A large number of Americans intend to keep working past retirement age. For many, their reasons are financial. Some have a high level of debt while others are afraid if they retire too soon, they will run out of money.
Working longer offers several financial benefits. Those who put off retirement are able to:
- Accrue a higher Social Security benefit
- Grow a higher pension benefit
- Have more time to save money and permit investments to grow
- Utilize company-paid insurance benefits
In addition to financial benefits, there are cognitive, physical and social advantages to working longer. Studies have found that older Americans, who tend to work longer than people in European countries, score higher than those citizens on memory tests. The research correlates continued mental stimulation provided through work with retaining mental acuity longer than those who retire.
Working outside the home also exposes older folks to a larger social network than some retirees might experience. As we get older, our social networks tend to narrow. Most people see fewer people after retiring and must make a concerted effort in order to engage in conversation and activities with a wide range of people on a daily basis. Maintaining a job past traditional retirement age can keep us socially engaged longer. Scientists say that regular social contact contributes to better health and a positive sense of well-being as we grow older.
Some people prefer to keep working because they are self-described workaholics. While we tend to associate any type of “-aholic” with negative connotations, recent research has found that an addiction to working long hours can yield positive outcomes. For one, American businesses generally reward workaholic behavior with promotions and higher pay, so there is a financial benefit. Secondly, a recent study correlated health benefits as well. The research discovered that workaholics who love their job have no more risk of developing health conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, excess waistline fat) than the average employee.
Unfortunately, if work is causing undue stress and health problems, this will likely cost more money for treatment during retirement. In this case, if you don’t love your job it could be worth considering retiring—even if that means living on less income. At least it would give you the opportunity to pursue a daily regimen of healthy habits and interesting hobbies—which might help ward off expensive medical bills and provide a higher quality of life.
When weighing the benefits of retiring versus working longer, don’t rule out opportunities for income other than a full-time job. Consider taking on a less stressful part-time job that will allow you to explore some of your interests. For example, if you like carpentry or gardening, consider applying for a position at Lowes, Home Depot or Ace Hardware. If you enjoy crafts or sewing, consider selling wares at a local market or starting your own tailoring and alterations service. If you like being around animals, consider offering a pet sitting service.
Working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working longer at the same job. You can enjoy many of the same perks—financial, mental, physical and social—by simply switching to a less stressful type of work that you enjoy more.