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Engineering an Active Retirement

You might think of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni event as a great place to pick up smart engineering tips … but would you think of the same group as experts on how to achieve an active retirement? In his article, “Retirement advice from active retirees,” Wall Street JournalMarketWatch columnist Joseph Coughlin asked 200 MIT alumni and spouses (with an average age of 79), to write down retirement planning advice they’d offer the younger generation. You might be surprised at the wealth of information enthusiastically offered.

Electric Ideas

My favorite, quote from engineering friends was: “Money, like electricity, is a necessary utility that enables all the other activities that make up later life.” In my own recent blog post, “Money Management for Your Encore Years ,” I shared my own beliefs that second careers and retirement require more than just financial planning. It’s equally important to consider, define and plan a quality life.

Maybe that’s why Coughlin’s article caught my attention. The well-seasoned advice offered by the MIT event attendees closely paralleled my own thoughts, falling into four main categories:

Yep, Financial Planning Matters – It may be a no-brainer that successful retirement requires sound financial planning. But these individuals (especially the men) made an important, often-overlooked point. Beyond just planning for the early years, it’s important to plan for a long haul.


“The retirement years are a marathon run, not a few short years’ sprint.”

“Retirement requires continuous preparation and maintenance for the decades ahead.”


Remain Interesting, and Interested – As I opined in my own recent post, “What will truly seem most satisfying to you about your life, well-lived? Chances are, it won’t be endless leisure time.” These MIT retirees expressed similar advice, emphasizing that it’s important to maintain a lifelong sense of purpose – whether that’s through continued work, volunteer activities or all-new interests.


“Ensuring that living longer includes living better demands creative thinking about
what to do in two- or three-plus decades of retirement living.”


Take Care of Your Body – Our MIT friends pointed out, if you remain healthy, you’ll not only be able to do more and feel better while you’re doing it, there’s a practical benefit as well: it’s a lot cheaper … especially in today’s environment of run-away healthcare costs.


“Chronic conditions that require medications or present complications
are a threat to both physical and fiscal well-being.”


Maintain That Network – The women in the group were particularly adamant about this one. Just as networking matters in one’s professional career, it’s equally valuable to network among colleagues, friends, family in retirement. In particular, a strong network includes deep relationships among peers as well as with younger people.


“Investing in friends and family [are] critical elements of a happy and healthy retirement.”


So there you have it. Four well-engineered ideas on how to keep your motor running throughout your active retirement years.