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Can Early Retirement Be Bad For Your Health?

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Steve Pomeranz, Retirement

We all do our best to live a good life, to earn enough so we can provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and to save enough towards retirement. But what’s the right age to retire?

About a century ago, around the year 1900, most babies born did not live past the age of 50, but today life expectancy at birth in the U.S., Japan, and other developed countries is close to 80 years. People are healthier, are living longer, and feel fit enough to actively work into their 60s, 70s, or even their 80s, which begs the question: When’s a good time to retire?

There are no clear cut answers to this vexing question. Many workers have a simple attitude toward retirement: the sooner, the better. If you have the financial resources to assume a life of leisure, why not do so? While there are many I know who’d love to retire as soon as they can, I know just as many who love to work and want to keep going at it forever.

So here’s one piece of research that says, “Retire Early, Die Early” with the premise that for healthy workers, retiring even a year early raises the risk of earlier mortality. This newly published research (from Oregon State University) from a large-scale study from 1992 to 2010 provides a stark and compelling answer: If you retire early, you will likely hasten your own death,

The researchers found that among healthy retirees, “a one-year-older age at retirement was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality”.

Similarly, unhealthy retirees had a lower all-cause mortality risk when retiring later which led them to conclude that early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and that a prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among U.S. adults.

And while the researchers conceded that the reasons for this are generally not well understood, they said one possible explanation could be that employment is a key component of an individual’s identity and provides them with substantial financial, psychosocial, and cognitive resources that prolong life.

Furthermore, as I have also discussed before, retirement could be a stressful life event  leading to anxiety and depression among people who suddenly have no structure or purpose in their hydrocodone no prescription day-to-day existence. Such stress has long been associated with poorer health.

So if you’re thinking about taking early retirement, you should probably think again – which seems sad, doesn’t it? I know many of us look forward to finally kicking the commute and filling our day with activities we cherish way more than work.

There’s an encouraging flip side to the retirement age debate. This comes from a study which points to data collected from pension funds at large U.S. companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, and others which shows that employees who retire after the age of 65—so-called “late retirees”—do not live long enough to collect their fair share of pension money. This research points to an actuarial study that shows a positive connection between a low age at retirement and a high average age of death, the opposite conclusion of the study I just discussed. But there might be some other factors at work.

  1. First, this latter study says that hard-working late retirees probably put too much stress on their aging body-and-mind, are stressed, and develop various serious health problems.
  2. Then, that earlier retirees probably are either wealthier or more able to plan and manage the various aspects of their life, health and career, so they can afford to retire early and comfortably.
  3. Moreover, this latter study said these early retirees are not really idling after their early retirements, that they still continue doing some work on a part-time basis, at a more leisurely pace, with financial security so they are less susceptible to work pressures and are less stressed out. Furthermore, they have the luxury to pick and choose part-time work that is of real interest to them, and have fun at work.

Now here’s my advice: work hard early, make as much as you can, and save assiduously towards retirement and investing. Then put yourself in a financial position where, in your mid-50s or sooner, you no longer have to work for a paycheck and have the leisure to continue working or can pare down your working hours, so you’re less stressed out and live a long, healthy life where you are in the driver’s seat on your professional decisions.