving and downsizing to small spaces after you've had larger homes and you've raised your families and everything. What is going on when they retire and then they immediately move and they downsize and how does it affect them in the rest of their retirement.
Jill Steinberg: Wow, another really good question and it's not in the literature. because I try to review everything. But I will tell you what I know from the people I've interviewed. They say if you're going to move somewhere--you know a lot of people move to be near their children ,or the warm weather or something. They're interested in science, so a lot of people come to Santa Cruz. Now they can, we're big on sciences--they recommend go somewhere and rent first. Because you don't know if you're going to like that area. You don't know within an area where you're going to want to be. So if you could possibly keep your home while you do this, or experiment that way.
The people that did that told me it worked better than their friends. Their friends got stuck. They thought they were going to like it. It's like you take a job you don't know for x amount of time. Are you going to like the people you work with and stuff. So I would say again, the more research you do about it.
And whether people are happy or not. People are doing it. they downsize. Their houses become oppressive, it becomes too hard. In where I live in Santa Cruz--first of all housing--I grew up really poor so it's amazing that I ever retired, let alone here. But I grew up poor. I learned to do what you all are doing on my own. And I'm a female, and I'm 71.
But in Santa Cruz now. So the area around here, it's very hard to get a house that's one story. People are moving, want to move here, and they can't buy one stories. It's way more money because we need one stories, maybe eventually, rather than two stories. Because at some point maybe you can't do steps. So why buy something that big with steps, if eventually it might not work for you.
So that's a great question and I don't know. But people do it. They, not everybody, but my experience is many of the people I interviewed do it. And I'll tell you there's something in Santa Cruz that I had a terrible bias and I was very wrong. People, we have a lot of mobile home parks. And I guess I only knew about them from movies or something, that they were funky. They're not. I see mobile home parks here that are absolutely lovely and can be supportive and can be safe.
So I would say as much as you can question your thinking, be open. But I don't have a--you're giving me things to go research, thank you.
Carol: Did you have any other questions from the chat?
Allen: Yes there's one actually from Jim I believe. Any evidence that the over 55 communities have a better retirement experience.
Jill Steinberg: I read this stuff and I don't have an answer. I mean I don't have a research answer. Like I even started a covid connection group, a connection community, because the University of Michigan got me to do that during covid. They hired me to start working with faculty. You know, how one day you're in the classroom and the next day nobody's there because of covid. They hired me to start working with faculty and staff and the students.
But anyway, so I did one for my community here. I figured I owed it to my community. And it's been profound. It was supposed to be three sessions and now it won't stop, so we've continued. Some of them live in those over 55s and didn't used to, and they love it. They feel safe. And having a good environment is also a predictor of how healthy you're going to be and enjoy your life. If you have an environment where they use this one dumb test. Where this is one test, if you thought you lost your wallet and somebody's going to return it to you, do you feel safe in your environment?
But anyway, I live in a place where you can walk safely. It's by the ocean, it's lovely. Environment affects how you feel. You can tell by people zip codes and stuff. So the over 50s that I've heard experienced from feel safe and it's quiet.
That's very different than the people during covid that were in assisted living. That was one of the worst experiences for everybody in the lockdown. If you look at the data and depression it's been very rough for people in those kinds of situations, even though before they liked it. During covid it's been much harder.
Allen: Let me throw in. I just had dinner this evening with friends of ours, long time friends, that just moved from our area to a 55-plus community about six months ago, and they've never been happier. Much more involved and doing new activities they never thought they would be doing. They absolutely love it.
Jill Steinberg: And for the person that was asking about friendship or widow there is a community of people that with activities you can maybe get to know and you can feel safer. You know when people are older, depending on the people, different things happen.
Gouri: I'm sorry, after you Carol.
Carol: Oh I was just going to remind the audience that you're welcome to use, if you want to ask a question, if you don't mind asking a question on camera, you can raise your hand. Otherwise we'll continue. I do have a few questions I want to ask that were originally submitted with the RSVP. But we are going to prioritize, at this point, any raised hand questions. But go ahead Gouri, what were you going to say?
Gouri: So thanks, Carol. Three things. One point, Jill, since you were asking for real-time feedback, throughout the chat people are saying they appreciate the non-financial content of this meeting, so it's definitely welcome, and we've spoken about having a subsequent meeting with you, if you're agreeable. And not just the highly interactive, you know, how people spend their time, but where you can talk about additional things that weren't covered here. So that's one.
Two remaining. One is a question that I'll ask you, and I wanted to cover. Ed has a question in the chat. How do you contend with a sudden change in your retirement plans, like parents who are suffering from dementia. So that's one. And then my own question, Jill, if you wouldn't mind. You mentioned growing up, your childhood, you commented on your childhood. If you're comfortable to what extent you can share how was growing up with your family, your journey to where you are now. What led you to do your research, and how you came to specialize on this topic that you're sharing.
Jill Steinberg: Okay. Listen, my childhood, if we talk about--I had a difficult childhood. So with my nuclear family was difficult emotionally,if somebody wants to know about that. But what I think is important for this is I grew up poor. My parents graduated 8th grade and 12th grade. How I knew to go to get a Phd and pursue my career. I studied. That became my dissertation, what made it more likely that women could make it as professionals.
When I have questions, I study. And I think growing up poor, one of the things in the literature was people that had more employment experiences when they were young tended, for women, to be professionals,more so and there are a lot of other factors.
But my childhood. My dad died when I was 10. My dad was a gambler, but these hard things, I had to earn money. So from 8 or 10 I was earning money from babysitting, to other things. And then taking care of my mom and stuff. So that helped me see I’m going to be working. I want to figure out how can I work in a way that I'm going to enjoy my life and get meaning.
So I wasn't always the best at happy. I could read about happy, while other people did it. But somehow I'm good at meaningful and figuring out what would work. But also I was a woman, a girl, and I had to learn about investing myself. I didn't have a family that was going to tell, my nuclear family wasn't good at it.
And I'm a very persistent person, and I learn and I ask other people and I find out, oh you're doing it well, what have you invested. Then I read and I study. So I managed to go from nothing, taking care of my mother, to I am retired in California. And that is one of the things that correlates with people being happier, even though I don't usually talk about the financial part. I have a pension, I think that's the appropriate word, from working at the University for 30 years. I get money every month. That security, feeling in control, adds to happiness. But it's a dinosaur,you know, many people don't have that anymore.
But I was a big saver. I worked maybe too hard, maybe not. because I’m here. But I did all the diverse, you know, I bought other properties. I did rental. As well, I worked at the university and I had a private practice. I worked too much, or did. I don't know, I'm here now. I retired, 57 from 71. But that tells you a little bit about my childhood.
And the dementia thing just makes me kind of sick. I've had it in my family. I took care of my brother from afar. If anyone ever needs to know about this, I hope you don't, but I even had to deal with getting him a guardian, a legal guardian. And going to lawyers, a person that had never been to lawyers. It's another state. It was so not fun but I feel like I gifted my brother. He got to stay in his home. And if I wouldn't have fought the courts--he lost his executive functioning but didn't know it. He was very good at finances. He never would have bounced the check, and all of a sudden he's not paying his mortgage and stuff. So I stepped in and it was very hard. I’m living far away, I had no experience with this, and I had to do it. I just had to.
And if you need to learn about that, ask me before you have to get into that situation because so many people take advantage of old people. Or they would have taken all his money and put him in a home anyway. This stuff about dementia. So I'm 71 and all my friends and I, our memories aren't that good. And then you go, is this my memory isn't that good.
So we're reading, we're learning and I'm going to say something incredibly heavy but real. That I wish people would think about, how it's your life, how do you want to end it. And what I'm saying is like in that group that I told you there were seven women ages 60 to 87, through this covid experience, one person during covid got cancer, had all the best treatments at Stanford and nothing worked. And she had a great relationship with her husband and her doctors and hospice, and chose--in my state you can choose to end your life if you have six months, less than six months to live and if you can take the potion yourself. Somebody gets it for you. But you have to be sound of mind, that's a lot of criteria to be able, if you want to end your life.
And I, right now I'm very upset that if I were to get dementia, I don't have that option. Now this might be too hard for people, but it's reality. You want to be thinking about these things and letting your family know. So I'm actually considering starting to work on the law, which is something else I've never done. But it would be a fight for us because if you have dementia it's not considered in the law that you can deal with it because I wouldn't be sound of mind. It's not six months, blah blah blah.
So all I can say to this person asking about it, dementia is just a very hard difficult thing. This might make you feel better. Hopefully you're in this category with dementia. People that are more educated are less likely to get dementia. And it runs in families, meaning if your mother luckily was above eighth grade you're in good shape. If she was below eighth grade you're more likely to get dementia. And the recent studies are more likely it's how well you did. It doesn't matter how much you did, how much schooling you did. Now they're saying it's quality. If you studied hard and did well, you're less likely to get dementia. So hopefully that's a little comforting.
Gouri: It is comforting, Jill. Thanks for sharing that. I want to build on Ed's question a bit more. And some of what you just said in terms of say genetics, or your parents, things that are well beyond our control. We have little influence there. But there's so much written about--because you exhaustively digest the studies as you've said. What have you found to be commonalities, supported by the science, to avert dementia, or delay dementia. People talk about puzzles, or you know their website selling brain teasers, all these things. But I don't know that the science supports that. But I seem to see exercise as a recurring activity that helps the brain, but I don't know what the science says more deeply or broadly.
Jill Steinberg: Maybe. Let me look and see if I know anything more because I do have a section on it. And these games and stuff, there's no literature backing it up. Like people. that even New York Times puzzles, they like it that's great, you like it, do it. But it doesn't stave off necessarily dementia. But what you said about exercise, that's a huge literature for mental health, for physical health, for longevity. The literature would say don't smoke, don't drink excessively. Yeah you can drink, okay, but you don't want to have a problem with these things.
But you know the other hard really hard thing about dementia is you go to doctors and they start prescribing all these medications for you. First of all medications are usually tested in isolation. They're not tested with other drugs, so they're not necessarily--and I know literature, like if you need an antidepressant and it's a really good one, that's great, and it can help. I'm more much more into cognitive, there exercise, there are so many things you could do for depression before. Most people do not need to take an antidepressant, but these medications have side effects. Like some of the antidepressants that make it more likely you're going to have memory problems.
So read about the medications you're going to take. Don't just take them because maybe it'll help one thing, but the side effects can be big. So I don't have a lot of literature, it's not my area of expertise, neurocognitive, I just know some of it because that's the question people ask. Is that and we tend to use the word neurocognitive now, not just dementia, because there are a lot of ways you can lose your memory. So let me, I don't think I have much more to say.
Carol: Okay. I'm sorry, time's running a little short. We're going to move on. Alan has a question. Alllen, go ahead and read the question on the chat, and then we'll take LadyGeek's question.
Allen: Right, yeah. Tom had a question, a very good one. Of the people you've interviewed, did you identify good strategies for introverts and adapting to retirement.
Jill Steinberg: Oh I'm thinking it's a good one, and I want to tell you I'm an introvert So it's a funny thing, I'm an introvert but I do need my one-on-ones and more. So there's not a whole literature on it. I just want to tell those introverts if you can find purpose and you can connect with people, at least sometimes, it's really important. And during covid the over 60s that had the social connections, and then had people they could rely on, they did much better.
So gee, but I'll have to think more about it because most people, I think from the little literature I know about introverts, and I've read a bunch, we're not it's not so black and white, we're on a continuum. So if there is a way you can find to connect with other people, maybe you like reading and they like reading. The literature is clear about other people, and if you still want to just be an introvert and not relate to other people, can you at least get a pet. But I don't have the body of literature, and I look it up for you.
There's something that I want to tell you that I didn't make concrete. But Gouri asked me that with gratitude. There really is a big literature on gratitude, and usually they say when you go to bed it's better to think about maybe three things you're grateful for, rather than the things that didn't work well today. We tend to think of that. One time when I was in a really bad place in my life I put myself on a, I made up a gratitude diet. So every time during the day that my mind was going to that funky stuff, I tried to remember things I’m grateful for. And I am a grateful person. But when you get in that funk it's hard to remember.
Anyway, I would like to read more to see if I can tell more to the introverts. But I do believe there are ways they can be around people. I would ask that person right now, have you ever enjoyed being around people, is there anything you can do? Because as an introvert I need a lot of recovery time. But that doesn't mean I don't need social time. I need it, but then I can't go back to back to back. And like this to me, as an introvert, I have a structured role. It's not as hard as being chatty, that's very hard for me. So I don't know any introverts, do you have any help?
Carol: Okay, okay. Thank you for that answer. We're going to go ahead and take LadyGeek’s--going to save about five minutes to wrap up. Go ahead LadyGeek, ask your question.
LadyGeek: Let me get back to Ed's dementia. First my late husband had dementia as a result of a very stressful medical condition, and the advice you've given, I've heard, based on my experience, I would say to discount that advice on the causes, root causes of dementia, and treatments with medications. Please, instead go see--in fact my late husband, I was dealing with the Hospital University of Pennsylvania, top in the country on neurological things.
My real-time experience. Just see the physician, do not take advice on the internet on this, serious. But please, that's why I raise my hand. Please, what you are giving general advice which is perfect, but not for dementia. Please, just based on personal experience see a physician and an expert in the neurological condition. And it's long term, you don't play with meds for psychological things. You don't play with that.
Anyway, so I think what Ed is getting at is retirement plans, yes life sucks. Plans change. Your parents, I'm dealing with another parent with cognitive decline. It's getting very frustrating. You just have to roll with it. And you have to make a decision. Can you afford them, and parents and dementia, or somebody with dementia. Are they safe to be at home? You go through this basic criteria with a social worker or somebody who-- you cannot take care of them at home if they get physically incapacitated, you cannot do this at home.
And you just have to deal with it. Life change. Life is not fair. I'm a widow. I'm also living alone and your advice on this, being solo, is fantastic. I'm also a professional engineer, so I’m independent, very independent. So I just want to say for retirement, if you plan, what plans on paper financial wise. Oh we can swing with mom and dad leaving home. The emotional impact will be it'll just roll you right over. So I say life is not fair. Plan for it, and the best you can do is plan for it and then make a ton of different alternatives. Talk and deal with that.So that's all I wanted to say But it's mainly the medical thing. That kind of hit me strong. That I say, sorry you're an expert. but I do disagree on giving advice. Disagree with because…
Jill Steinberg: I agree with what you're saying.
LadyGeek: … You've got to say you're giving general advice. And I'm also the administrator on the forum and I see a lot of people, they take your advice out of context. You're speaking, you're addressing a single person answer, which is great, but you have close to 100 people on this recording who are listening to that and may misunderstand , or misinterpret. So Jill said we should give you depression meds. No, no, no. So I want to make sure that people are clear that this is good advice, but do not act until you consult with the people involved, with a physician.
Jill Steinberg: What I was trying to say, if a physician wants to give you, for example, depression drugs, read about it and be very informed, just like you are with your finances.These drugs have side effects. So I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear. I'm trying to say be as informed with your health as you are with your finances.
Lady Geek: Yeah, yeah. Thank you, okay. Can we move on.
Carol: We want to take one last question. We're going to let Henry ask this question. Then we're going to have to, it's time to wrap up.
Henry: Yeah .I want to pick up on what LadyGeek just said. That I'm about 10 years into retirement, and it's hard to avoid what's called presentism, where you are sort of stuck where you are at the moment and as you make your projections for the future, and that's true for financial items but it's also true for health, it's also true for how your life is going to play out. And so to the extent you can build in a decent amount of flexibility and it's not just financial flexibility it's also lifestyle. It's hard to project.