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Retire Early and Often July 17, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Random Observations.

Do you have an important, demanding, or stressful job? Do you feel so essential to your employer that you’re considering not retiring until you’re compelled to, either by law or by your own deteriorating health?

In 2002, Dr. Ephrem (Siao Chung) Cheng did an actuarial study of retirees for Boeing Aerospace. His results are startling.

Age at Retirement Average Age at Death
49.9 86.0
51.2 85.3
52.5 84.6
53.8 83.9
55.1 83.2
56.4 82.5
57.2 81.4
58.3 80.0
59.2 78.5
60.1 76.8
61.0 74.5
62.1 71.8
63.1 69.3
64.1 67.9
65.2 66.8

Here is another chart that presents essentially the same data visually.

In other words, on average, for every year you work past age 54, you will lose two years of your life. Retire at 50 and you can expect to live to age 86, on average; retire at 65 and you can expect to live to about 66.

Dr. Cheng found that his results applied not merely at Boeing, but also at Lockheed, Bell Labs, Ford Motor, and Telcordia (Bellcore). Employees who retired at age 65 or later received pension checks for an average of 17 months before they died — thus providing their employers with a huge gift in terms of contributions paid but never reclaimed.

The early retirees in Dr. Cheng’s study did not spend their time idle; most of them continued to work — part-time, at a more leisurely pace, and at employment of real interest to them.

When my husband took early retirement at age 56, I supported his decision, while secretly worrying about where the money was going to come from. Today I’m delighted that he was wiser than I. If my husband had kept on working, the heart problem that led to major surgery in 2003 would probably have killed him. And even if he had stayed alive to retire at age 65, the table above says the chances are excellent that he would have died early in 2009.



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