Is working longer the key to a healthier retirement?

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Proposed changes by the Government to lift the Age Pension eligibility age to 70 continue to prove unpopular with Australians, yet it is one of the zombie measures of legislation from Budget 2014/15 that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refuses to kill off.

An estimated 375,000 Australians who are now in their late 50s would be affected by the legislation should it be passed, with future generations having more time to prepare for a longer working life.

While the thought of slaving away for an extra three years is just too much to bear for many Australians, research from the US indicates that working longer may actually be beneficial.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the rather lengthily titled Oregon State University study – Association of retirement age with mortality: a population-based longitudinal study among older adults in the USA – concluded that ‘Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.

The group of 2956 participants was split into healthy and unhealthy – as defined by whether or not health played a part in the decision to retire. In the ensuing 18-year monitoring period, 12 per cent of healthy retirees compared to 25 per cent of unhealthy retirees died. The resulting calculation is that being one year older at retirement equalled an 11 per cent lower risk of mortality. For those healthy retirees who waited until 67, the risk of dying was 21 per cent lower than if they had retired at 65.

The trend of working longer continues, with those who waited to age 70 having a lower risk of 44 per cent and a staggering 56 per cent lower risk if working to 72.

Even for those who were classed as unhealthy, there was a lower risk of death associated with working longer. Working to 66 resulted in a reduced risk of nine per cent, while working to 67, there was a 17 per cent lower risk; and at 70, a 38 per cent lower risk. As for those in the unhealthy group who work to 72, the risk is as low as those who are healthy – 56 per cent.

But before you abandon your plans for early retirement, let’s indulge in a reality check.

A 2015 report – Going the distance … working longer, living healthier – commissioned by financial company AMP and undertaken by Canberra University’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has found that people will simply be too sick to work by the time they reach qualifying age.

Even if health isn’t an issue, retaining or finding a job won’t be easy, with two thirds of men aged between 65 and 69, and 79 per cent of women in the same age group, forecast to be out of the workforce by 2035.

The report found that even the current retirement age of 65 isn’t achievable for many, with the average retirement age now 63; and 83 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women over 65 no longer working.

According to the report, the participation of those aged between 60 and 69 will only increase slightly by 2035, the year by which the pension age will be 70. It is forecast that the increased participation at this age will be one per cent for men and three per cent for women. In regards to health, the report predicts that 25 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women will be too sick to work by the time they reach 70.

Healthy people are considered twice as likely than those in poor health to work in old age. Modelling shows that only a third of Australian men currently in their 40s and early 50s will have the same level of health in their 60s. And for women, nearly half will have poor health by 2035.

Post high school qualifications also play a contributing factor – with 50 per cent still being employed between the ages of 60–69.

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52 Comments

Total Comments: 52
  1. 0
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    Try getting a new job after 60. Unless you’re extremely qualified, or are prepared to do whatever for minimum wages, good luck. Most employers don’t want anyone who has significant life experiences, doesn’t have a mortgage (so they’re reliant on their wages), and knows what should be done and how.

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      Our politicians can retire at 60. Why don’t the hypocrites work till 70? Considering they don’t clean up after themselves let alone do their jobs properly.

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      jackie anyone can retire at 60 if they want to, or 55 or 45 or any age they want. The only restriction in place is not related to retirement at all but to applying for a aged pension. If you do not need that then you can retire when you want. Nothing special about politicians on that score.

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      I noticed that the author failed to include his/her name. I wonder why. Maybe because this sounds like the rantings of one the Fuhrer, one T. Abbott.
      Nice to include a whole pile of statistics but perhaps the author of this doctrine should have asked bricklayers, plumbers, concretors as well as a whole pile of other workers what they think about such an idea. Not as though everybody has a cushy office job.
      And then as mentioned above by Old Grey how many older Australians are going to be given a job in a country where employing Australians has become a dirty word?
      Don’t get me started.

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      Old Grey I agree with you! We are supposed to work longer but I was retrenched at 60 because of company take-over, got no payout because the family business owners preferred to keep me “casual for 4 days a week” for 8 years, and I just can’t get a job! I have had 80 + interviews but the interviewers are always 30 – 40 years old and one of them even told me that she was looking for a woman with school aged children, and a friend even said to me that she wouldn’t employ her mother if she was looking for a worker.
      So I am tired of being knocked back and disappointed.

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      The whole idea of increasing Pension age to 70 absolutely stinks when people cannot have jobs, even if they are healthy & able. Besides that, how dare politicians try to stuff everyone else, while they have nicely feathered their own nests for retirement.
      Jackie: Agree with your sentiments. See below the FACTS, and ignore the right-winger (KSS) trying to protect politicians image:

      Link to see what current (new MPs since 2004) pollies get:
      http://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/1011/superannuationbenefits

      The current system allows them access to GREAT pensions at 55-60 years (latter age limit being phased in by 2025), with NO ASSETS or INCOME TESTS EITHER, after a mere 8 years service, and STARTING at $92,500 based on 50% of salary of $185,000 (now increased further – not sure to what), and increasing with years of service) – FOR LIFE. Also, they can have additional pensions if they are Ministers, etc. No justification whatsoever for their special pensions!

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    I’m doomed. I retired at 55 and will never work again.

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      Yes and every day we live that we don’t work we get 8 more hours to spend on ourselves .

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      I remember you
      You’re the one who travels cattle class dressed in a singlet and thongs
      Poor co passengers

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      What people wear is their own business.
      Your memory is very poor Raphael. I never said I wear singlets and thongs on planes. All I said is that I wear casual clothes (shorts and a t-shirt) on a plane, as many people do.
      You must be one angry and grumpy old bloke to get upset over someone wearing comfortable clothes on a plane.

  3. 0
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    No you won’t convince me working is a good idea. Stuff that !

  4. 0
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    From my own personal experience, working an extra 5 years was both satisfying and rewarding. I loved my job and the thought of having to stop one day was absolutely terrifying, but I knew that sooner or later a decision had to be made. The mind was still willing, but the body was showing signs of wear and tear. So, upon turning 65 I decided to reduce my hours so I could a) test the ground and b) prepare for the big day. That somehow did the trick. Five years came and gone very quickly and now, already two years into retirement, I look back and wonder what the fuss was all about.
    Yes, I do miss my day-to-day routine and the sense of fulfilment at the end of each day. Most of all, I do miss the fun of being with a great bunch of guys, who made each day feel shorter. However, the reality is that the body was no longer capable of performing as it used to and it was time to turn the page.
    Retirement allows me more time to spend with my loved ones, to travel and do all the things I never had enough time to do before. Furthermore, it allows me to reflect and enjoy life. I think it is great and fulfilling working a few extra years if we feel able to, but never be afraid to say enough is enough when the time comes.

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      I was one of the fortunate ones. Left school at 13 worked full time until 75. I enjoyed every day of it. I am still a bit lost after retirement as 62 years of shift work appears to unsettled the body clock.
      Had a job offer a couple of weeks ago but declined. I feel I don’t want to be like a footballer who plays one season too many.
      The health is still good. I had all the childhood diseases, have a strong immune system as a result. The younger ones will probably suffer as a result of al the antibiotics and may and not last as well.

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      Good on you Ahjay. I agree with pretty much all that. I guess we come from a much different era when one was proud to be employed and contribute to society rather than just take. As for health issues, well my friend, as we get older our bodies start to fall apart, no matter how fit we once were. So yeah, you’re right it’s pointless playing for another season. Only time will tell how the younger lot will survive. Don’t forget that, even though we don’t want to admit, thanks to all the pills and potions of today, statistically we live longer!

    • 0
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      I’m another lucky one who loved her job and didn’t fully retire until 75, although for the final years I was only part-time. However, my job was stimulating (as well as being pretty active), and also topped up the retirement income too. I have to say that routine home duties and family duties are nowhere near as much fun as working was!

  5. 0
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    Yeah, no thanks. Why live longer so you can work longer? Is that what it’s about? I’d rather do other fun things (or choose not to do anything) even if I lose a year!

  6. 0
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    Looking at the photo I can see why these pair want a job. If they don’t leave the house they are going to strangle each other.

  7. 0
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    I retired at 67. Got a job offer working 6 months in summer three years ago. Loved it and start again for the fourth year on Tuesday. I’m 74 now and will be 75 before season ends.

    • 0
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      … and a little luck goes a long way.

    • 0
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      Congratulations Theo1943 but I want to spend my remaining years spending time with family and friends instead of working till I cark it.

    • 0
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      Doing what Theo? That is the real question which those who want to work on need to answer.

    • 0
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      Heard of voluntary work? Things like meals on wheels, or driving disabled people to and from medical appointments etc. etc. I have close friends well into their 80s who are still actively involved helping others in the community. There are lots of things we can do, provided we are physically able of course.

    • 0
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      Mick, I’m working as a fire hazard inspector for a Shire. Checking firebreaks and house protection zones for all residences to be compliant for the fire season. I am qualified for this by dint of 17 years work as an active volunteer fire brigade officer. I spend most of my time driving around inpecting properties and advising people of the why of the requirements, and sometimes enforcement with a fine. I’m basically self-supervised and I get 6 months off a year. It also pays over $1400 a week but cuts out most of our pension payment. Not a job for someone in failing health though, there’s a lot of walking involved. I love it.

    • 0
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      Trebor, some of that luck came my way because of 15 years of active volunteering as a fire fighter. Involving many weeks of training and attending hundreds of bush fires, while others were sound asleep, becoming a lieutenant and then captain of my local brigade.

      I’ve been to fires in NSW, the WA north and south, spending weeks away from home. Luck tends to happen like that. Through hard work and dedication.

  8. 0
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    This sounds like government propaganda to justify a draconian impost.
    Guess they need the retirees entitlement to waste on other questionable policies.

  9. 0
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    Let’s be honest. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all relevant to what we do and why we are doing it. If you’re good at what you do and love doing it, retirement is not an option. Slowing down is. But if you’re caught in a boring and unfulfilling job and/or unhealthy environment, do your self a favourand just get out. Furthermore, if you are happy and can afford to just doing ubsolutely BUGGA All, go for it! Remember, there are three kinds of people: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happen…

  10. 0
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    It depends on the type of job or industry that a person is in. Many of the tradesmen I know find it hard to keep doing their job from their 50s on. If they are lucky they land a position that doesn’t require the same fitness as a 20 year old. Imagine hauling yourself up into roof cavities when you are 69. Some can, some can’t. You don’t have to be sick or disabled to find clambering over a roof hard at 60+. Long term issues like arthritis make some jobs harder and harder, backs wear out. Imagine trying to stand all day as your hips wear out.

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