December 30, 2019
Happy New Year, almost.
Another year and another decade face us. While many things are outside of our control, I believe there are certain things we can all do to improve our lives as retirees, about-to-be retirees, semi-retirees or just as people.
I’ve given some thought to these. They don’t cost much, they are doable for anyone in reasonably good health, and they yield significant improvements in quality of life.
So here goes:
- Walk. Walking is a “best” exercise in that it is aerobic, it doesn’t cost anything, it is reasonably time-efficient and, as a bonus, it can be sociable. (I have noticed that men will run or bike together but don’t walk together. Women walk together and thereby combine exercise with making and keeping relationships. No wonder they live longer). If you are not a walker, get started by walking ten minutes (probably about half a mile) five times this week. Add a couple of minutes each week. Shoot eventually to walk three miles in an hour. You will feel better, lose weight and improve your vital signs.
- Cook. I’m amazed at how few people cook anymore. Meals cooked at home tend to be less fattening and less filled with salt and other additives. They are vastly cheaper than meals eaten out, delivered or taken out. And cooking, like walking, is a low-cost, high-impact source of entertainment. There are a billion recipes readily available on the Internet; just the other night I cooked a lemon chicken recipe from Pierre Franey that was printed in The New York Times in 1992, and got good reviews from W.
- Read. I’m not talking about James Patterson here. Up your game in 2020! Take a look at one of the many “Best Books of 2019” lists (not the bestseller lists) and pick something relatively challenging. If you want to ease into serious fiction, don’t start with Ulysses. Try The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham or A Room With a View by E.M. Forster or A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. For non-fiction, read Samuel Eliot Morison’s one-volume history of the US, or Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough. I loved Yuval Hariri’s book Sapiens but some say it is tough going. Work those dendritic pathways – and use the library to save money and find the books you want.
- Connect. I often mention the importance of making connections, particularly later in life. If you have lots of friends and family nearby, great. Stay in touch, send emails, organize outings, just get together for coffee (or a walk — see above). If you don’t, work on it. Join a group of like minded individuals for bridge, hiking, bicycling, ping-pong, golf, or whatever interests you. Join a church and hang around at coffee hour. Volunteer for a political campaign or at a food pantry. I know you have heard these suggestions many times — so have I – but they work.
- Organize. Where is your passport? The title to your car? Do you have an up to date will? Are you over-insured or under-insured for your life, car and house?What are you paying in subscriptions to Netflix, HBO, and those weird boxed food services? What was the return on your investments last year? I’m always surprised by how many people lose track of things like this. Getting organized is a highly productive and potentially enjoyable activity, and it pays financial dividends as well.
Having said all this, I’m far from the poster child for fiscal, mental or physical fitness. In my next post, I will discuss some personal resolutions for 2020.
One sidebar: Art Garfunkel (yes, that Art Garfunkel) has kept track of everything he has read since the 1960s. He is a serious, adventurous and intelligent reader and his list can be found here.