3 unusual retirement resolutions for boomers

Resolve to save more, pay down your debt, improve your diet, exercise more, learn about Medicare and Social Security: You've probably read tips like these in countless lists of New Year's resolutions for baby boomers. And they're indeed good steps in preparing for a lengthy retirement.

But some lesser-known steps also deserve a place on the list of your retirement resolutions, ones that can be just as important. Let's take a look.

1. Enhance your social connections

According to a few studies, being socially isolated carries about the same health risk as smoking and twice the risk of being obese. So, it benefits your health and well-being to have meaningful conversations with people who care about you, and to have people who might help you in an emergency.

While you're working, you have a built-in social network of people you interact with every day. But most people lose that network soon after they retire, so you'll want to make a conscious effort to develop individual relationships and group activities that give you meaning and purpose.

You have a variety of ways to enhance your social network: picking up the phone and calling friends and relatives, helping close family members, volunteering, joining special interest groups, participating in church activities and working part time.

Of course, married and partnered people usually have at least one person in their network, but it's better for all concerned to have additional contacts. Plus, it's inevitable that one of you will pass away, and when that happens, the survivor's social connections will be even more important.

2. Explore how you'll get by on reduced income

Given the meager financial resources of most boomers approaching their retirement years, it's certain that many will need to reduce their living expenses significantly when they're retired. If you're a few years away from retirement, you've got some time to explore various ways to cut back. Try living on less income now and consider it practice for your retirement. Think about what is "just enough" to meet your basic living needs and truly make you happy.

Housing is the biggest potential target, and you can reduce your housing expenses in a variety of ways, including downsizing, moving to a lower-cost area, moving closer to public transportation and your daily activities, and considering a creative "Golden Girls" solution that shares housing costs. In the next few years, you can have fun taking the time to explore these important decisions, so you can be sure about your choices when you're ready to commit to one.

3. Investigate how you'll work longer

Many boomers say they plan to work into their 60s or 70s, but many current retirees report they actually retired sooner than they had planned. If working longer is part of your retirement plan, you'll need to figure out how to make that happen. You can resolve to observe whether older people have the physical or cognitive skills to continue working in your chosen field, update your skills through training activities, investigate alternative jobs in your field, look for career redirections or even look for a business you can start.

Once again, you can vow to investigate these options during 2016, so you'll have a plan in place for working longer.

When you think about it, these resolutions are different from most New Year's resolutions, which often require some sacrifice or discipline (such as saving more or improving your health). It's not surprising that many resolutions quickly fade into memory in the new year.

Instead, these three resolutions ask you to spend time in 2016 reflecting on what's really important for your remaining years: Who do you want to hang out with, what stuff do you need to be happy, where will you live, what will you do with your time?

You don't need to live the same life you've been living -- flex your creativity to design the best possible rest-of-life.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.