What is the ideal age to retire?
Obviously the ideal age to retire is when you are ready, and retirement doesn’t need to mean sitting around all day doing nothing.
Your retirement might involve spending more time with your family, grandchildren, or travelling, volunteering, getting involved in physical activities like hiking, cycling or taking up a new hobby that you have always wanted to pursue.
As healthcare gets better we can stay fitter and healthier for longer (unlike Nathan Rothschild – who was the wealthiest man in the world – but who died in 1836 because of an infected boil on his buttocks, which couldn’t be treated as antibiotics hadn’t been discovered!)
More people are choosing to work longer, to keep up their community and mental stimulation, but have the financial freedom to choose to stop working.
According to Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, to live a long and satisfying life, you shouldn’t retire – you should stay busy. Have a think about what your retirement is going to look like, and how you are going to stay busy – we can help you make sure that your money will be there and will last, but it is up to you to make your retirement enjoyable.
To find out more, read a commentary here, or watch his TED talk here.
But here are some important excerpts:
Too much time spent with no purpose is associated with unhappiness. Stay busy! But not with busy work or trivial pursuits, but with meaningful activities. Economists have coined the term unretirement to describe the hordes of people who retire, find they don’t like it, and go back to work. Between 25 and 40 percent of people who retire re-enter the workforce.
If continuing to work in your job isn’t possible after a certain age, and if new employers aren’t willing to hire older workers, there are still ways to stay actively engaged in meaningful work. In the US, there’s the Head Start program, an organization that allowed my grandmother to come in and read to underprivileged children. The AARP Foundation has a program called Experience Corps, which matches older adults as tutors in public schools for economically disadvantaged children.
The program has had a positive impact on the children in the ways you’d imagine: improved literacy, increased test scores, and improved classroom and social behavior. But it also has a positive impact on the volunteers. In one study, volunteers felt a greater sense of accomplishment than a group of control participants and showed increases in brain volume for the hippocampus and cortex, compared to the controls, who had brain volume reductions. This was particularly true of male volunteers, who showed a reversal of three years of aging over two years of volunteering. As Anais Nin observed, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” It’s true of brain volume as well.
That courage, that expansion of life, can come about in a variety of ways for different people: taking classes online, such as from Coursera or Khan Academy (but be sure you can interact to discuss what you’ve learned; learning in isolation can only go so far in keeping your mind active); joining (or hosting) a book club or current events discussion group; volunteering in a hospital or church; asking your local YMCA or church what they need; working in a soup kitchen.
There is a transformative effect in helping others. In his novel Disgrace, Nobel Prize-winning South African writer J. M. Coetzee wrote: “He continues to teach because … it teaches him humility, brings it home to him who he is in the world. The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.”