626: Retiring

A Thousand Things to Talk About
626: Retiring

Do you plan on retiring?

Full episode script

There’s a few assumptions about old age and working that are built in to the idea of retirement – and they are assumptions that haven’t always been made. The two biggest ones are that those over a certain age are not capable or should not be expected to do any kind of quote-unquote work, and that an extended period of leisure time at the end of life is the norm.


Both of these assumptions are, in the historical context, more unusual than many of us may realize. While there were moments in history where governmental or social support for older individuals who were not working existed — such as Rome — modern retirement as many of us think about it first started appearing around the very late 1800s and early 1900s.


Even then, though, the age at which retirement benefits were awarded to an individual and the average life expectancy were fairly closely aligned, which meant that so-called retirement benefits were more a form of social support for the very oldest individuals in society.


Now, there’s a challenge in countries as varied as Japan, Norway, the USA, and frankly most developed economies, where the birth rate is not high enough to maintain a system where it takes multiple individuals who are working to support the retirement benefits of those who are drawing benefits.


But – should retirement – the ceasing of working entirely to pursue a life of leisure supported by government or personal savings –  be the expected norm?


A recent article from The Washington Post reports that, perhaps, the expectation of retirement at 55 or 60 or 65 may not be the healthiest option. Quote:

Personal finance expert Jean Chatzky did a series for NBC’s “Today Show” on the benefits of not retiring. She profiles an 81-year-old dentist who was still working.


“Researchers at Oregon State University analyzed data from a large, ongoing study of people age 50 and up,” Chatzky reported. “What they found was that people who continued to work past 65 had an 11 percent lower chance of death from all causes.”


At the same time, a system that requires one to work until death also seems to be out of balance. So…

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.