The traditional retirement age has long been 65, but when that age was established in 1935 by President Roosevelt for the Social Security Act, less than 60 percent of American adults lived so long. Today the average life expectancy in the United States is 76, and in some countries, it’s even longer which has many governments debating changing their national retirement age to ease the burden of a rapidly growing older population. But aside from economic implications, when is the best time to retire for health and well-being?
According to a recent New York Times Live report, researchers have found that people who are healthy at age 50 can expect to live about 23 more years free of disability and a further eight years living with a disability. Based on this prediction, people’s average, maximum working life expectancy in the United States is 73. In Canada, with an average life expectancy of nearly 82, many citizens hope to retire by 61 but worry about running out of money.
Not only has life expectancy lengthened significantly thanks to medical advances and a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to good health, but the type of work people engage in has also changed. More jobs are in knowledge-based fields including business and finance, education, health care, and management which older adults are able to participate in well past their 60s. More physically demanding jobs, however, can take a toll on the health of older adults and in these cases, an earlier retirement is beneficial. Disparities between racial and socioeconomic demographics can also influence a healthy work span.
Delaying retirement may not only make sense for the pocketbook – studies have found that stopping working can result in cognitive and physical decline. Many retirees discover they miss the social interaction and sense of purpose working provides. Others believe that older adults should benefit from a lifetime of working to enjoy some leisure years while they are healthy enough to enjoy travel, spend time with family, or pursue a passion project.
What’s your ideal retirement age?