Mental and Physical Well-Being for [Physician] Boomers and Their Retirement Plans

By Somnath Basu PhD MBA

President – AgeBander
Thousand Oaks, CA

A  Pew Research Center study[1] on the effects of financial stress on health finds 42.4% of respondents in a survey on the subject indicated that their health had been affect by financial problems. The study also found that 1 in 8 baby boomers were raising children, planning for retirement and at the same time caring for their elderly parents. This is the unfortunate reality for many baby boomers who face the implications of being a sandwich generation.

The Boomer Spectrum

For boomers across the spectrum of age (1945-64) financial stress has also contributed significantly to relational strife and has exacerbated many medical conditions. It has been linked to depression and sleep disorders and has been known to negatively affect the autoimmune and digestive system. For retirees who find themselves on a limited income with few options for augmenting that income the additional stress of financial problems has certainly  been detrimental to their mental, emotional and physical well being.  For such retirees who had an improper perception of their retirement needs the realization of the truth is definitely overwhelming. For others, who had thought they had planned ahead and were diligent, are now wrestling with guilt and remorse over their failure to provide for their retirement years. These individuals too are likely also facing fairly severe mental health conditions related to retirement security. Additionally these retirees will likely look back on the sacrifices they did make and feel these were in vain further exacerbating the state of their mental health. This in turn leads them also to resist reasonable advice because their fears make them more suspecting of any advice including the reasonable ones.

The Emotional Culprits

Two of the chief culprits have been the tendency of boomers (as a solace, all other generations suffer from these same problems though boomers have been most affected) to overestimate and have overconfidence about their financial knowledge and understanding of key financial concepts. Their lack of knowledge about overestimating themselves and being overconfident about their understanding of key financial concepts has proved to be detrimental to many a boomer’s health and well being in retirement. This is mainly due to these weaknesses leading them to not having enough funds for their retirement expense needs. A national collaborative strategy initiative on this problem has identified five action areas needed to help alleviate this problem – the need to educate consumers on the areas of financial policy, education, practice, research, and coordination. The reality is that when retirees are affected mentally, physically and emotionally (leading to overconfidence and over optimism), their financial decisions become faulty due to acting on their perceptions of retirement risk. This makes them tend to drastically under-estimate their retirement expenses. In such cases they experience or will experience significant reductions in their quality of retirement life. To ensure that expectations of retired life are realistic and risk perceptions are aligned to realistic and achievable goals are the first steps for boomers to ascend in order to improve the quality of their overall mental and physical health in retirement.

Objective Retirement Planning

An objective of planning for retirement thus becomes the need to find some kinds of lifelong guaranteed pensions since it is well known and understood that retirees who have such luxuries are many times more satisfied in retirement than their peers. The more satisfied in retirement the better mental and financial well-being one has. The main thrust in achieving such a mental state is to understand the importance of a secure and assured income that arrives in the bank consistently every period (such as monthly or bi-weekly).  

Perception too plays a big role in mental health as does the security of regular income. However, those receiving Social Security as their regular income are known to be less satisfied than others. Studies show that Social Security benefits carry a “hand-out stigma” for those who rely on them for their well being. From the boomers perspective, living a simpler life but funding retirement from a disciplined pension fund approach (using 401(k) funds, IRAs, personal financial portfolios, etc.) ensures the chances that their mental and physical well-being in retirement will not be reduced in any way by their financial well-being. Now is the time for boomers to exact such a lifestyle and bring in a certain semblance of stability in the vision for the rest of their lives.


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