Getting to the “Good Life”

Q1 | March 2023

Topic: Living to 100

Kathleen Peace CFA, CFP

March 10, 2023

Image used with permission: iStock/monkeybusinessimages


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Getting to the “Good Life”

Q1 | March 2023

“What do I need for a good retirement?”

Enter the above question into Google, and you will find links providing advice on investment mistakes to avoid before retirement, the amount of money one needs to retire, and, if in doubt, calculators to determine whether you’ve saved “enough” for the next stage in your life.

We can all agree that “enough” money is necessary to retire. Investing properly and planning well for our clients so they achieve financial peace of mind are Nexus’s primary goals. Having money allows for choices, expands our options, and can increase the potential for living your “best life”, whatever that may mean to you. But what, besides money, makes for a “good” retirement? How can we live our best, long lives?

This question is increasingly on our minds, so much so that we launched our “Living to 100” campaign last year to provide insights on living well now and into the future. We recognize that a healthy, sustainable financial plan is only one piece of the puzzle. Good nutrition, regular exercise, having purpose – these all have their roles to play in a fulfilling life. But what makes the most impact? How can we be assured of a solid return on our “wellness investment”? To answer this question, we took a deep dive into the Harvard Study of Adult Development – the longest in-depth longitudinal study of human life ever done.

The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness (1)

In 1938, Harvard set out to understand human health by studying what makes humans thrive. It followed the lives of two generations from the same families for more than 80 years. One critical factor stands out for its consistent impact on physical health, mental health, and longevity: good relationships.

The Science

“To say that humans require warm relationships is no touchy-feely idea. It’s a hard fact. Positive relationships are essential to human well-being. Our relationships are the investment of a lifetime. They keep us healthier and happier. Period.”  (1)

Think of the good feelings we experience when we share a laugh with a friend, bond over a shared experience with a colleague, or take pride in the achievements of a loved one. These feelings are connected to our biological processes, which respond positively to contact with others. Our brains say to us: Yes! More of this please, because these positive interactions tell our bodies we are safe. When we feel safe, our physical defense mechanisms are calmer, and our sense of well-being is increased. The subsequent impact on our health includes lower stress, better and faster healing, and, yes, a longer life. (2)

Contrast that with negative interactions, which create the sense that we’re in danger. This strain stimulates our bodies to produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These in turn produce feelings of pressure, tension, and strain. Unchecked stress and its negative impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are well-known. The resulting health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression, to name a few, are unquestionable hindrances to a long and happy life. (3)

Social Fitness

So how can we build strong relationships – keep them in good health – and thus reap the resulting emotional and physical rewards? The Harvard Study recommends that we endeavor to improve our “social fitness.” Just as we must make a conscious effort to move our bodies when striving for physical fitness, so must we also make the effort to maintain our relationships.

It’s not always an easy task. For instance, how does a person gauge the current health of their relationships? And if we feel that an important relationship is suffering, how do we bring it back to life?

The Study recommends that we first need to determine the current reality of our social sphere. Begin by creating a list of the important people in our lives. From there, the Study’s practitioners offer a process of mapping our social universe, assessing the quality of each relationship, and deciding what – if anything – we might like to change. A daunting prospect to be sure. But the potential rewards, “The Good Life” tells us, are significant.

It’s Never Too Late

One of the more comforting conclusions of the Harvard Study is that it’s never too late to improve our relationships, and it’s never too late to start new relationships. The physical and mental benefits start accruing immediately and compound over time. With that in mind, why wait? Here are some of the principles from the Study to help you start the process of revitalizing your relationships today:

  • You get what you give.

    Support in a relationship goes both ways. Are you giving what you’d like to receive in your relationships? And in turn, are you receiving what you need?

  • Curiosity improves connection.

    Being curious helps others to feel understood and appreciated. It encourages others to be more open with us, which in turn helps us to better understand them – an energizing process for all involved.

  • Time and attention cannot be replenished.

    Thanks to social media and a never-ending news cycle, we all suffer from “continuous partial attention.” Think about the last 24 hours… what absorbed your attention? Was it the people with whom you want positive relationships?

Investing in our “Longevity Portfolio”

Our founders established Nexus on the very basis of their relationships with each other, some of which span over 30 years. Our ever-deepening relationships with our clients ensure that we are increasingly capable of helping them achieve financial peace of mind. We do so with an increasing awareness of other, equally important assets in which your “Longevity Portfolio” might be invested. Thanks to our friends at Harvard, we know that relationships are the most precious of these assets. Deciding how to invest in them is one of the most important decisions we can make.

(1) The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, January 2023.

(2)5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships“, Northwestern Medicine, September 2021.

(3)Stress Management“, Mayo Clinic.

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