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Can Early Retirement Make You Live Longer?

If you want to live as long as possible, early retirement is the way to go. Or at least, that’s what a 2017 study in the journal Health Economics says. The study said that early retirement is connected to longer lifespans. The Netherlands-conducted study thought of the mortality of civil servants who went to an impermanent government program that would let them retire as early as 55 years old.

But the secret to increasing the chances of you living longer isn’t so easy. Ben Barzideh, wealth advisor with finance firm Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois says that he thinks it’s a little more complicated than just retiring early. The situation under which somebody retires, their ongoing health and how they use the time post-retiring could all contribute to a person’s lifespan.

Contradicting The Findings

There are clashing studies about the connection between long life and retirement. While some studies say planning an early retirement can increase workers’ lifespan, other research suggests different findings

The study in 2017 saw that early retirees who were men were 2.6 percentage points less likely to pass away in the next five years. The group of women included in the study was too small for the research to draw proper conclusions on the effect of early retirement on women workers.

An earlier paper – The Health Consequences of Retirement – that was released in 2014 by the University of Wisconsin System, said that retiring could possibly give people more relaxation time that could lead to adopting healthy habits such as more exercise and less smoking. It depended on research provided by 6,276 individuals via the Health and Retirement Study that was organized by the National Institute on Aging and the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey Arnett, a senior research scholar in the department of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts says that someone who has been in a demanding profession will surely feel like retirement is a relief.

Aside from better habits, early retirement could foster better health by reducing stress

However, other studies don’t say the same thing in early retirement. A 2016 research said that healthy people who stayed one year more lessened their chance of death by 11 percent (shown in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health). The same is true for a similar study conducted by University of Wisconsin.

They utilized the information they retrieved from the Health and Retirement Study to conduct their own study where 3,000 men participated between the ages of 50-62 years old. A 2016 paper published in the Journal of Health Economics approximated that retirement increased chances of men becoming obese in the two to four years after retiring by 12 percent.

Some Drawbacks of Early Retirement

Intersect Capital LLC’s managing partner, Joe McLean, claimed that people have different experiences (maybe pleasant or not) when they enter in early retirement. His mom retired at age 59 and she’s been enjoying her fulfilling retirement since then. Now that she’s 78 years old, she’s still enjoying the pleasures and wonders of life.  However, his dad also retired early but has the opposite experience. He left the workforce at 61 and passed away at age 66. While his mom pursued different interests in retirement, his father did not find the same calling.

McLean even adds that his father didn’t really have a plan on what to do during retirement.

While it’s difficult to calculate how personal attitude on retirement relates to life expectancy, some researchers have been diving into the topic. The University of Greenwich Department of Psychology senior lecturer named Oliver Robinson led a study published in 2011 that followed how retirees saw their new status in life. Their study revealed that a person may experience positive or negative emotion depending on how they view their own retirement. Those people who see it as a challenge or a freedom were more likely to feel positive about it compared to those who saw it as a loss or a restriction.

A related issue could be the circumstances when someone retires. Arnett adds that It depends largely on if you chose to retire, or were forced to. Those forced into retirement due to a layoff could be unlikely to embrace the possibilities of their new free time. Meanwhile, people who retire early because of bad health could die prematurely for reasons totally unrelated to early retirement.

Finding a purpose in retirement equals health and happiness. Instead of thinking about the length of one’s lifespan, McLean opines that people should focus on ensuring their time is well-spent.

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