I hate to say that I am not a “dog person”, but I became one. It is not that I do not like dogs, because I do, but I found as an adult that I did not particularly like “owning” them. The responsibility of ownership, cleaning up after them, destruction of expensive items inside and outside of our house, boarding them to go on vacation, morning feedings and so on led to me not being a big fan of owning pets in the past.
We had a very bad experience several years ago where we had a black Labrador Retriever, who I did like very much and even took her duck hunting at times. She got out of our backyard and one day was hit by a car while we were away. She spent quite some time in the animal hospital, and just did not recover, so we had to make the decision to put her down. That was such a bad memory that I did not want another dog again.
About 2 years ago, my adult son, who was living with us at the time post college graduation was about to get an apartment with a roommate. He knew he wanted a dog and did not want to wait until he moved out. I was very adamant that I do NOT want another animal in the house that I would have to help take care of. I was overruled by the rest of my family and along came Sadie.
Sadie is a Basset Hound that we got from a rescue and she was about a year old when she came to be a part of our family. She is a beautiful dog and was about 30 pounds or so at the time due to not being fed properly by her previous caretaker. That dog was the sweetest thing that I had ever seen in an animal. She would come and crawl up on my lap to cuddle every morning while I was drinking my coffee. It almost became routine. The kids and I would take her to the dog park almost every night and she quickly came to expect it regularly and loved every second of it. She has been a major hit at the local dog park and everyone loves her.
Around the time that Covid hit, we were spending more time at home and less time in the office. My daughter, Sadie and I would go on some fairly long walks in the beautiful spring weather. I enjoyed it, but my feet were hurting not used to walking so far. I had run a full marathon 10 years earlier, but that endurance was long gone from my feet’s memory. Eventually, I got to be a stronger walker and my body got used to it and craved it.
Fast forward a year later, I now have a routine. Every morning, I have a couple of cups of coffee, get caught up on the news and head to the garage to work out. I had quit my gym membership when they closed due to Covid and I bought my own equipment. When I am done and walk back into the house, our dog Sadie is staring at me, wagging her tail and raring to go out on a walk. This has become an every morning routine. Rain, snow, wind or heat, we have to go.
What does this have to do with retirement? Well, I am self employed now after launching my own financial planning firm. During my career working for a large corporation, I once had a client who I had gotten to know very well and was a good friend. He had a stroke one day and died shortly after. His wife shared me that his last words were that he was in really bad shape. This had an impact on me in a big way. The financial planning industry focuses almost exclusively on all things money and how not to outlive your assets. One of my core beliefs that I know to be true is that health is as important as money in retirement.
During my time as a planner, I have seen retirement plans cut short or turned upside-down because of a health issue. We can not control everything through exercise, but I truly believe that doing your best to stay healthy, even walking the neighborhood everyday makes a huge difference. After all, what good is a sound retirement plan that I help a client put together if they can not physically enjoy their retirement?
When clients come to see me, we often talk about our exercise routines and health issues that they may be experiencing. The happiest clients that I see in retirement have a purpose and an obligation for someone or something other than themselves. Becoming stronger through weightlifting, making your heart healthy from walking or running and trying to eat right (my daily struggle) are things that produce happiness in your life before or during retirement. Get your significant other, or a friend to enjoy the walks with you. If you have an accountability partner that keeps you active, in my case, Sadie the Basset Hound, even better. Humans can easily blow off a workout or walk because they do not feel like it or they are tired or busy. A dog has no excuses or off days and will never leave you hanging. I have also become a podcast junkie and will always have my ear buds in listening to a fascinating show about some topic while we are walking.
By the way, the dog does belong to my son, and I told him that there is no way that Sadie will be going to his apartment. I jokingly told him that he could have “visitation rights” anytime he wants to come over!