Kish and I turned 60 last year, and naturally the prospect of retirement seems a lot closer now than it was when we were in our 40s. As we think about what to do on the retirement front, we’ve taken out books from the library and we try to read articles that look like they may have some relevant information.
Sometimes the articles can be a bit . . . alarming. Like this one, which provides 12 reasons not to retire early and suggests that people who retire early often run out of money, are sick and depressed, lose the social network that they built up when they were working, and deprive themselves of a rewarding second career, which apparently involves happily picking flowers in a greenhouse. The grim list of reasons is accentuated by even grimmer artwork of troubled seniors struggling with financial concerns and thinking longingly about the good old days at the office. In case you’re interested, reason no. 12 cites statistics that indicate that people who work longer live longer and that there is a correlation between early retirement and early death, “even when lifestyle, health and demographic issues are considered.” That final reason is illustrated with a nice picture of somebody placing a flower on a gravestone. Yikes!
You kind of wonder who comes up with these lists. Is the Social Security Administration, which would love to have people work longer for system solvency reasons, planting stories like this on websites? Or maybe the Russians have pivoted from meddling with American elections and have now decided to meddle with the retirement decisions of hardworking Americans just for the heck of it.
Does early retirement = early death? It’s hard for me to see how you could possibly control for all of the variables and determine that retirement was the ultimate cause of death for anybody. And, these articles being what they are, there’s a little bit of inconsistency between reason no. 1, which says that Americans are living so long and life expectancies are growing so rapidly that people are likely to outlive their savings, and reason no. 12, which says that early retirement will produce a prompt visit from the Grim Reaper.
I know relatives, friends and former colleagues who decided to retire before 65, who decided to work until 70, and who wanted to keep working after 70 and enjoyed doing so. They all seemed happy and reasonably satisfied with their ultimate decisions — and incidentally I’ve not noticed the early retirees keeling over, either. Their experience teaches me that everyone just needs to make their own decisions based on their own circumstances, comfort levels, financial situations, desires, and dreams. Scare stories don’t really advance the analysis.