297: Retirement Living: How to Find Your Happy Place with Ryan Frederick
Today, I'm talking to Ryan Frederick. He's the founder of SmartLiving 360, where he helps people answer the tough questions that come with living in an age where everyone is living longer. He believes that while retirees can thrive, their lifestyle choices will have more impact than ever before on just how healthy and satisfying their retirement will be.
Ryan has been focused on the challenges facing people who relocate in retirement for much of his life. In fact, he lived in a senior housing community in his twenties! With over 15 years of experience, he's become an innovator, developer, and strategy consultant in aging and longevity. His work has been cited in Forbes, The Washington Post, and several other outlets.
In this episode, Ryan and I dig into many great topics, including the age segregation that has unfortunately come to define the senior living industry. We'll also discuss how empty nesters and retirees can find a happier and healthier place in retirement when looking to make a move and how to take the principles of Blue Zones and apply them to your own life, even if relocating to Greece isn't in the cards.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What Ryan learned from residing in a senior living facility in his twenties.
- Why Ryan says “place” instead of “home” – and how the pandemic has made it so much harder for people to find real connection.
- How to use the SmartLiving 360 assessment to determine if you’re thriving in place–and what to do if you’re not.
- Why people are least happy in their 40s and 50s and often find happiness again later in life.
- How to conquer your fears when you know you need to make a change, but don’t yet know what that change should be.
- The apps Ryan and his wife use to track their activities and ensure they’re spending their time wisely
- "Ageism is an ism that makes us believe that the tomorrow version of ourselves is lesser than today's version. We're effectively discriminating against our future self." - Ryan Frederick
- "Sometimes what aging in place really means is that people aren't really creating a plan of what they want the future chapters to look like. They're just defaulting." - Ryan Frederick
- SmartLiving 360
- Ryan Frederick on Twitter
- Ryan Frederick on LinkedIn
- Ryan Frederick on Youtube
- Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life by Ryan Frederick
- The Stories at Congressional Plaza
- Sunrise Senior Living
- The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
- Strategic Coach
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Casey Weade: Ryan, welcome to the podcast.
Ryan Frederick: Thanks for having me, Casey. Great to be here.
Casey Weade: Hey, Ryan. Well, I'm excited to have you here on the show. It's been a while since we've had someone talk about relocation and real estate in the second half of life and that's going to be our focus today. And this has been your focus for quite some time, all the way back into your 20s. You actually lived in a senior housing community. And really, I had trouble finding too many details around how you ended up in that community or what that experience was like. And I know this is kind of a strange place for a kid in his twenties so maybe you could share that with us and kind of tell us how that started your journey here.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Casey, it was never part of the master plan I think. In fact, my mom was concerned just like what career path would have my son living in a senior living community in his 20s? But there is a story that led to that. My background actually is in engineering. So, I studied Electrical Engineering. I was in Silicon Valley and certainly set out to be more of the high-tech thing and what company I was working for at one point we went public. This business thing was really easy, it seemed. And then there was an ethical scandal in our company. And it forced me to really crucible in my career path to say what's important to me, what do I want to spend my time on? Who do I want to do it with? And I went back to business school at Stanford and then try to figure out where we're going to do something that linked my head and my heart together. And I was close to my grandparents, involved in an outreach program when I was in sixth grade with an assisted living community. Melba Rollins was my buddy and we met for about three years through that. I decided, I thought that there was an opportunity to be more innovative in this intersection of place and healthy living but I wasn't courageous enough to go down that path after graduation. I need to have a summer experience to see if I lost my mind or not.
And I wrote a letter to some senior housing executives. Didn't know any of them. Only one person responded, the CEO of Sunrise Senior Living at the time. And I flew out there and I said, "I can help with this and that," but I actually really want to live in a community for a month so I can really see what it's like to see what does social connection look like, what does that life stage look like, and I can report back on that experience. So, he was accommodating. My wife elected to not join me for that month. She headed to Southern California while I was in Atlanta. It's probably the most I've never gotten more attention and never will in that month. I was the only person under 75 and only male on my wing. So, I got a lot of unsolicited cookies and gifts and brunches but it was fantastic. It's what we call today elements of design thinking where you're in an environment, you develop a level of empathy for consumers and the people there and at that same time, you begin to brainstorm like I did then. It's about 15 or so years ago now thinking about, well, how could we do this better? And that was the beginning, Casey, of this journey, which has had a number of chapters leading to today and really the book, which is an attempt to help people understand why place matters so much.
Casey Weade: So, was this an assisted living facility, a continuing care retirement community that it's evolved so much? I feel like 20 years ago there weren't really that many options. Now, there are so many options that it's hard to figure out where to start, which is maybe your jump-off point for SmartLiving 360.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. You know some of the terminology. You got some of the acronyms. It was turning...
Casey Weade: Into the financial world, right?
Ryan Frederick: It is.
Casey Weade: It's like IRAs and 401(k)s.
Ryan Frederick: Totally. Yeah. No, you need a glossary.
Casey Weade: Layers of complexity.
Ryan Frederick: Layers, in some cases, unnecessary complexity. So, yeah, in this case, it was an independent living community. So, rental, independent living. And what that means is there are daily meals there and then there were different activities and programming that was available that staff provided. It was about 150 units, something to that end. There was assisted living nearby but not in the same building necessarily. But I would say when I was there in 2004, it was nearly 20 years ago now. It was a building that was probably like ten years old at the time. And so now, as you point out, there are newer models. There are simply newer buildings, a lot more options than there were at the time. But it was a good example of people deciding or those that moved in, deciding to want to be in a simpler, lower maintenance life, but also, really importantly, part of a community. And the woman who I got to know best, Betty Cobb, she was a single woman in her mid-70s and it was just, in her case, a fantastic fit. And she was able to really build a lot of valuable relationships and also have more free time to do things she wanted to spend time on and have a plan as she got older in case she needed health care and so on. So, it was a really good fit for her.
Casey Weade: When living in that environment, what was your biggest daily frustration? What were those things that stood out to you that said, "This is an opportunity, this can be fixed, this can be made better?"
Ryan Frederick: Well, great question, Casey. I think a few things. At the time, there was no technology integration into the community. It was very old school. And you fast forward to today, I mean, I knew given my background in high tech and in innovation, I knew more and more innovations were going to be coming and more people were going to want to have, as it exists today, access to wi-fi and different devices and things like that. So, at the time, there was no technology incorporated in the community at all. I think another frustration was a lot of the socialization really happened around meals which is good but it felt in some cases like you had to wear a jacket to go to dinner. And there was a formality to it that in my life stage, I wasn't necessarily as comfortable with at the time. But I think there was a little bit of like in order to be part of the community, you had to follow a certain process kind of conforming to certain norms, which I thought had some limitations. Another piece was it was a community that was a little bit away from other things. So, if you wanted to walk to a grocery store or to other amenities or even just walkability, in general, it wasn't a spot which made that very easy. And the exercise, the physical fitness areas weren't very involved either. So, I think it was pretty vanilla, Casey, not surprising given the vintage and the time period we're in but I had this sense that with the next generation of older adults that people are looking for something different and want to be in a better situation where they could live life their way, not necessarily the way that was mandated by a senior living community.
Casey Weade: Well, I think one of my biggest frustrations and concerns about the way that I feel that we've been heading, and maybe this is getting a little bit better but we're not getting this element of a Ryan in his 20s hanging out in the community where there's this age diversity element. I mean, you were Mr. Popular, right? Why? Because we all want to hang out with other individuals that aren't just like us. Right? We want that diversity. And you didn't have that. Do you see that as something that was maybe frustrating for the individuals that live there and something that's getting incorporated more? Or is that a goal of SmartLiving?
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. Well, I like to think I was just popular in my own right, Casey. But I think, no, I think you're on it. I mean, yeah, I represented diversity. I represented youth to them, in some cases, their younger selves. And I do think that is a limitation in today's world that we've created a preponderant kind of age-segregated environments. And I don't want to make it seem that it's all bad because it's not all bad. But I think part of what I like to see the future have is just a greater range of options, Casey, so that if you want to be in an age-restricted environment and away from everyone, if that's your desire, that's available. But if you want to be in a situation where maybe it's age-segregated but you're amidst others in a walkable, mixed-use environment, that's available. If you want to be in an age-integrated building, if that's something that's a desire, we can make that available. So, in fact, I was a co-developer in a project outside the DC area called The Stories at Congressional Plaza. It was a joint venture with a public company and we built exactly what you're talking about. We took an apartment building, a new apartment building and we thought through how could we design it so it worked for people of all ages. How could we have the floor plan? How could we have the bathrooms? How could we have some of the different tools and so on that would work in such a way that it would work great if you were in your 20s but it would work great if you were in your 70s and 80s?
And a lot of it was adopting universal design principles and universal design principles are just this idea that you can create things that are easy for all ages to use. It doesn't necessarily have to be unattractive. In fact, we believe what we built was contemporary and attractive but it had, for example, slip-resistant tiles just look like normal tiles, has easy lever handles, again, just easier to move but otherwise attractive, showers with benches as opposed to bathtubs, little wider doorways. So, there's a number of things that as a society, Casey, I think we're in the process of making better so that there will be more options than there traditionally have been which in some cases doesn't necessarily require this age segregation that has been historically the way the senior living industry is operated.
Casey Weade: I could take this in so many different directions but you said more options. And right now, I think some might feel that we don't need any more options. And I think in the financial world we go, "Boy, we have so many options." This is great. I mean, it's an amazing time to be investing for retirement because you have such a wide variety of options and tools that are out there. But quite often that results in overwhelm and paralysis by analysis. How do you reduce that?
Ryan Frederick: Well, I think you're right. As someone who leans more on the analytical side, I have been at risk for paralysis by analysis in my past, and I can relate to that. But I think there are a couple of things, Casey. I think the first piece in this for the book, Right Place, Right Time, was really written for people, as I said, midlife and beyond with the basic idea that you have people, really, once your kids are gone to the extent that that's part of your journey, your degrees of freedom become more available. I know we have three teenagers. Our lives are a bit consumed right now in soccer and basketball and choir, and once these characters move on to their next stage, my wife and I will have more degrees of freedom to figure out, well, where do we want to be exactly. And we may stay exactly where we are but at least it'd be easier for us to make a set of decisions that aren't as anchored on our kids. And so, I see this because one of the first steps, Casey, is getting a sense of before we even look at other options, does your current option work or not? And I think it's a really important first step because you may not have a problem, right? Or you may find some ways to better optimize your current place to make it work better for you. And so, there is this self-assessment, which really stage one.
And part of that as well is getting a feel for, which is one of the reasons I wrote the book, which is, I think, Casey, a lot of people, I don't think they appreciate like why place matters so much. And I know with your work and your podcast and one of the themes is around purpose and I think when we think about place and you look at the research around healthy aging and well-being, it's a little bit counterintuitive. Like, how long your parents have lived isn't necessarily a strong correlator for how long you're going to live because your DNA only accounts for about 30% of your longevity. Most of it is a function of lifestyle choices and your environment. You know, do you have purpose that's greater than yourself? Are you socially connected to others? Are you physically active? Are you financially well for a longer life? Do you have an emotional connection to your place and does your place meet you where your physical desires and in some cases limitations are? So, I think there's a pretty profound understanding of plays that's necessary before you even start to spend time on what are these different options. And I would argue that we actually need more options despite some of the acronyms that that might lead to because I think that I hear time and time again when I talked to friends of mine, when I talk to people that are looking or when I get people that reach out, related to the book, and some other ways that can communicate with people. I hear more and more, "I know my current place isn't the right one but I haven't found really the right place for me or I wish there were more options in the geographic area that I'd like to live in."
So, there are some complexity that comes with that but I think these decisions matter so much that if we have more people that really find their right place, then it leads to better outcomes. One other quick thing, Casey, I just want to mention is plays can be a bit of a kind ambiguous term like, "Ryan, what do you mean by place?"
Casey Weade: Well, I noticed you haven't said home yet and...
Ryan Frederick: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Whenever I've watched you, listen to you, read anything that you've written, you don't say home. It's always place.
Ryan Frederick: So, then let me say why. Let me tell you why I say that. So, place, it's a pretty broad term and so it's important to get an appreciation for what place means. And what I mean by place, I mean, not just your physical four walls. That was the best part of it. A place is a composite of your four walls, your neighborhood. Are you in a rural, suburban, urban area? What metropolitan area are you in? What region of the country? What country, for that matter? You know, sadly, given what is happening in Afghanistan right now and, of course, with Ukraine, you might have a beautiful house but probably not in a great place, in a composite understanding. So, place is a composite of all those things. A home, that's a complex term because home is a composite of those places, yet it also has a very meaningful, emotional piece. So, you can live in a place and not have it be home. Some people may never find a home, truly. I think part of the desire for all of us is regardless of what life stage we're in, we can find home and home being more than just one physical location. And I think that's often a challenge for many of us as we age. We may have lived in one house for decades, and that's home. If we don't understand that, that place may not be the best place for us at that point, we have to be open to the idea that there may be another home for us, that helps us thrive along some lines, I mentioned earlier on purpose, social connection, and so on.
So, actually not to overcomplicate it, but it's really important to understand some of these terms because when you're trying to solve for the right place, you've got to make sure that you're thinking at the right levels and you're giving it its attention. I mean, one other aspect, Casey, which in my research for the book startled me is we're so impacted by these social networks. I'm not saying Facebook and Instagram. Literally, our friends' circle. So, if our friends of friends are obese, we're more likely to be obese. If our friends of friends, don't smoke, we're less likely to smoke. You know, we moved our family from Baltimore, Maryland to Austin, Texas, about three years ago. I now have more tacos than I did before. You know, I drink more craft beer than I did before. So, you get impacted by these circles. And so, place has this much bigger impact than often we realize in terms of our day-to-day lived experience and the decisions we make.
Casey Weade: So, place is important as we're trying to design what we want out of our lives, the enjoyment that we're going to get out of our lives. However, home is such an important element as well. And I just for myself thinking about this growing up, we lived in a dozen different homes that I remember. And when I had the opportunity to get a home, I said, "I'm never leaving. I always wanted a home. And this is our home." Now, are there things about the place that I might change? Yes, but home is an overriding emotional factor for me.
Ryan Frederick: It's a profound comment you mentioned, Casey. I did a workshop last night with some people in their 50s and 60s really focused on how do we think about making these decisions, and it's really an outgrowth of the book. And one of the key questions, in fact, I wrote a blog about this last month is, are you an anywhere or are you a somewhere person? And what I mean by that is if you're an anywhere, it means that you either are not in your home today or you're open to living in quite a wide number of places, and you would be happy there. On the other hand, somewhere people are people that have found that home. And there is an allegiance, an emotional tie to that place, that home. And so, as they think about where they might want to live in the future, it can be a strong anchor in terms of what your degrees of freedom really are. Now, we talked moments before this podcast about your home in Fort Wayne. I've got a friend of mine who is now fifth generation. His grandchildren are now fifth generation Rye, New York. He's not leaving Rye. His identity is a bit wrapped up into his place. And so, while he may leave his house, he may have another four walls somewhere else, but it's going to fit within the lens of Rye, New York. And so, there's I think a place in our society, Casey, where I think a lot of people are craving for a somewhere but it's hard. You know, I think there's a level of disconnectedness that our society's gone through. The pandemic has made it harder. So, if you can find that place, I think there's a longing for belonging that a number of people have.
Casey Weade: Does research show anything around these two different types of individuals, the somewhere person and I think what was the other one? An anywhere?
Ryan Frederick: Somewhere or anywhere.
Casey Weade: Anywhere. You know, my dad would be that anywhere person. He's within a half a dozen homes in the last five years. Well, a half a dozen places maybe I should say over the last five years but it doesn't seem to bother him. Whereas, I really want to be the somewhere person. I wonder what research shows about longevity and happiness, etcetera.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. It's a great question and so there definitely is a link with people's, I'd say in their core strengths and values. So, there is I think Gallup has done some work on their StrengthsFinder. There are some tools that help you understand what your core strengths are. Some of your core strengths do lean towards, for example, connectedness. That's one of the 32 that they describe. Well, if you like to have and it's really important to have a close group of friends, you can't take that for granted that that can be created and recreated elsewhere. But on the other hand, there are people that don't necessarily have that value where it's easier to pick up and they'll find other ways to give them their lives meaning and purpose. That said, we do know that whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, regardless, like social connection, but it matters significantly, like loose ties, knowing the names of people in your neighborhood, of which today about half of older adults don't know any of their neighbors or also those tight relationships where you have people you can fall back on when times get harder. And just as important, you're part of other people's social fabric so you can support them and not just within your family but outside your family. That's a really important part of this. So, there is an element of this. Whether you lean towards social connection or not, like it really matters in terms of the quality of life over a longer life so it's something you need to think about. So, there is some work in this area around what the psychological elements are for somewhere person, anywhere person, because it does link to some of your core values and strengths. But I think there is some wisdom regardless of where you fall on that spectrum with having some element of being a somewhere person or being open to a commitment to place I think has some real advantages.
Casey Weade: Well, I think it's easy to dismiss this as well, especially in a long marriage. I think this was one of, if not the primary reason that my parents were divorced, and dad was that anywhere person, mom was the somewhere person. And I think if we're going to consider these things, we need to really consider the impact it's going to make on our spouse and ultimately our marriage.
Ryan Frederick: Absolutely. And I think that's, you know, in the book, I have a dashboard. It's really an assessment tool for it's a series of questions that ask you about purpose, around social connection, around physical well-being, around financial well-being, and then specifically around place. And those questions I got a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback around that dashboard because it took some of the research and the options available for people and just made it tangible, like where am I on this journey? And so, we created an online version of that that's available on the SmartLiving 360 website allows people to do the same thing more or less, but it gives you immediate results. And so, one of the things that I talk about is it's important in the context of spouses and partners to fill out separately, get a sense of where you are on this journey, and then where your partner is on the journey. And there has to be a level of understanding, empathy, and in some cases, responsiveness to your partner's situation. So, if you're in a place where this concept of marriage is quite crazy, really, because you link up at an early age and life goes all sorts of different directions and you have different preferences and life circumstances. But in the context of marriage, you're doing your best to be linked up at every point in that journey.
And, of course, my wife and I've been married about 20 years. You know, there's compromises as this plays out and place may be one of them, Casey, because you may be in a spot where one spouse is not thriving. The other is. And one of the key variables may be place. You may have to reevaluate what can place do to influence that lived experience. So, I think it starts with an assessment of where you are but there has to be a bit of a bridging and understanding of where each other are on that journey.
Casey Weade: And we change over time. And then that's what you're speaking to. So, we need to reevaluate these things on a regular basis. Sometimes we just kind of get comfortable with the place that we find ourselves and not recognizing that there's another option or a better option. How often should we be re-evaluating these things?
Ryan Frederick: It's a great question. And one of the things that hit me in writing the book, Casey, and to get the premise ready was I've been in this broader field for about 15 years, and I got all these questions from people like, "Ryan, what do you do? What do you do here?" And I figured it would save me time if I just wrote a book about it. But I was misguided. I don't think I've saved time but I've learned a lot and I think I've helped a number of people on their journey. So, I think what's happened, two things. One, to get your question, is that we change but places change too. So, that neighborhood that you used to perhaps have a strong connection to, turnover happens. Your neighbors change. Maybe you're not as webbed into different activities and organizations in the community. Came up in this workshop last night, a woman said, "I looked out. Beginning this year, I looked out my window," and she said, "This is just not my place anymore. I don't have that connection I used to have." So, places change and then also we change. And so, when we think about the frequency of this evaluation, I think it's the type of thing that's helpful to ask some intentional questions, really on a yearly basis. It doesn't have to be a super long assessment but just kind of take stock as if you would around the turn of the year. When you look at the new year and what do you hope the new year to have?
And as you think about what your new self might look like in that new year. Where is place a variable in this? And in some cases, actually, most cases what happens is it doesn't necessarily require a change in place, Casey. What it can be, it can be a reorienting of yourself to your place. It could be as simple as repainting a room, changing furniture around, being more intentional about inviting friends over, handling your garden a different way, being involved in local organizations in a way that you haven't recently. So, in some cases, it doesn't necessarily require relocation, although in some cases it does. But there are things that you can do without necessarily making a wholesale change.
Casey Weade: I've already recognized a misstep that I've made in my personal life here. I took the assessment myself. My wife and I, we sit down on regular basis to discuss our finances, our personal goals. This is one thing that's been completely missing from our regular, ongoing discussions. And this would be a great date-night exercise, right? It'd be a lot of fun.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. Well, what hit me is place is foundational. And so, when you look at these areas where perhaps there's an opportunity for doing better, a place just nudges you in a way. I write a monthly blog and one of them has been on, a recent one was really seeing place as a life hack. It's almost like a habit. Like, if you're trying to get your habits better, if you create a better place for yourself, it just makes it easier. I'll give you an example. I was part of a health care conference a few years ago and we had the four most recent US surgeon generals in attendance. And the question was, if you had a piece of advice, just one word to help you live a longer, healthier life, what would you say? And independently, all four of them said, "Move." What's that one? Just move. You move every day. Well, if you can go outside your door and just walk in your neighborhood or walk to do errands, grocery store, and so on like that makes move be very easy to practice. If you're in a place where you're on a major freeway or the air conditioners aren't very accommodating or just the weather is either way too hot or way too cold, like there are these impediments to just kind of doing the right thing. And so, there's quite a number of examples where place fits into that. So, it almost can be seen as this way to help create habit forms that you want to have. And in a way, it's invisible, yet it's visible every day but we sometimes just happen to overlook it.
Casey Weade: I've long been intrigued by Blue Zones and the research around Blue Zones, the book, etcetera. And in thinking through those things, often you read that research and you go, "Oh, I guess I have to move somewhere else. I need to move to Okinawa, I need to move to Costa Rica, I need to move to Greece, I need to move to Southern California." And it sounds like what you're trying to create is, you know what, why not instead of us having to relocate to Costa Rica, what if we can instead start manufacturing Blue Zones across the country in your backyard?
Ryan Frederick: Casey, you nailed it. You totally nailed it. And that is I'm really appreciative of the work that Dan Buettner and others have done in Blue Zones because what they've done is they've raised the importance of environment and lifestyle towards living 200 years, which is really what he was anchored on with Blue Zones. The challenge with the framework they've laid out is that few people are willing and able to change your life wholesale to move to Sardinia. And a more practical thing is how can we take those principles and how can we apply those to our lives here with other research too? I mean, I think there's a lot of research that's been uncovered since Blue Zones was written. And so, there is substantial research around purpose, around social connection, and so on. And so, how can we take this body of research and then really apply it to the unique circumstances of our lives so we can craft like rich chapters in our lives intentionally and having place be one of those key variables. And you have different junctures in your life, as I mentioned, we're heavily in the midst of driving kids to school events and activities but that won't be forever. And then we'll have a life stage where we'll have additional degrees of freedom and then we'll have other chapters down the road when maybe our work lives, they come down a bit. We have other free time to do things.
So, as you look at life in these distinct chapters, I think there is exactly like you point out, how would I put my Blue Zones lens on or my SmartLiving 360 lens like what does this mean for what that next rich chapter could look like? And what does place factor into this?
Casey Weade: Now, you've said that we're well behind the times. So, how are we currently well behind the times? Where should we be and where do you see us being in 10 or 20 years from now?
Ryan Frederick: Well, there is something that we all face right now, really, regardless of the age, although, of course, it increases as we get older and that is the predominance of ageism. And ageism is an ism that makes us believe that the tomorrow version of ourselves is lesser than today's version. We're effectively discriminating against our future self. But part of the irony about it is there's something called the U-shaped happiness curve. I have a blog about it in the SmartLiving 360 website. And what it suggests, it's actually a global phenomenon which says you're at a certain happiness level in your 20s, and then you kind of go down and you go down. And then in your late 40s, early 50s, you had this nadir, this lowest point. And then you work your way up to the point where you're in your 70s and your 80s, your self-reported happiness, well-being is greater than it was in your 20s. Now, I like to think that some of you as teenagers, the harder, the trough years.
Casey Weade: But it's looking good for us moving forward, huh?
Ryan Frederick: That's right. Exactly. I see sunshine around the corner. In fact, my wife and I joke from time to time, I'm like, "This is what it should be. We are where we are. You know, we're tracking." But it's part of the wisdom in that, Casey, is that it suggests that living a longer life, particularly if you have a plan, if you have some financial resources and you're healthy like that all and all is a really good thing. It's a good thing that we're living longer and we have high-quality life years. It doesn't happen to everyone. Certainly, there are probabilistic curves, so there's no certainty but that's a good thing. So, we should think of getting older, not as something to regret, as something to not think about and plan for, but really like embrace what these different chapters are. And I'm not trying to sound Pollyanna here because, as I said, the U-shaped happiness curve suggests and is a global phenomenon that researchers have studied that it actually is better, despite what media would show to us and so the ageism that we're exposed to. So, the implications of that are when we are planning these future chapters, we should embrace them with realism but also optimism around the joy and opportunity and learning they present.
And so, one of the big ways of getting it better starts with us, starts with us saying, "Hey, what are these chapters? How can I lean into them?" One of the challenges I think, again, relating to us is that about more than three-quarters of people, they have a preference to age in place. Hate the term. I have a chapter in the book where I kind of have a rant on it but sometimes what aging in place really means is that people aren't really creating a plan of what they want the future chapters to look like. They're just defaulting. You mentioned this earlier, you're kind of in the inertia of the day-to-day. You're not necessarily recognizing and taking full advantage of the scarcity that life has. Like, how do you make the most of this next day, next year? And so, I think to the extent that more of us lean positively towards the advantage of a longer life, recognize the research of these lifestyle habits that matter and embrace those, I think that's a huge step in making it better. I think another step in making it better, like we talked about earlier, is creating. I often describe in some of the work I do in the broader industry, some of the business consulting I do, we got to create fewer buildings and more communities.
So, how can we be in places where we're known, where we do have, whether we're introverted, extroverted, we do have a sense of these relationships that matter to us. And we create more of these places like I've talked about that nudge us towards having greater purpose, nudge us towards having a richer web of relationships, nudge us towards being more physically active. And I think like you mentioned earlier, that might mean that we have more intergenerational environments that are available. You know, it may mean that one of the big shifts I talk about this a little bit in the book is that as technology becomes more pervasive and as our health care system changes, it used to be that we had to go to where care was. Increasingly, care is going to come to us. So, if we can create environments which allow us the flexibility to be in a certain environment for a longer life stage, if that's what we want, it'll be perhaps in some ways accommodated with technology and health care to come to us, won't require us to necessarily move to more of an "institution." So, I think we're seeing mindset changes with the consumers. I also think we're seeing an opportunity for more real estate developers to create better places.
And then the last thing I would say is there is some work that the World Health Organization has done globally and AARP here in the country to create more of these age-friendly communities. So, how can we just make it easier for people of all ages in our communities? It may be as simple as creating age-friendly apartment buildings like I described earlier, but making it just more walkable in places, making it more bikeable, thinking about alternatives to stairs in places. I mean, we did something small in our house. In our front area, there was a walkway coming in the stairs but we added an area on the side which is, I think, just attractive, which technically is a ramp, but it's stone. It's pretty attractive but allows we have family visiting or my wife and I over time to be able to come into our house without having to take any stairs. Like, little things like that can make a big difference to make things age-friendly over a long course of life.
Casey Weade: Well, I want to go back to something you mentioned about happiness. As you curb happiness, I focus on that research quite extensively when it comes to happiness. I want to know what makes me happy and I want to figure that out. And I would really like to avoid this U curve that puts me at the most depressing point of my life, I guess. And in having a cup, I had two separate, independent conversations over the last week with friends about place. One, just you know, I had a big exit and now he can go anywhere he wants. And he said in order to do what I'm doing right now, you either have to be really wealthy or really poor, right, and yet things move at the extremes. And then another friend of mine, his wife wants to live somewhere else. So, they want to buy someplace, someplace else. Well, he can't do that because he needs to have a job somewhere that can pay for that somewhere else. And I wonder if that middle area of our lives, so we get in our 20s and we pretty much go, "You know what, I want to live in Austin, Texas, this year. You know, I'm going to move to California." We have that freedom to go find the place we want the most. We get to our later years, we step into retirement or we find financial freedom or job optional, now we go, "You know what, I'm going to move wherever I want." We hit those middle years saying our 30s and 40s, we really get tied down to a place due to our career, due to our finances, to our kids. I wonder if maybe that's the leading domino.
Ryan Frederick: You know, I would say it's a good question. I think that there are degrees of freedom that you tend to not have as much in that life stage, in the middle stage like you're describing. I just also think it's just a really like hectic life stage. And so, there are their stresses. I know some of the research I've read related to the U-shaped happiness curve. I think there's an element where people they have a set of values that they're holding on to this, what the vision of what their life ought to look like. And in the rare case that happens and then they find actually it's not quite as all it was cracked up to be as they thought or in greater likelihood it doesn't happen but then later on they find out actually it didn't matter that much. Like everyone kind of found their way. There's a sense that people kind of reconcile that my life was the path I've lived was worthwhile for me. But I think that there in that middle seems like you're describing I think place has a factor. I see a lot of stresses but I think there is an element there that's significant. And you may be an example of this, Casey, like if you were in that stage and you are that middle stage and you found home, right, you found your somewhere person, well, you've set yourself up for what could be a very rich stage when you leave that middle period because you have your place. I know there's a number of people and it was recently last night's workshop where people are, they're not in their home. They've lived that middle chapter and they're ready for something different but they don't know what that place is.
And that can be scary. It can be daunting. It can be risky. How do I think about it? How do I take the right set of calculated risks, decisions? And that's part of what my book goes into, is for those people that want to explore a different place, how do I go do that? And one of the things I recommend is not on a whim selling your current home and moving to another one and just buying a house because oftentimes what you think a place is going to be for you and what it is are two different things. And when you get there, like, "Oh, whoops, didn't see that or didn't see that happening," and those can be really costly mistakes. I have an acquaintance here in Austin where they were more the suburbs of Austin. They want to live downtown in a condo closer where he works as a lawyer. And so, they did that. They sold their house, moved downtown, and had a condo and it was well furnished and they could eat at restaurants and they could walk. He'd walk to his work. And that was great for like three months. And then some of the restaurants they were getting a little more used to it, I guess, but all their friends were back in their old neighborhood only about 20 minutes away but enough that it was like people got in their routine. They wouldn't see them, find a little bit harder to make friends than they thought. His wife missed having her garden.
So, at the end of a year, they looked at each other and they said, "Whoops," and they sold their condo and then bought a house back in their old neighborhood. And at that point, they sold all their gear and their old house was gone, a new owner, and they had a hard time finding another house. But they eventually did but it was expensive and the transaction costs. They would have been much better served doing an Airbnb for a week downtown or even just renting their house and then renting something downtown to say this hypothesis we have, is it really true? I talked a bit about in the book around design thinking and design thinking, it was really just the scientific method applied to life. So, I have a certain hypothesis of what I think to be true but let me test it with a prototype and then if it turns out it's what I think it is, great. Oftentimes it's not. And then you have to like pivot, change your prototype, and fix it a certain way and then do the whole experiment again. And so, applying design thinking, which is what a number of companies do to innovate, is really how to, for example, the computer mouse was created. If we apply that to our decisions, then we start to think, "Well, should I? How much do I know what I think is true is really true? You know, should I go visit a place for a little bit? Should I go rent there for a while? Can I talk to people that are there and better understand whether that place, the values that are important to me are actually represented? Can I find my people?" A lot of questions for people. They sort it out but the questions really matter based on what we've talked about before.
Casey Weade: Well, those are great opportunities for retirees, and I've seen so many very costly mistakes in this area from not just relocating to someplace warm and buying another home, selling their home and going, "Oh, well, I actually want to be closer to the grandkids and then we end up moving back." You know, there's a lot to consider. I think it makes sense to go rent something before you buy it. I've seen it done with RVs, how we want to go out and buy an RV and they go, "Oh, you know what, actually, we don't like being on the road," six figures later in the hole, here we find ourselves. So, it makes a lot of sense what you're saying there. Well, whenever I'm having the opportunity here to talk to a longevity expert, I have to ask the question, how long are you going to live, Ryan?
Ryan Frederick: Wow. You know, it's funny, Casey, I've not been asked that question. You know, good question. We met with our financial advisor recently, and he said, "You should plan to live to 100." And as much as I talk about this longevity thing when then you apply it to yourself becomes a little bit daunting. So, I would say my wife and I are planning to live to 100. I'm not sure the actuarial tables where we fit on this, I mean, we have some resources, we're well-educated. We think lifestyle as we invest in a lot of these things that matter. But my guess, knock on wood here, is it's around that 100-year mark.
Casey Weade: And what are some daily practices that you've incorporated into your life and your wife's life to extend that longevity?
Ryan Frederick: Well, yeah. You know, good news and bad news about studying this is that you can't claim to not be in the know. I know for me relationships matter a lot, Casey So, virtually every day I'm doing something active with someone, whether it's tennis, whether it's running, whether it's biking, whether it's walking with my wife like that is a habit that I do in part because I'm really a little bit unusual here. I track all my time so I have a little app on my phone and I just have a few categories. I click a button. And so, the reason I do that is because...
Casey Weade: Don't just gloss over that. What's this app? Because I've done some of these exercises. Being in Strategic Coach, you have to kind of track your time throughout the day. And it's a real pain to figure out how much time you spend in all these different activities. So, I want to know the app, I want to know how it works. I need to try this.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. So, there's a number of apps. The app I use is called HoursTracker. I've been doing it for about five years. You have different categories. I'm pretty anal about it. I have probably 100 categories and I clock it. Now, some of it's because of my work. I like to track the different projects I'm involved in, some managing my time appropriately. Part of it is for this effort with the book and trying to help more people think more deeply about this. I want to track, am I investing enough time in this area to make a difference? Some of it is granular, as am I having enough one-on-one time with each of my three kids and my wife? Are we investing in those relationships that we'd like to? So, what I do, in fact, I have a number of buddies of mine that make fun of me because at the end of the year, I kind of throw it all together and they're like, "Well, hey, Ryan, how did your year turn out, your categories, how they work out?"
Casey Weade: How long have you been doing this?
Ryan Frederick: I've been doing it for about five years.
Casey Weade: Really?
Ryan Frederick: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Every day?
Ryan Frederick: There are people, Bill Gates has done this for a long time. He has, pre-apps, he just has an assistant track his hours for him. So, a number of leaders have done this. But yeah, I'll look back at the end of the year and I'll say, "Okay, did my time represent like the values that are important to me? Have I spent the time with the people I want to spend time with? Have I been active the way I want to be active?" You know, my spirituality and faith is important. Have I ever been invested in that area with just time alone and also time in community? So, for me, it becomes a pretty valuable mechanism to check am I where I think I am and also helps inform the next year, how do I want to think about that allocation?
Casey Weade: Where have you been surprised? What's caught you off guard? And maybe you're not surprised if you're doing it for five years but maybe there are still some things that pop up from time to time and you go, "Ugh, I need to fix that."
Ryan Frederick: I find that when I spend time with my family, like my kids, our kids, I find that one-on-one time is really valuable. It's a different conversation than if it's all of us together at dinner. They're both good but they're different, and you need both. And I find that if I'm not intentional with one-on-one time with my kids, like for breakfast in the morning, IHOP or something like that, or bagels or donuts, if I don't really get that on my calendar intentionally, it doesn't happen. And so, that's an area that I think I've done a lot of. I look back and I'm like, "Wow. I only did that like four times with my youngest." Now, we go to soccer games together and other things but there's something about just the intentionality of just being together. So, that's one area that I have to be more intentional than I think I need to be. The other piece too and I talk about this with some groups, too. I'm sure you talk about it in some of your work, Casey, because it has a tie-in to the financial side of things, too, and that's this idea of compounded returns. So, if you develop a habit and you really are committed to it, like for me, part of it is just spending time alone kind of really more meditating in the morning. I find that in the habit I just get better at that habit and it becomes a habit and that time is more impactful for me.
And so, it's similar in some ways in the financial domain. If you make an investment, you got the compound returns, it's not linear. It gets better and better over time. So, I think there is an analog a bit with some of these habits. Like, if you can get some of the right ones and you're committed to them, they have a non-linear. They kind of escalate for you. So, yeah, those have been my observations and I know there's... So, yeah, it's been a helpful practice. It's time-consuming even just to analyze it at the end of the year but I found it well worth it to track the things. As a matter of fact, the book I wrote probably doesn't happen if I wasn't really intentional about creating space for it, because I could have said yes to a lot of other things but part of it was having the discipline of saying no.
Casey Weade: Well, now I have to go out and try that app as soon as we get off of this call. So, we will have links to all of these things, the apps and everything in the show notes. You can check it out at RetireWithPurpose.com and maybe you want to dive a little bit deeper. You're really in the midst of trying to determine if you're in the right place at the right time in your life and you're trying to figure out how to choose that home for this next phase of life. Well, we have a special offer for you today. If you'd like to get a free copy of Ryan's book, Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life, all you have to do is shoot us a text at 866-482-9559. Just text "book" to that number 866-482-9559 and we will send you a link to get yourself a free copy of Right Place Right Time. Ryan, thanks for joining us on the podcast.
Ryan Frederick: Yeah. My pleasure, Casey. Really enjoyed it.