May 14, 2019 — The government isn’t quite ready to slap warning signs on retirement contracts like it did on cigarette packages, but maybe it should. The Wall St. Journal recently reported on several studies showing that delaying retirement can improve your longevity. While most people look forward to pursuing their hobbies, traveling, and spending more time with the grandchildren, there are some downsides. Many folks watch too much TV, don’t exercise, and lack the mental stimulation to keep them sharp. The studies seem to find that policies that encourage people to keep working result in fewer health problems and longer lives.
According to a WSJ article, “The Case Against Early Retirement”, researchers for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, using an idea from a Dutch study, “concluded that delaying retirement reduced the five-year mortality risk for men in their early 60s by 32%”. Women experienced less of a mortality risk. The study in Holland used a series of increasing incentives to get workers to stay on the job longer.
Economists Susann Rohwedder and Robert Willis found that people in retirement experience significant cognitive loss. It seems to make sense that learning new skills and being mentally engaged keeps the brain healthy, and in the absence of that stimulation our mental abilities decline. A study in France found that people who retired early experienced “slightly more dementia” than folks who worked longer.
A decline in social interactions could part of the reasons for declining mental and physical health among retirees. Without the social networks they have at work, and even if they do crossword puzzles and the like, people’s brains seem to miss the stimulation that comes with a working life. Depression and even physical problems can result.
Working longer also has positive financial effects. People have a chance to save more money, delay taking Social Security, and postpone tapping into their retirement savings.
Paying job not necessary
By no means do you have to have a paying job to experience the health effects that a job can provide. A volunteer gig or a hobby job can also give you and your brain important stimulation, and make you happier.
We hope that you are in a position to decide for yourself if and when you will retire. Unfortunately, too many people have had the decision made for them by their employers. But if you do decide to retire – whether it is early, on time, or delayed – the information about health and retirement in these studies should be considered. This assumes your job was not so physical that it became hard to do. If you don’t have a plan for how to stay meaningfully busy after you pull the trigger, maybe you should think about working longer. That decision certainly won’t hurt you financially. Your job might be part-time, or one where you volunteer. The old expression, busy people are happy people, always seems right.
Comments? If you are retired, do you wish you had worked longer? Do you feel you are losing your edge now that you are retired? Or are you happy and healthy, glad your working days are behind you? Please share your opinions in the Comments section below.