Monday, June 13, 2011

Longevity and early retirement - revisited

I last posted on this subject back in 2009

Longevity is pretty fundamental so it's worth revisiting the question of whether or not there a link between early retirement and longevity and, if so, is the link a positive one or a negative one? It's a subject that comes up on internet forums from time to time and is clearly an important issue to many people. With my own plans for early retirement well advanced, it is one that is certainly important to me.

There have been at least some studies done on the subject, including:

1. this paper summarising the correlation between life expectancy and retirement age at Boeing - and finding a strong positive degree of correlation between early retirement and longevity;

2. this study of retirees from Shell which found that the earlier retirees (aged 55) included in the studies had shorter life expectancies than those who retired later (aged 60 or 65);

3. there is also the more comprehensive study done by the UK Economic and Social Research Council which was the basis for my earlier post.

Both the Boeing and the Shell studies have been subject to comments that they fail to properly take into account factors such as the health of the individuals involved, whether the retirement was voluntary or compulsory, diet, attitude etc. This suggests that neither study can be regarded as conclusive. The UK Economic and Social Research Council's study did address a number of these issues.

My own take, after reviewing not only the materials cited above, but also a selection of the extensive commentary available on the internet is that early retirement is likely to be positively correlated with longevity if, following retirement

1. retirees experience reduced stress levels;

2. retirees remain physically active;

3. retirees remain mentally active;

4. retirees remain socially active;

5. retirees have the financial resources to support their chosen lifestyle;

6. retirees live a reasonably disciplined lifestyle;

7. retirees get sufficient good quality sleep;

8. retirees contribute to either their families or society.

This is not exactly rocket science. Most people who can follow 1-8 will be in pretty good physical and mental health regardless of whether they are retired or working. The issue for retirees is that you have to create or achieve all of these things on your own - the discipline of turning up to work each morning will be gone - no one is going to do it for you (although Mrs Traineeinvestor would probably have some thoughts on this subject).

For my part:

1. work is a cause of stress. I expect that retiring will reduce stress (although it is possible that other causes of stress may emerge post-retirement);

2. retirement will enable me to spend more time in the gym;

3. I have a number of bucket list items and hobbies which will keep me mentally active and challenged. If all else fails, I will do some studying;

4. remaining socially connected is likely to be my biggest challenge. By nature I am an introvert and have a very limited social circle. Right now I prefer it that way, but I have to recognise that I may need to start interacting with people more;

5. finance should be fine. Building a bigger cash/near cash reserve and (possibly) paying off the home mortgage should give additonal peace of mind once the pay cheques stop arriving each month;

6. I don't anticipate too much difficulty in maintaining self discipline. Getting out of bed in the morning has never been a problem. I initially thought that maintaining a healthy diet might be an issue, but since most of my dietary sins occur during office hours, I'm not too concerned;

7. sleep is an issue. I am a chronic insomniac. I have no idea whether I will sleep better after retiring or not - I only know that it's very unlikely that I will sleep any less;

8. I already have a couple of volunteer activities and can expand on these easily enough.

It's also worth bearing in mind that I will be retiring by choice - I am not retiring early due to job loss, ill health, technical obsolescence or other adverse reasons. Also, for me retirement is not only about leaving my job, it's also about moving on to embrace a different phase of my life.

Looking forward to it.


Super Saver said...

On #7. I regularly slept 5 hours and woke before 6 am when I was working. I thought that was normal. After retiring, I gradually moved to 8 hours of sleep regularly. Now that I've temporarily unretired, I am back to 6-7 hours of sleep.

traineeinvestor said...

I would love to be able to get 5 hours sleep a night on a regular basis.


Frank Damon said...

I always had 8 to 10 hours of sleep when I was working. Now that I'm retired, I get a lot more than that. When I was still working, I avoided working too much so I wouldn't look too old. Now I still look like I'm ten years younger than my age. :)