Susan O’Malley, an artist, asked people what advice would their 80-year-old self give to them now? She published the results in her book, Advice From My 80-Year-Old Self: Real Words of Wisdom from People Ages 7 to 88.
The answers documented are interesting, inspiring, and beautifully presented. However, the question itself may be what is most important. It is important for two reasons:
- The question forces you to imagine yourself at 80 (try 90 or 100 too) which is a proven technique to help you make better decisions now so that you can have a better future.
- The advice from the future can help you live a better life now.
Imagining Yourself at 80
Imagining yourself thoughtfully takes a little bit of role playing. Take a moment and imagine answers to the following questions (write down your responses for a more tangible experience):
- Where you are living at 80? What is the room or environment like where you imagine yourself?
- How did you spend the week? What were the highlights and low points?
- What are you hoping to do in the next year? What are your hopes for the next 5 years?
- How is your health? How do you feel?
- What do you look like?
- What are you wearing?
- With whom do you spend time?
- What makes you happiest?
- Do you have any regrets?
What is Your 80-Year-Old Self’s Advice to You?
Once you have a really good picture of your 80-year-old self, think about what advice that future person would offer you today. What would they want you to know?
Again, write it down if you want to make the experience more real or actionable.
How Does Your Idea of You at 80 Translate to Actions You Need to Take Now?
So, if you like what you imagined at 80, are you doing everything you need to do now to live that life? Why or why not?
If you didn’t like what you imagined, what can you do differently now to change your future? Write down a plan for what you would like to do to improve your life.
Run a Scenario: From the financial perspective, run a scenario in the NewRetirement Planner with your imagined 80 year old in mind and make sure your financial plan is in line with your ideal future life.
And, think beyond 80 to 85, 90 or 100!
The Advice of NewRetirement Subscribers
We recently posed the question to our NewRetirement Facebook group. The advice from the imagined 80-year-old selves ranged from financial to lifestyle tips. Here are some of the responses:
“Take care of your teeth. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone over 80 who didn’t wish their teeth were better.” — David
“Glad you got both those hips done long ago!!! But wish you’d started sunscreen decades ago!!!! And, continue to be frugal but enjoy life along the way!!!” — Jennie
“Tend to your health.” — Andrea
“Be less hard on and take better care of your body. Do more exercises and yoga to keep more limber and tone. Spend more time traveling before retirement and in early retirement. Give/spend more time with family and friends.” — Eddie
“Move around as much as you can and party more.” — Kate
“Move your ass.” — Jan
Suggestions that You Enjoy Life
“Never let a little money get in the way of a real good time.” — Mark
“Don’t rush things. You’ll get here in the blink of an eye.” — Bill
“Drink wine with every dinner.” — Pat
“Don’t look back with regret for failing to have tried something new.” — Chris
“Don’t avoid doing something, eating something or drinking something because you want to live this long. The 80s ain’t the quality years!” — Neal
“Keep on buying those concert tickets.” — Susan (who attended 75 concerts a year pre-pandemic)
“Life is too short for bad pizza.” — Paul
“Days are long and years are short.” — Karen
“If you live in NJ, MOVE!” — Donald
“Don’t trust anyone and just be yourself.” — Linda
“Seek out awe as often as possible. More travel, more sunsets, more swimming, more dancing, more investment in the people you like and love.” — Kathleen
“Live for you. The kids forget you.” — Virginia
“Retire as early as possible and relax and enjoy life, traveling, family, friends, etc.” — Scott
“Save as much as you think you need and double it, better yet triple it. Staying alive is expensive.” — Kenneth
“Spend it while you are physically able!” — Steve
“Do not ever sell your Tesla stock. Sell everything else and enjoy every day to your heart’s desire.” — Eric
“Don’t sweat taxes so much.” — Marla
“Take that first $1,000 that you invested in an index fund in 1997 and buy Amazon stock.” — David
“Spend it. You can’t take it with you. Your kids need to earn their own.” — Gunner
“Give away your money early, be generous and know that life has an ending, you don’t want to live as a corpse in a castle.” — Karryn
“Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.” — Bill
Change Your Mindset
“Enjoy more, worry less. (Hopefully thank you for enjoying more and worrying less.)” — Diane
“Be happy in your body as it is. You will look back at pictures when you were young when you thought you were fat and realize you looked pretty good. I could have saved myself so much angst.” — Ruth
“I just had a birthday, 60. But, I’ve decided to self-identify and present as 50. We can do that too right? My 87-year-old self will love that idea! Let’s see, when’s the next metal concert?” — David
And, the Jokers…
“Don’t be 80.” — Tim
“And, today’s lottery numbers were…” — Rudy