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Anyone who watches TED Talks — short videos with experts discussing intriguing ideas — knows how quickly time flies.
You start viewing a talk, say, on whether computers can write poetry or how to spot a liar, then click on a discussion of what happens when you reply to spam mail or how to use data to make a hit TV show. And so on. Pretty soon, the afternoon is gone.
Well, if your interests are finances, retirement and the pursuit of happiness as you age, we can save you some time. Here are the top 10 TED Talks on those topics. To view, go to Ted.com and search under the speakers' names.
1. Shlomo Benartzi: Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow
It only makes sense. We are much more willing to commit to saving if it will take place at a future date rather than today. Also, it's easier to salt away money if we don't feel as if we are giving up anything in the process, and if doing so is easier and requires less effort than not saving. Economist Shlomo Benartzi shares real-life advice on how to turn these attitudes and behavioral challenges around in order to get people to squirrel away more for retirement.
2. Michael Norton: How to buy happiness
Money can make us happy, but we're spending it on the wrong things. Social science researcher Michael Norton presents scientific evidence that splurging on yourself doesn't improve happiness, but spending money on others does. And the amount spent doesn't change how much happiness we gain, nor does the way we spend on others. All that matters is the simple act of giving.
3. Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self
Every day we make many decisions, both large and small. But when planning for a long-term goal like retirement, how can we increase the chances that our short-term decisions will achieve our future goals? Daniel Goldstein, a behavioral economist, discusses techniques and tools for envisioning the future and making smart decisions today to benefit the "Future Us."
4. Jane Fonda: Life's third act
The Oscar-winning actress offers thought-provoking observations about living to the fullest during the period she describes as "life's third act" — the 30 or so extra years that generations today are likely to live beyond the typical life span of their grandparents. With this so-called "longevity revolution," Fonda says, comes an opportunity to continue to grow and learn, and — maybe most important — to review our lives up until that point within the context of the wisdom and perspective that we have gained.
5. Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness
Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist and best-selling author you may recognize from a series of popular television ads about planning for retirement. Gilbert says the human brain has the power to manufacture happiness — so you don't necessarily need to always get what you think you want in order to be happy. The freedom to make up your own mind or change your mind is the friend of natural happiness, which can have a profound effect on things such as planning for and enjoying retirement.
6. Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+
Whether you aspire to join the dramatically increasing ranks of those who live to age 100-plus or you just want to enjoy optimum health for whatever years you do have, writer and researcher Dan Buettner presents his findings from what he calls Blue Zones — the four "hot spots of human health and vitality" that he has studied for National Geographic. From diet and exercise to lifestyle choices and spirituality, it is striking how many of Buettner's findings and recommendations for a longer, more robust life come without any increased financial expense to practitioners.
7. Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness
Downsizing lifestyles and possessions is a challenge many face in preparations for or during retirement. Designer and writer Graham Hill presents a compelling case for turning that challenge into an opportunity by "editing your life" and belongings to save money, live lighter on the planet and ultimately achieve greater happiness. The design examples and other downsizing tips he offers may very well convince you that less really can be more.
8. Jared Diamond: How societies can grow old better
Jared Diamond, a "civilization scholar," provides an insightful, macro-level discussion on aging and the treatment of the elderly in different societies and cultures, with particularly thought-provoking observations about how these issues have changed over time in the United States. Diamond provides not only a prescription for how we might work collectively to reshape our policies and practices regarding the elderly, but also for how we as individuals can act to maintain our relevance and a fulfilling lifestyle as we age.
9. Judy MacDonald Johnston: Prepare for a good end of life
OK, so this is a topic that most people prefer to ignore. But this powerful — yet supremely practical — discussion of one person's experience in helping an elderly couple make their end-of-life plans is worth exponentially more than the six minutes of your time it takes to watch. Take a few more hours afterward to implement the five action steps prescribed by the speaker, a publisher and entrepreneur, and you and your loved ones will find comfort and peace of mind in knowing that you have addressed this often difficult issue.
10. Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier
There's no denying that with aging there typically comes a series of hardships, including increased health problems, the loss of loved ones and concerns about our continued relevance as individuals. However, psychologist Laura Carstensen presents compelling data related to "the paradox of aging," arguing that "recognizing that we won't live forever changes our perspective on life in positive ways." So despite the hardships, aging also brings greater compassion and understanding as well as less stress, worry and anger — all of which can lead to greater happiness.
Jeff Yeager is the author of Don't Throw That Away!, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com; you can friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.