Six months left and the news story I’m seeing everywhere these days says that retiring later may prevent dementia. A couple of years ago I read an actuarial study done by Boeing that showed a correlation between retiring early and life expectancy that went so far as to say that every year you work past age fifty-five takes two years off of your life expectancy. (The results of that study have since been called into question and Boeing published Let’s Retire the Rumor about Life Expectancy [PDF] that says there is no correlation.)
Bottom line: no one knows for sure.
As Gerry and I get closer to our transition date I find myself thinking a lot about the retirement lives of those who have gone before us. Gerry will be the last of his siblings to retire and his brothers and sister (and his parents, for that matter, who are in their nineties and still relatively healthy) are models of how fulfilling life in retirement can be. My own parents spent their final years (which came much too soon as Dad died at age sixty-five and Mom at fifty-five) dealing with health issues and never got to see the fruition of their own retirement dreams. I remember my uncle’s comment when my aunt died suddenly at age sixty-five about how glad he was that she had taken early retirement and had those years to enjoy.
As I approach the age my mom was when she died I can’t help but think about my own mortality and, truth be told, it’s one of the reasons I’ve been planning for many years to retire early. I’ve got places to go and things to do that I’m kept from as long as I’m working at my corporate job. There are writing projects on my mind, classes I want to take, volunteer work I want to do, and let’s not forget about grandchildren whose lives I want to be a part of.
A few weeks ago I spent a restless night thinking about this transition in front of us–worrying, actually. What if our investment advisor is wrong? What if we don’t really have enough money? What if our house doesn’t sell? What if we can’t find one we like in Alberta within our price range? What if we can’t find good doctors once we get home? What if? What if? What if?
Sure, we could work a few more years until the housing market improves. We could continue putting money into our 401k and watching our investments continue to grow. We could work a bit longer, spend a bit more in order to save a bit more, and it might all turn out in the end. On the other end of the spectrum there might be a catastrophic medical diagnosis or a sudden death that makes it all for naught.
I’m a simple kind of girl; I don’t buy into the plan of traveling the world and living the high live. I’m content with simple things like a tomato on the vine, canning jars filled with sparkling jellies cooling on the kitchen counter, and the pleasure of losing myself in a good book. Even so, I’ve got plans for my next act and things I want to accomplish. Life is just too short to put off doing those things for the sake of amassing wealth we really don’t need in order to be happy.
Bob Lowry has a blog I enjoy reading called Satisfying Retirement and recently he shared a link to an article about something called “retro retirement” that really resonated with me. I think we sometimes put too much time and effort into pursuing the next big thing and not enough time appreciating what’s in front of us.
I spent some time this morning on Google Earth checking out the area where we’re going to be looking at houses soon. Thanks to that technology I stood on the prairie and imagined the warm wind on my shoulders, felt the dust on my bare feet, and considered a morning spent writing while Gerry enjoys a round of golf. Seems like the kind of simple life that I can’t wait to enjoy.
Retire early: increase the chances of dementia.
Retire late: decrease your predicted life span.
My choice: plan wisely, life within our means, retire early, decrease stress, be content, keep learning, do Sudoku and jigsaw puzzles, give back, have faith, appreciate friends and family, spend time doing things I enjoy, devote energy toward things I’m passionate about, and be thankful. Always, in all things, be thankful.