Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.
A study from a team of researchers at Oregon State University shows that the longer you wait to retire, the longer you will likely live.
So if you are planning to put off retirement until after 65, get your retirement plan ready — you’ll want to make sure you have planned to afford the extra longevity! (Though, actually, everyone should make sure they plan for adequate longevity.)
The 2016 study looked at 2,956 participants who were working in 1992 and retired sometime between 1993 and 2010. Healthy retirees were 11% less likely to die per year past retirement age. And people who said they were not healthy at the time of retirement showed a similar decrease in mortality.
What’s more, the study found that “there was no evidence that the effects of retirement age on mortality were modified by socio-demographic characteristics,” like wealth, race, gender or education level, “suggesting that the beneficial effect of retiring late may be universal across different socio-demographic profiles.”
There are a lot of theories about why some people live longer than others. Some studies have purported to show that staying married, owning a dog or visiting art museums are the keys to a longer life. Other studies show a link between higher educational attainment or living in a “blue” state and longevity. Wealth and exercise are often described as factors, too.
But the findings of the 2016 study suggest that the most profound reason people who retire later live longer is the same reason people in Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancies. In Japanese it’s called ikigai, which literally means “life worth” and implies “something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living.”
The authors of the Oregon State study explain why working longer may result in a longer life: “One possible explanation is employment is a key component of individuals’ identity that provides them with substantial financial, psychosocial, and cognitive resources.” “Additionally, retirement could be a stressful life event associated with cognitive decline, difficulties in daily activities, morbidities, anxiety, and depression.”
Work gives life purpose to many folks, and the longer you delay the transition out of the purposeful context of work, the better off you are. Following are several ways to stay in the workforce, or if that’s not practical or desirable, to replicate the benefits of work.
Transition to a job you love
Some of us love our work and intend to keep going as long as possible. Others are stressed out and want to get away from their current employment ASAP. Still others are in jobs that are so physically taxing that an early retirement is necessary.
If it is the longevity-enhancing aspects of work that you are after, you can retire and find a different kind of job doing something you love.
Leverage your skills into a new endeavor
Social scientists call your ability to make money at a job your “human capital.” Your ability to run a spreadsheet or manage employees is the capital your employer leverages to make their business profitable.
As you approach retirement age, you can leverage your human capital to build alternative sources of income and life purpose.
The oldest tried and tested way to transition human capital is to take a skill or hobby and make it a post-retirement job:
- If you are handy around the house, you can invest your time and savings into rental properties.
- If you have more people skills than material skills, you can make an extra room in your house into a rental or B&B.
- People who are skilled at writing and editing can get freelance gigs using a freelance referral site like Upwork.
The key to successfully building a post-retirement purpose that also creates income is making sure what you’re doing is something you love.
Go part time
No one says that working full time is necessary to reap the benefits of work. Reduce your hours and reap the rewards of both work and retirement.
Try a sabbatical or mini-retirement
Maybe you just need a break from work to recharge.
Sabbaticals are a growing trend for people near retirement age who are in need of a reboot. Learn more about a pre-retirement sabbatical.
More than ever, workers over 50 are looking toward careers in the nonprofit world, seeking a second chance at purposeful work.
Here are six tips for making an impact.
Don’t want to work? Replicate the life-enhancing benefits of work instead!
When researchers say postponing retirement leads to a longer life, they are not saying you should grind away at a job that kills your soul.
Remember, the key finding of the Oregon State study is that life satisfaction — ikigai in Japanese — comes from having a purpose.
One of the main benefits of work is that it keeps you engaged with other people. Work is often a social endeavor.
Researchers in Australia found that retirees who are members of groups experience better life expectancy than retirees who aren’t, and the positive benefits increase with the number of groups.
Reaching out to colleagues and friends who are close in age to face the transition from work to retirement should be a part of your retirement plan.
Maintain a schedule
Having places to go and things to do — on a regular basis — is key to staying vital.
Here are some tips for keeping up a retirement schedule!
Keep your brain operating
Like it or not, work keeps your brain active. When you retire, you want to be sure to stay engaged in activities that keep your brain active and on its toes!
Use it or lose it!
Keep financial stress at bay
Work is comforting because you know you have a paycheck to cover life’s expenses. Retirement can be stressful if you don’t have a solid funding plan you really believe in.