The second to last post in this series is all about making sure your front end work has been worthwhile. If you’ve spent years side hustling, investing, and delaying gratification, you definitely want to enjoy every possible moment of your well-earned “retired” life (regardless of whether or not you fully retire).
Forget the golden years, when you reach the goal of Financial Freedom, we’re all hoping for a bunch of golden decades! And while there is so much out of our control when it comes to our individual best before dates, there are still plenty of things we can do to help our bodies stay in top form for as long as possible.
After all – it’s not just about extending our years, it’s about increasing our lifespan while simultaneously maintaining a high quality of life.
You may think you will have plenty of time to focus on your health once you reach early retirement, and that’s true. But why wait until then? If you are on your journey to Financial Freedom, you are clearly a person who can see the bigger picture and play the long game.
So why not get your health and wellness ducks in a row now, rather than waiting (and potentially costing yourself valuable days/months/years of your life down the road?)
Even if you consider yourself to be a healthy individual, when it comes to health and wellness, we generally all have room for improvement.
I considered myself to be a relatively health focussed person. I’ve had my fair share of injuries in my 30 some years, but overall I’ve managed to stay consistently active (some years more than others), and with my teens/early twenties aside (when many lunches/dinners were sourced from the local 7-11 candy aisle, or consisted of a midnight box of Timbits after a late night of bartending – cringe!), I have been pretty cognizant of what I put into my body.
But since retiring, I’ve been exceedingly conscious of the fact that I no longer have ANY excuses not to be the absolute healthiest version of myself possible. Both for my own satisfaction and longevity, and so I can be there in a meaningful way for my boys as long as feasibly possible. (Not to mention that I really don’t want to be a burden on them in my aging years. Just cause I changed their diapers, doesn’t mean I want them to return the favour!)
So far beyond the typical external centered idea’s and measures of physical wellness, Mike and I have been focussing a lot on what factors we can control to ensure our optimal health and wellness from an internal view, both physical and psychological.
From all our research into the topic, there’s 5 area’s that we feel are key in holding up our responsibility to our future selves, each other, and our kids (and hopefully their kids too).
It all Starts With Sleep
In the last few years there has been a lot of attention focussed on sleep, and just how important it is. And here’s the thing – it’s all true.
As someone who personally experienced nearly a decade of horrendous sleep, initially not realizing what was going on, and later struggling to work with my doctors for years to figure it out, I can 110% attest to the dramatic difference consistent sleep patterns can make on every other aspect of your life.
The really crappy thing about sleep deficits, is that they are kind of like consumer debt. They can slowly creep up on you, and you unconsciously adjust to their presence. Before you know it, you can’t even remember what it felt like to have a good nights sleep, but even worse, you probably don’t realize anything is wrong. You adjust to your new standard. Or at least you think you do.
For a long time – that’s what was happening to me.
In reality, sleep deficits take a massive toll on our cognitive ability, translating to slower thinking, worse memory, mood swings, lowered will power and decision making reserves, reduced ability to focus or retain information, to name just a few. Moving past the mental symptoms, you also end up suffering from poor organ function, headaches, likely undesirable weight gain or loss, low energy, and an overall reduction in your ability to experience happiness (or make sound financial decisions!).
Kind of a big deal.
Sleep is the bedrock of our entire lives. Even a small percentage of ongoing sleep deficit is going to have negative impacts. So regardless if your sleep has been interrupted because of a demanding work schedule, an extra side hustle, plain old stress, or a medical sleep disorder, don’t put off fixing the issue.
If it means going to see your doctor, or getting a new doctor, or demanding to have some sleep testing because you know something isn’t right – do it. If it means giving up a side hustle and extending your time line for reaching FF – do it.
This is an instance when ignoring the problem and doing nothing could literally take years off your life.
Don’t relent until you are getting a sleep that leaves you waking up feeling refreshed and ready to get out of bed (yes – that is what it’s SUPPOSED to feel like). Truly, you could do everything else right, but if you don’t address you sleep, your body will pay the price, if not now – later.
You Are What You Eat
Well – not really, but sort of. If you eat crap – that certainly doesn’t make you crap, but it will certainly leave you feeling like crap.
While exercise has long been touted as a necessary component of maintaining a healthy body composition – that’s….well…..total crap.
Exercise is great for you for a number of reasons – but if you want to maintain a healthy weight for your body type (not because society says so – but because you want to live as long and rich a life as possible), you do not need to spend hours in the gym.
You do need to pay attention to what you put into your body.
Now I won’t get into what dietary regimen is “best” in this post – cause frankly that would be volumes, not a post, and everybody’s body and genetics are different. But what I will say is if your food is processed, there is probably a better option.
So whether you are vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Keto, low-carb or follow any other nutrition plan, pick whole foods that FUEL your body.
After all – as humans, that is why we eat. It’s a biological need that has nothing to do with sitting in a fancy restaurant, which of the five forks to use, or hanging with friends. It’s about fueling our bodies, and everything inside of them.
Would you put unleaded gas into your super fancy car?
If you wouldn’t put cheap fuel into your car for fear of damaging its internal system – why on earth would you do it to your own body? (I know – a fancy car isn’t the greatest analogy for an audience of Financial Freedom/FIRE seekers right? But you get my point).
While grocery lists are often an area that take a big hit when FF seekers are trying to save money, I would suggest an abundance of caution in ensuring that saving money doesn’t trump eating wholesome foods. It’s not worth the future trade-off.
And don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you never eat another piece of chocolate cake in your life – but I am suggesting that in order to achieve optimal health and wellness, we all need to be consistently mindful of how we fuel our bodies, because as it stands right now – we only get one.
Pump Those Muscles
Which brings me to exercise. No – I’m not about to suggest that everyone needs to hit the gym X number of times per week.
While exercise may not be necessary simply to maintain a healthy weight, studies are clear that regular exercise is beneficial for the way our organ’s function, improving circulation, preventing diseases, eliminating toxins, reducing cortisol (the stress hormone that is one component contributing to the internal aging of our body), it’s even great for producing hormones that make us feel happier (the same hormones that are often synthetically generated for anti-anxiety medications – albeit our bodies do so in much smaller doses).
So there is a lot of incentive to exercise beyond the old idea that it’s a weight loss tool.
So whether you like to walk, run marathons, hit the gym, or take in a yoga class – finding a way to stay active in a way that you enjoy keeps both your body and brain optimally fit.
Just don’t go too crazy, or you’ll do more long term damage than good.
Stress AND De-Stress (The Yin and Yang)
Stress is good for you. Say what?!
Well – it is – when you get it in the right amount. Reasonable amounts of stress, whether they stem from mental or physical demands, can challenge us in ways that are excellent for our body.
Think of your body as a fine wine. In order to produce a fine wine, the wine maker has to ensure that the grapevines experience just the right degree of stress throughout the growing season. The stress creates a biological response in the plant that positively impacts the flavour of the wine. BUT – it also makes the plant stronger over time.
The same is true of our bodies. Provide a sufficient degree of stress (through exercise, some calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, workload, deadline’s) and our bodies will rise to the challenge. Too much stress, and we cause damage. Too little, and we lack resilience and resemble a crappy bottle of wine.
On the the flip side – it’s just as important to give our bodies moments of reprieve and take a breath. (Like when you decant a great bottle of wine – getting all that oxygen into the wine, enhancing it’s overall flavours! Overdo it and introduce too much oxygen = very gross wine, just the right amount = perfection.)
I get it though – you are working your tail off to reach that ever closer goal of Financial Freedom, and sometimes it can be hard to justify taking a breather or letting your foot off the gas peddle – even just for a moment or two.
But taking the time to unwind, de-stress and detoxify can have huge benefits to our over all health (and our ability to make solid financial decisions/planning).
Taking a breath gives you room to take stock of what’s going on, gain perspective, ask critical questions about what you are doing, and ensure you are on the most efficient path in pursuit of your goals.
Stress is a natural consequence of our crazy world. There is always a demand for our time. Learning how to manage those demands and make room for down time is essential to managing the production of cortisol in our bodies, and keeping stress levels within the optimal range to garner the benefits we just talked about, without experiencing burnout.
Taking some time away from the rat race doesn’t need to throw a wrench in your timeline for Financial Freedom – it can be as simple as saying no to enrolling your child in an 18th activity (that was my sarcastic voice, incase you missed it), or curling up with a good book and your favourite glass of wine (or cup of coffee, or tea, whatever floats your boat….just skip the pint of icecream.)
An evening stroll is also a great way to unwind, and up your step count for the day.
However you do it – making room for downtime isn’t just about small indulgences, it’s also about taking care of your mind and body, and preventing burn-out so you can actually reach that goal of FF.
Prevent The Most Prevalent Disease
What is the disease that takes the most lives year after year after year? You might guess heart disease, diabetes, cancer?
Good guesses, those have been devastating diseases for far too long.
But the real answer – aging. (Yes I know, that wasn’t fair, it’s trick question, aging isn’t classified as a disease…….yet.)
But if nothing else kills you during your life – getting old most certainly will. Ironically, unlike every other disease out there that kills us, where we intensely try and find ways to halt, cure, or better yet prevent, as a society we seem to have just accepted that getting old is a thing that happens to us. Because it happens to everyone.
It’s like we have all agreed that we can go ahead and die – so long as we’ve reached a collectively deemed appropriate age to do so. Weird right?
So what if we could change the fact that we look at aging as an inevitability that is just going to happen to us?
Lucky for us there’s a number of crazy smart scientists working on finding a cure for this nasty “disease”. One of whom is Dr. David Sinclair, a renowned bioligist and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. If you haven’t heard much about what this guy has to say on the topic of aging – you should definitely check out his work.
He’s written several books, including Lifespan which is coming out this September, and he’s made a number of podcast appearances as of late, including a lengthy interview on the Joe Rogan Experience that provides an excellent overview of his thoughts, research, and the direction this new science could be taking humanity.
Frankly – some of it is pretty unbelievable.
He’s a huge proponent of abandoning stagnant old ideas about how we age and all about looking at how we can introduce molecules into our body that slow the aging process by preventing damage at a cellular level.
In particular he subscribes to the idea that daily doses of molecular supplements Resveratrol and NMN (.5 gm and 1 gm respectively), help to do exactly that. While NMN is in it’s early stages of research, the 50 year old doctor takes both supplements daily, and from the outside, he definitely doesn’t look 50.
Dr. Sinclair’s research team is also trialing injections of regenerative molecules into the eyes of mice with impaired vision (either by damaged nerves or glaucoma) to assess whether or not the supplements can induce recovery at a cellular level, restoring full vision. So far the results are so promising that clinical trials are scheduled to transition to human subjects as early as 2020. Amazing.
With research like this – it’s becoming less and less farfetched that within the coming decades we could see the average human life span skyrocketing into the multi-century range.
While science in this area is emerging – as an early retiree, it’s definitely an area I am going to continue to pay attention too, because it may just be my ticket to a much longer, and more extended quality of life. (Oh – and imagine how our investment portfolio’s would look in a couple hundred years!!!)
The Bottom Line
While there are many area’s of life we can invest our time and attention in order to achieve optimal health and wellness, these are 5 that will give you a pretty substantial return on investment, and an excellent foundation for leading a high quality financially free life.
Not only is it important to implement good habits now, it’s important to stay abreast of what’s going on in our scientific community, so that you can keep your habits and routines current with the best available information.
While we can’t control many aspects in terms of the fragility of human life – applying our energy into habits that can equate to the possibility of additional and better quality years at the end of our life span is an investment worth making.
Thanks for checking out this post. Hope you enjoyed it! Make sure to check back next week for our final post in this 5 part early retirement series. We’ll dip our toes into some crazy concepts about immortality, and how that would impact future financial planning.