Are we working for the love of it?

Retirement, for many, is drifting further into the future.

The YourLifeChoices Insights Survey 2018, which drew almost 7000 respondents, has found that most people are not planning to fully retire until they are at least 70.

In response to the question, If you are not yet retired, at what age do you think you will retire?, 20 per cent said it would be after they turned 70, 12.7 per cent said 70 and 17 per cent said 65.

The biggest influence on the decision-making was health (33 per cent), followed by work availability (24.6 per cent) and savings (24.4 per cent).

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys over the past 14 years have noted marked increases in responses relating to retirement age. In 2004-05, 48 per cent said they intended to retire at 65 or over, in 2012-13 that figure had jumped to 66 per cent and in 2014-15 to 71 per cent.

The economic advantages for both the individual and the nation are obvious, but are there also health benefits in staying in the workforce longer?

Scientific research leans toward yes, particularly for people who find work fulfilling and not physically taxing or stressful.

“What is the benefit of work? Activation of the brain and activation of social networks may be critical,” says Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

Mark Truitt, 70, a long-time educator in Florida, says: “I’ve seen a number of teachers who retire and don’t do anything they think is of value, and they go into decline pretty fast.”

Academic studies of the correlation between health and working into the senior years say that work offers a routine and purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning, an incentive to invest in your health.

And the workplace is a social environment, a community that supports and stimulates.

“In the beginning when you retire, it might feel more like a holiday,” says Gabriel Heller-Sahlgren, the director of research at the London Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education. “But after that, we see more of a ‘use it or lose it’ effect.”

If a job can contribute to a healthier older population, then policy-makers should make it easier for older workers to engage in paid work, Mr Heller-Sahlgren says, adding: “This does not mean politicians should force people to work until they die. They should remove disincentives to working.”

The academic studied a series of health, ageing and retirement surveys,  looking for  the short- and long-term effects of retirement on mental health. He found retirement had no short-term impact on mental health, but negative effects started to appear after the first few years of stopping work.

Economists Axel Börsch-Supan and Morten Schuth at the Munich Centre for the Economics of Ageing say: “Even disliked colleagues and a bad boss, we argue, are better than social isolation because they provide cognitive challenges that keep the mind active and healthy.”

Linda Fried, a dean at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, says: “Volunteering and paid work produce better physical and mental health. People need purpose. They need a reason to get up in the morning.”

Are you planning on working full or part-time past 65?

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Retirement income concerns
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Written by Janelle Ward

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