Grey Matters 2.0!

There are more of them every day.  I may try to tame the grey hair on top of my head, yet I know they are going to win. The ones on my chin are another matter – that is a battle I refuse to lose. The Fall season of life provides the opportunity to look at grey differently. From what is inside your cranium to what is on top of it, there are more than fifty shades to consider.

First, the grey inside.  Your brain’s grey matter contains most of the neuronal cell bodies.  These cells oversee and impact our decision making, self-control and emotional perspectives on life, and yes, on money matters.

It was previously held that as we age, our brains get smaller and that grey matter diminishes.  New studies negate this assumption, concluding that when older brains are healthy, there is little deterioration, and that only when people experience cognitive decline do their brains show significant signs of shrinking.

How do you keep your grey matter healthy?  Cognitive decline can be held at bay. Exercise, diet, and becoming a lifelong learner are places to start.  Check out the work of Dr. Daniel Amen in this arena.  As we do our best to keep our brains healthy, we also need to embrace that aging does have implications.

A white paper produced by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College titled “Cognitive Aging and the Capacity to Manage Money” robustly explores how aging impacts our grey matter around monetary affairs.  Their conclusions include that as people age, they should be able to manage routine financial activities such as paying bills and understanding income and expenses.  These activities are based on “crystallized” intelligence; accumulated knowledge built over time.  However, normal cognitive aging decreases our “fluid” intelligence – the capacity to process new information. If someone finds themselves taking over the financial reigns because of circumstance (death, divorce), they will have a harder time learning new skills in this area.  This fluidity also has to do with reasoning skills which may lead to risky or unwise financial decisions.

If you have been at the helm of your family finances, keep your brain healthy and stay astute. Create a support system to provide accountability and recognition if, and when things start to change.  My dad, who has always been on top of the family finances is, at 89, asking for our insight and input.  I know that has been difficult for him yet applaud his recognition.

If you haven’t wanted to or haven’t needed to be involved in the household finances and don’t feel prepared to take over the financial wheel, communication and planning is key.  You may have parents or other family that are headed into this terrain, and it is incumbent to have some possibly hard conversations.  Make sure there are trusted partners and fiduciary financial professionals that you resonate with, and represent your best interests to walk alongside you.  This will maximize the opportunities for intended outcomes and minimize the potential for abuse.

Next, the grey on top of your head matters!

How you use your time, talents, wisdom, and knowledge built throughout your lifetime and how your financial resources and decisions align with what is paramount in your life is profoundly important and necessary in the world we live in.  For many, this is the “why” you want to grow, nurture and protect your financial life instead of defaulting to taking Social Security early and the old 4% distribution rule.

The voices in the choir on aging well are growing.  Dr. Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave and Chip Connelly’s team at Modern Elder Academy are changing the narrative on what aging transitions in life entail.  The book genre, personal coaching field, and retreat focus on aging and redefining retirement is growing rapidly. Getting older is a gift and with hearts full of gratitude, we can do it intentionally.   Cultivating new skills, engaging in endeavors that bring meaning and purpose to your day, seeking ways to serve, and having a lot of fun in the process is the new tune.

Stay curious, committed, and find the conviction to express the amazing individual your unique life experiences have sculpted. Make sure that your financial house is in order and optimized to keep you sustained in bringing this wealth of wisdom to the world. Potential and possibilities await as you look at how to best use the grey matter inside and grey on top of that beautiful head of yours!

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