Beyond the Gold Watch

Posted by Joseph Sherren on May 10, 2016

According to Statistics Canada, over 1,000 people turn 65 every single day which means more people are contemplating retirement now than ever in history.  Studies show that some are thinking about working beyond the traditional age of retirement, while others are considering early retirement.

The good news is either of these options may be better than retiring at 65.  In addition, many pension plans are not sufficient, forcing seniors to look at other options.  This begs the question: Who ends up living longer?

A number of years ago, Dr. Ephrem Cheng provided an interesting perspective, suggesting the length of time a person lives may be determined by the age at which they retire.  His actuarial study looked at life span vs. age of retirement based on a study of retirees from Boeing Aerospace.  Here are just a few samples from Dr. Cheng’s table:

Retire at 50 – Die at 86 – Enjoy 36 years of retirement

Retire at 55 – Die at 83 – Enjoy 28 years of retirement

Retire at 60 – Die at 77 – Enjoy 17 years of retirement

Retire at 65 – Die at 67 – Enjoy 2 years of retirement

Interestingly enough, I have also observed similar trends at organizations with whom I’ve worked.

Now, I realize studies like this can be significantly influenced by the type of profession a person is in, their socio-economic class, and how they have looked after themselves in terms of exercise and nutrition.  Although some will want to argue the accuracy of these numbers because of the depth of the research completed, there is enough anecdotal evidence that we should seriously consider the implications.

These statistics show an astonishing inverse probability of life span according to retirement age.  One theory is that often people who stay in jobs and retire as soon as possible (at 65) were probably not happy in their position to begin with and experienced significant stress for years prior to retirement.

Conversely, people who chose to retire early often went on to do something they enjoyed doing, likely reducing their emotional stress and physical burnout.  This makes sense since people who “choose” to work long after their eligible retirement age did so because they loved what they were doing and did not suffer from damaging external stress.

Another thought is that early retirees took control of their lives early on, and were proactive about planning and managing the important aspects of their life such as their finances, health, and career which enabled them to stop working sooner.

There is also evidence that shows that if you have not retired by 65, and enjoy your job, you should just keep working. Not because you can’t afford to, but retirement could actually be bad for your health.

There was another major study that followed participants over eight decades which showed people who continued working after retirement age lived much longer than people who did not.  The study showed that it was not the happiest or the most relaxed older participants who lived the longest, it was those who felt needed, were contributing value, and pursuing their goals.

The authors of the study, psychology professors Dr. Howard S. Friedman and Dr. Leslie R. Martin, found some other interesting results: “The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness − the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person”.

My question this week: “Are you proactively thinking about the age you plan to retire?”

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