9 Key Factors That Could Make Retirement Longer — or Shorter

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How long will your retirement last? In truth, no one knows.

But there are many factors directly under your control that will help determine how long — or short — your golden years might stretch on.

Here are some important things you can influence that might help determine how long your retirement lasts.

How much money you have saved

Senior man smiling and holding wads of cash money for retirement
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No matter how much you want to retire, you are not likely to reach your goal if you haven’t saved enough money to finance your golden years. That means you will have to work longer — and retirement will be shorter — if you have not saved diligently.

How much do you need? A recent survey of Americans found that, on average, workers think they will require around $1.5 million to retire. Thanks to inflation, that number is substantially higher than what folks said in past years.

However, there is no magic number that works for everyone. For more insights about funding a long retirement, check out “How Much Do You Need for Retirement If You Live to Age 100?

How much debt you carry

unhappy shocked older couple
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The thought of trying to finance decades of life without job-related income can be unsettling. But if you have a lot of debt, it becomes downright terrifying.

Taking debt into retirement puts you at high risk for the type of stormy money troubles that can capsize your golden years. You are much better off waiting until you pay off some — or all — of your debt before you stop working, even if that shortens the length of your retirement.

To get started on your journey to a debt-free life, discover the “8 Surefire Ways To Get Rid of Debt ASAP.”

Where you live

Retired couple laughing and smiling on the beach
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How long you live plays a key role in how long you remain retired. And life expectancy can vary significantly depending on where you reside today and where you have lived in the past.

For example, people born in 2020 who live in Hawaii can expect to live to be nearly 81 on average. That number drops to 72 for residents of Mississippi.

Your hobbies

A couple holds flower pots in front of their home
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Believe it or not, the hobbies you choose can play a large role in how long you live.

As you would expect, activities that involve exercise — such as tennis or dancing — can boost your lifespan. But other hobbies offer less obvious benefits.

For example, an Australian study found that those who garden can lower their risk of dementia by 36%.

For more, check out “11 Hobbies That Can Help You Live Longer — and Better.”

Your willingness to move to a smaller home

Older couple in front of their home they sold to downsize
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Paying off your mortgage can provide the type of tremendous financial freedom that allows you to lengthen your golden years by retiring early.

Downsizing is an even more powerful way to gain the financial freedom that can allow you to retire sooner. Selling a bigger, more expensive home and buying something smaller and cheaper should leave you with extra money in your pocket.

In addition, downsizing to a smaller home should mean lower maintenance, tax, utility and insurance bills.

How well you take care of yourself

Senior woman exercising
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As we age, taking care of our health becomes increasingly important. Eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough rest are all important factors in how long our retirement lasts. Avoiding unhealthy behaviors like excessive drinking might be the most important behaviors of all.

For more on how to care for yourself during retirement, check out:

Your sense of adventure

Retired expats in hot springs
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Having a healthy sense of adventure can either lengthen or shorten your retirement.

If you are audacious enough to embrace expatriate life, consider moving to another country where the cost of living is just a fraction of what you would pay in the United States. Doing so might mean that you can retire years — even decades — earlier than you ever thought possible.

On the other hand, if you dream of taking many expensive vacations to exotic lands across the globe, make sure you have the cash to pay for such a jet-setting lifestyle. If you don’t, consider working longer to build a vacation fund, even if it means a shorter retirement overall.

The state of your social life

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Maintaining strong social connections might lengthen your life — and by extension, your retirement.

One review of 148 studies found that people who live in isolation face a 50% greater risk of premature death than those who maintain stronger ties.

Another study of a long-living population in Sardinia, Italy, revealed that people in the region had strong ties to family and friends, and were frequently physically active.

So, if you plan to retire soon, don’t give into the temptation to become a couch potato. Instead, explore some of the “26 Big Ideas for What To Do in Retirement.”

Your lifestyle requirements

Older man putting money in piggy bank
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As we mentioned earlier, on average, Americans believe you need about $1.5 million to retire in comfort.

Many folks likely view $1.5 million as a veritable fortune. But others might see it as closer to a mere pittance.

If you are innately frugal, you likely can safely retire early and spend many decades in retirement. But if you enjoy the finer things in life, it might be wiser to toil at your job for a while before embarking on a more lavish — if also shorter — retirement.

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