Retirement might be a vague future concept to dream about once in a while, until it's suddenly looming right in front of you. Concluding your working life or professional career means enormous changes your life, and it's worthwhile to consider some of these before packing up your office.
Retirement is a relatively new concept in history. In the United States, we did without an official retirement age until 1935, when it was set at age 65. The average life expectancy in 1935 was 61.7 years. While a person retiring in the first half of the 20th century might look forward to a few restful years, someone retiring today at age 65 can expect to live 17 to 20 additional years. Surprisingly, people are increasingly opting to retire at 62 instead of 65, according to the National Institute on Aging, further lengthening the average retirement.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is sobering. It indicates that "complete retirement leads to a 5-16 percent increase in difficulties associated with mobility and daily activities, [and] a 5-6 percent increase in illness conditions...over an average post-retirement period of six years." It seems that regular physical exercise remains important during retirement, to prolong strength, balance and agility. A healthy diet is also needed to keep aging bodies in good shape.
The NBER study also concluded that a "6-9 percent decline in mental health," was common after retirement, and complaints of depression were frequently heard. Both the physical and mental health issues seem to be less severe if you are married, continue to be physically active, have a good support system of friends and family, or even if you work part-time. A National Institute of Aging study says that overall, 61 percent of retired people consider their retirements to be "very satisfying."
With Social Security in its death throes, and an unreliable investment environment, it's not surprising that 38 percent of baby boomers "expect their retirement to be 'financially difficult,'" according to the Motley Fool investment site. And they're probably right. With 29 percent of this same demographic not saving in any deliberate way toward retirement, financial trouble will almost inevitably rear its frightening head for many future retirees. Fortunately, resources abound to help you plan your retirement finances. Just plug "retirement calculator" into a search engine, and you'll be able to get a snapshot of your projected retirement prospects in a few minutes.
Because retirement is likely to be a significant portion of anyone's life, it makes sense to do some planning before the end of your working life is just around the corner. Financial planning, especially, is most effective when started sooner rather than later. Just as important, do your best to remain connected with family and friends, and make sure you have some purpose in mind for your later years, beyond just taking it easy. A second career as a volunteer is an increasingly popular choice for retired people, as it allows them to contribute to society and the well-being of others. That's always a healthy choice, no matter what your age.
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