From the January 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

I Would Not Feel So All Alone

My father retired to Florida after 40 successful years as an advisor. During a recent visit, I ordered a fruity lunchtime cocktail complete with mini-umbrella. I asked if he’d like one as well.

“No, thanks,” he replied. “If you start drinking on the beach during the week at lunchtime, you’re headed for trouble.”

I was impressed with his sense and self-discipline, and regretted my own order—almost. I was on vacation, after all.

I thought of this as I read Olivia Mellan’s cover story. The image of a retired couple sitting on a beach with drink in hand as the waves gently lap against the shore is nice, but how realistic is it? For someone with a work ethic like my father’s, inactivity leads to boredom, even in retirement. Boredom too often leads to unhealthy habits and, occasionally, dark places. Combined with a “merry prankster” attitude about drug use that marks many baby boomers to this day, statistics about depression and addiction experienced by the cohort are scary, but hardly surprising.

The Associated Press, referencing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reports that between 1992 and 2008, treatment admissions for those 50 and older more than doubled in the United States.

“All told, 231,200 people aged 50 and over sought treatment for substance abuse in 2008, up from 102,700 in 1992,” according to the AP.

Baby boomers are a larger generation, so naturally it follows that the number of members who experience addiction and depression issues would grow as well.

If only. This growth outpaces overall population gains among older demographics.

“Between 2000 and 2008, substance abuse treatment admissions among those 50 and older increased by 70% while the overall 50-plus population grew by 21%.”

And it’s projected to get worse. SAMHSA reports that in 1999, only 8.8% of persons 50 or older were classified as high risk in their regression models. However, among those aged 29 to 49 at the time, the group projected to be aged 50 to 70 in 2020, 49.9% were in the high risk group.

Recognizing signs of addiction and depression will increasingly become a part of the “counselor hat” any good advisor wears. It won’t ever make the list of services you offer, but early and effective intervention are keys to finding a successful and affordable quality of life in retirement, which most certainly is on your list of services offered.

Mellan’s piece and the wealth of information available at SAMHSA’s website (www.samhsa.gov) are great places to start.

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