We’re continuing our series about the book What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement by John E. Nelson and Richard N. Bolles. Today we’ll be discussing chapter seven: Medicine—Who’s in Charge? and chapter eight: Health from the Inside Out. These chapters deal with an important aspect of everyone’s life, their health.

Health should be important to everyone at any age. Unfortunately, not everyone takes notice of their health, especially at a younger age when health related issues are often few and far between. By the time you are approaching retirement, you likely will have to have to deal with more health issues than earlier in life, and many of them may be chronic: cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, etc.

When you are entering retirement, taking care of your health may become even more important than it was to you before. Not only do you have to worry about those chronic problems you may have, it’ll become much more expensive to take care of your health. Your health may also affect where you can live and what activities you can participate in during your retirement.

“The Retirement Medicine Cycle”

When you do have to decide how to best handle your health in retirement, it can be very helpful to understand what Nelson and Bolles call “the Retirement Medicine Cycle.” It’s their way of helping you understand how you will consider and decide on how to handle any medicine you will need to take.

Nelson and Bolles explain this cycle using the acronym “PAR,” detailed below:

  • P – “Philosophy of Medicine” – There are many different ways to treat a health issue. On the spectrum of types of medicine, there is a range from conventional (your family doctor) to alternative medicine (meditation, etc.). You can also range from wanting low intervention to high intervention. Where you fall on these spectrums is considered your medical philosophy.
  • A – “Access to the Care You Want” – Just because you have a certain medical philosophy does not mean you will have easy access to that type of medicine. An important factor to this access is the cost. In most cases, the more conventional and more prone to high intervention you are, the more expensive it will be for you. Also, insurance can become a hindrance for certain types of care. The insurance plan you may have in retirement (including Medicare) may not pay for the coverage you are interested in, especially for alternative medicine.
  • R – “Relationships with Practitioners” – you will need to decide on the types of practitioners you will need. Developing relationships with the right type of practitioners can go a long way to help you maintain your health. Maybe it’s deciding you need a specialist above and beyond your family doctor. Or maybe you’d like to see a practitioner on a more regular basis so they get to know you better. For example, your chiropractor that you may see once or twice a month will know you and your body better than your family doctor that may see you once or twice a year. Therefore your chiropractor may be your first stop when something goes wrong.

“Biological Age”

Not everyone ages at the same pace. Some age quickly for a number of reasons (illness, unhealthy lifestyle, stress, etc.). Others age more slowly, likely blessed with lifelong good health and living a healthy lifestyle.

For these reasons, more than likely your chronological age (determined by your birthday) does not match your “biological age”—or how old your body actually is.

We think it’s probably common for people not to know their own biological age. Maybe you never considered it before, or maybe you don’t want to know. But knowing your biological age can be very helpful when planning your retirement.

Nelson and Bolles stress this because people often plan their retirement based on their chronological age. Say you’re 55 and decide you want to retire at age 60. What would happen if you found out your biological age is actually already 60? Would knowing that your biological age when you retire will be 65 instead of 60 change your plans at all?

On the other hand, what if you find out your biological age is actually only 50, so you’ll really have a biological age of 55 instead of 60 when retiring. Would this affect your retirement plans?

It’s possible that no matter what you find out about your biological age, your plans will stay the same. But if you are interested in finding out more about your biological age, check out Nelson and Bolles’ recommended websites: www.RealAge.com, www.BlueZones.com, and for life expectancy, www.LivingTo100.com.

Living a Healthy Retirement

Included in these chapters are some tools to help you implement some of the ideas discussed today. Wherever you medical philosophy falls, or whatever your biological age, your health can have a big impact on your retirement. You’ll want to make it a priority; otherwise you may find that the retirement you planned can’t be realized due to health concerns.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.