Since 1935 Americans have embraced the concept of retirement thanks in large part to the Social Security program. Today, most Americans still look forward to retirement, but exactly how and when they make the leap is changing.
Most of us know we’re eligible for Social Security beginning at age 62, which by today’s standards might seem a little young to give up your day job. According to the Sightlines Project from the Stanford Center on Longevity, 75% of Americans want to live to be 100. And in general, Americans are living longer, which for many can mean working longer.
The good news is it turns out working longer may actually be good for your health. The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health reported in 2016 that working just one year more resulted in an 11% lower risk of mortality among healthy participants in the study.
So if you’re not quite ready to call it quits, how can you make the most of your time on the job so you’re able to enjoy the next 20–30 years of your life?
1. Put your health first.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Maintaining good health can help you work longer and feel better doing it. Not to mention that healthier people are more likely to be healthy enough to truly enjoy retirement once they do transition. A study by the Stanford Center on Longevity lists healthy living behaviors as a key to living better, longer. The study defines healthy living as “avoiding risky behaviors (smoking, excessive drinking, drug use, etc.) and making healthy choices day to day (diet, exercise, etc.).” Even in retirement, daily exercise, healthy meals, and an adequate night’s sleep are vital to your vitality.
2. Be realistic with expectations.
Thanks to improved health care and regular exercise, many Americans are feeling great long into their golden years. It can be hard sometimes to remember the years really do add up and that you’re not 35 anymore. Maintaining a healthy outlook and lifestyle are key, but it’s also important to pay attention to any physical warning signs and see a healthcare provider if you have concerns.
3. Focus on your finances.
Knowing you have adequate money to live comfortably beyond your working years can provide a sense of security that can’t be understated. However, according to the Sightlines Project from the Stanford Center on Longevity, “Financial security is less likely for Americans in 2014 compared to 2000.” Whether you’re working past 65 out of need or want, there are steps you can take to help make retirement more enjoyable and financially stable.
For instance, claiming Social Security at age 70 can result in a monthly payment that is 75% more than claiming at age 62. And, working longer allows you more time to accumulate additional contributions to your 401(k), whether you participate in an employer-funded plan or an individually funded 401(k) plan.
4. Soak in the social time.
Just as important as finances and healthy habits, social engagement is the third prong to living long and living well, according to the Sightlines Project. Working longer can provide not only extra money but also more social connections.
Having a steady job can make it easier to have meaningful relationships and a feeling of community. Consider ways you can use work’s social engagements to springboard into retirement. Does your office support a local nonprofit you can continue to volunteer with after retirement? Are there ways you can engage more deeply with family once your schedule opens up? Is there a local walking group you can join that might be good for your wealth and health? Your social engagements don’t have to cost anything beyond your time.
5. Prolonged purpose and fulfillment.
The sense of accomplishment that comes from a particularly productive day at work can be hard to match. For many, work provides a purpose, something larger than yourself to be a part of, and it turns out having a purpose is pretty powerful. In a 2014 study published in Psychological Science, research revealed that finding a purpose in life, particularly at work, seems to lead to greater longevity and potentially higher incomes. Even after retirement, finding ways to maintain a sense of purpose through helping and supporting others has been shown to increase longevity, according to research findings published in the journal “ Evolution and Human Behavior.”
Ready for retirement but not ready to give up the benefits of working? Consider a flexible retirement. A study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® outlines a new way retirees are thinking about retirement. Flexible retirements offer many of the benefits listed above but with a more flexible schedule. Retirees not quite ready to fully cut the professional cord are finding ways to stay engaged and active, and earn income without committing to a 40-hour week. Sounds like a win-win if you’re not 100% ready for retirement.
Whether you’re preparing to fully or partially retire next year or years from now, keep the above points in mind as you design a retirement that works for you. You’ve earned it.
Transamerica Institute® is a nonprofit, private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching and educating the public about retirement, health coverage, and other relevant financial issues facing Americans today. Transamerica Institute comprises two divisions: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® and Transamerica Center for Health Studies® . Transamerica Institute is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates and may receive funds from unaffiliated third parties. For more information about the Institute, please refer to www.transamericainstitute.org.
Things to Consider:
- Waiting until age 70 to claim Social Security can mean a larger monthly benefit.
- Working longer might help you live better longer.
- Staying healthy, active, and engaged can help you live better, longer.