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Why retiring earlier may equal dying later

A new study links early retirement with a lower probability of death -- for men anyway. But a different study shows benefits from continuing to work.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Sep 4, 2013 1:11PM
This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site

MoneyRates logoHow long you live may not only depend on your diet, exercise habits and genetics -- it could also be linked to how early you retire, according to a study released last month by the Tinbergen Institute at the University of Amsterdam.

Smiling older man driving convertible © Clerkenwell, the Agency Collection, Getty ImagesResearchers from the university analyzed data relating to a 2005 decision to give Dutch civil servants a one-time opportunity to retire at age 55, instead of the usual early retirement ages of 61 or 62 or the full retirement age of 65.

According to the study's findings, men who retired early decreased their chance of dying within the next five years by 42.3%, or by 2.5 percentage points. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that these early retirees had the lowest probability of death during that five-year period, even when compared to younger demographics. Women didn't seem to experience the same benefit, although females tended to have a lower death rate anyway.

The study hypothesized that the lower stress levels the early retirees may have encountered could have contributed to their lower mortality rates. Other studies, such as this report from Carnegie Mellon University that found that stress may interfere with how the body deals with inflammation, have suggested that stress could be a contributing factor in some illnesses.

Weighing an early retirement

The study was intended to provide guidance on how early retirements may impact public pension funds, but its lessons may be relevant to individual retirement funds as well.

Early retirement combined with long life not only means you have to stretch your retirement money over more years, but that you also have fewer working years in which to sock away money into your 401k, IRAs and savings accounts.

Given that the savings rates of U.S. workers have been below 5% for most of the past decade, it may be impossible for many to afford retirement at age 55. A 2013 study by the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that nearly half of U.S. workers are not at all confident or not too confident in their ability to retire comfortably in the future.

Also, unlike their Dutch counterparts in the study, U.S. workers who retire at age 55 would have to completely self-fund their retirement until age 62, the earliest age at which they can begin receiving Social Security payments.

But the news for late retirees it isn't all bad. According to a French study, working longer may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, indicating that a late retirement may provide some benefits to brain health.

But whether you aim to retire early and live longer, or work later and be mentally sharper, planning carefully for your financial needs in retirement is likely a sensible move.

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Sep 4, 2013 3:21PM
Yep   when  you  remove  job stress   you become healthier.    That  is why  the US   wants  people  to  stay  working till  they are 70,  They will  either die before retiring   or  very soon afterward  thus   collecting    very  little  of their SS. 
Sep 4, 2013 3:38PM
I say.....retire at any age you want as long as you can afford it.  Screw work.  Life is to be lived and not to be conformed to some companies profit line. 
Sep 4, 2013 4:04PM
I retired as soon as I could and go to the gym everyday, except when I'm on vacation - like right now.   Vacations are no longer restricted to 1 or 2 weeks.  I save as much money as I did when I worked.  The only down side is that as a retiree I no longer have weekends.  LOL.
Sep 4, 2013 4:24PM
Retire as soon as you are financially able to. Don't work your life away. The government wants you to work later and later in life to help bail them out of the entitlement mess that they created.
Sep 4, 2013 3:35PM
I want my money at 62 before I die or S.S. goes bankrupt with our bad leadership.
Sep 4, 2013 2:52PM
Con job article.  Retirement is not overrated. 
Sep 4, 2013 4:41PM
If work was so great, the rich would have had all of it for themselves a long time ago. After retiring at 53 after a 30 year teaching career, I can honestly say my overall health and quality of life has improved significantly. Of course this may be because my 3 children no longer live in the same house! I now have a part-time, very low stress job that allows me to enjoy riding my motorcycle when the sun shines. As long as I don't ever marry again, the future looks bright!
Sep 4, 2013 4:42PM
  I fully agree with this article's observations.

Over 30 years ago I started working in a large company ... > 35,000 employees worldwide. So, I have watched a lot of my colleagues pass away before retirement, or shortly after. Within 5 years I'd already seen it so often I came up with my own theory that every year you worked past 50 took a year off of your potential life given normal expectations and no unusual health issues. I attributed it purely to the extra stress.

 Some people do indeed work later and still live a long time, but generally they loved their work and had no outside interests. So I have made a point of having many activities outside work to where it is one of the least important things in my life - volunteering at church, working with the boy scouts, helping at local community events where funds are tight and and any help in time or money is truly needed, and appreciated. 

 So, since I was 23 I have been in the 401k and saved like crazy - also retirement accounts and other investments outside. All with the goal of retiring at 56, which is next year. My work path has been the same as others - the longer I was there the more responsibility. You are rewarded for doing a good job with more jobs as they cut back and eliminate positions ... adding to the stress and declining health.

 1 year ago I inherited 3 full time jobs and leading projects on 3 continents and the stress is insane. I have been telling mgt. I am going next year and nobody believes I will, that I could afford it, that i have no life outside of work, etc. Recently they hired one full time person to take one job, are interviewing for a second now to try and cross train since I think they may finally be getting that they can't play the normal game with me because unlike most, I have planned for early retirement. 

 So, planning to get out next year and do what I want - finish 20 years of lagging house projects, 2 car restorations , keep volunteering in the community where people do need my help and will truly appreciate it . 

After my dad retired he commented a few years later he never knew how he found time to work. Thinking I will be following in his footsteps, just about 8 years earlier so hopefully with more years of good health up front. I see no downside at all from watching a few dozen people over the last 3 decades with a similar plan and all lived longer healthier lives.  Can be done, if you plan and work hard at it as a goal.
Sep 4, 2013 4:00PM

May be true for some, but certainly not for all.  Some people live to work and have no outside hobbies or interests that could fill their day.  My grandmother worked until she was 79 (as a waitress, no less) and credited having somewhere to get up and go to as keeping her healthy.

Sep 4, 2013 4:55PM

semi retire if you can,some people just need a break from time to time.


Sep 4, 2013 4:31PM
Life is too short no matter when you pass away. Mom always said to make the best of where you're at and who you're with no matter what. If its your last day, you will have had a lot more fun and you will have exited leaving a good impression.
Sep 4, 2013 5:54PM

Do what right for you and what you want to do.  You can get by on very little if you and your wife chose to. Its not that easy if you have kids.  You youngsters out there, give it some serious thought about having kids, that will certainly limit your retirement choices. 

 My wife and I retired when I was 52. I went back to college and took another degree in something I loved to do.  A field archaeologist does not earn very much and in fact has to pay many of his expenses himself but for me, it was worth while.  I had managed to earn and save  enough to carry us until SS at 62.  I also was pretty good at stock picking and when I wasn't working as a field archaeologist I played the stock market.

 I am 84 now.  I lost my wife 2 years ago near our 48th anniversary .  I had a stroke in 2007 when I returned from project in Tibet, probably because of working at the extreme elevations for several months. My wife and I lived an extremely happy life after I retired from the high stress job I was in. 

It did provide college for out kids but neither were scholars and neither has done well.  That's their problem.  Mom and Dad gave them the opportunities.

Sep 4, 2013 5:24PM
I quit working three years ago at age 58 and haven't looked back.  Life is too short to drink cheap beer and die!  Don't skimp when it comes to your Beer therapy! 
Sep 4, 2013 5:16PM
Also when you remove yourself from on the job toxic hazards,(and there are many out there) you improve your health. My grandfather retired after 45 years at a paper-mill at age 65 and died a few months later of pancreatic cancer. I believe his job at least contributed to the cancer as they worked with PCBs and dioxin in that industry during his day, which have since been shown may cause pancreatic cancer.
Sep 4, 2013 4:42PM
55 would be a great age to retire if you had the funds to do so. My father retired at 55 and lived to be 81. He would have lasted longer but he just didn't care anymore after mom died. My grandfather lived a subsistence lifestyle in backwoods Oklahoma. No electricity, a well you had to hand pump water out of. Worked odd jobs to buy tobacco and coffee. Grew all his own food. He died at 85, IN AN ACCIDENT, NO LESS!!! I've been saving money and investing since day one. I plan on waiting until all the kids are grown and out of the house and then hit the road in an RV with my beautiful bride of 25 years. I may have to work until 60 to make sure I'm all set. I'll worry about Social Security when I get a little closer to it. But I probably will wait until 70 to draw it.
Sep 4, 2013 4:21PM
who knows if I'll be able to retire when I get old enough, there will not be anymore s.s. especially if we let all these illegal immigrants become citizens and start using our benefits that we paid for our whole life. Good think I stated a 401k when I was younger
Sep 4, 2013 5:29PM
I retired at 54 and I'm 63 now and have a couple of minor health issues but other wise I'll still kick butt if I have too.....
Sep 4, 2013 5:23PM
Well DUH!  I wanted to retire right after college but was short on funds, so I work.
Sep 4, 2013 6:00PM
avatar so blessed. I was able to retire at 54. At 60, I work part time (22 hrs a week) golf&gas money!! When all of my buddies were drinkin in clubs and throwin money away. I saved a lot and invested conservatively from the age of 20. Went to college on a B-ball schlorship at a city college.And my wife and I had our both our kids at 21 and 22 yrs of age.

They to went to a community college, stayed at home and both got academic schlorships. You can do it too. BUTT........ either have your kid/kids real early or none at all or don't get married!! And Save. Save like your life depended on it!! Now I have 6 duplexes I rent out.from those savings. YOU GOTTA REALLY WANT TO RETIRE EARLY THOUGH. Its a project that can be accomplished. Good luck to all you..Young folk out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sep 4, 2013 5:22PM
Retired or so at 57.  If possible, an your personality can adjust, do it.  After two years, it is going good for me so far.......... no regrets, go with the decision.
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