The Forbes Magazine website is out with an alarming new article suggesting that early retirement – so often touted as the goal of many working men and women – may not be the healthiest choice, especially for men. This article that we just discovered on the Forbes website suggests that there might be an unnerving correlation, albeit a small one, between men retiring early and the premature death rate rising among men.
“Statistically Significant” Surge in Early Deaths
“For millions, the idea of getting out of the workforce before 65 is a dream,” says Forbes. “Few can accomplish it, but many aspire to it. But can early retirement lead to an early death?” That, suggests the article, is the conclusion from a recent study out of Cornell University and the University of Melbourne which found a “statistically significant” surge in the number of men dying at age 62. This stands in dramatic contrast to the current U.S. life expectancy which is about 79. As the Forbes article points out, minor changes in death rates can be expected, but this new research showed a jump of 2 percent in the early death rate among men, an increase which may sound small but one which statisticians say is more than mere coincidence.
The significant thing about age 62 is, as you may have guessed, that it’s the earliest age when most adults can claim Social Security benefits. Recent stats show that more than 40 percent of men (and an even higher percentage of women) start their Social Security benefits at 62, in spite of the fact that there are significant financial penalties for doing so. This suggests that financial necessity, not careful planning, is driving men to claiming early. If more men in their early 60s are losing well-paying jobs, necessitating an early start to government benefits, this may help explain why the premature death rate among men is on the rise.
Loss of Jobs, Loss of Pensions
“Why are more men dying early in their seventh decades?” asks Forbes. The author speculates that the large loss in high-paying manufacturing jobs over the past four decades is partly to blame. “Some 7 million jobs have been lost since 1979, when manufacturing employment peaked, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” That steep drop-off in manufacturing jobs, Forbes suggests, has triggered “a massive loss of guaranteed pensions and health care, so those workers forced into the much lower-paying hourly economy are getting poor medical care and saving less.” Lack of access to high quality, low cost health care could certainly be part of the set of circumstances causing men to die before their time. The Cornell/Melbourne study also showed a link between men who died early and unmarried men with low education levels – the very men whose job prospects in a competitive labor market worsen rapidly with age.
The Forbes analysis seems to corroborate the fact that many men who take Social Security at 62 do so because they are out of the workforce or unable to find a job due to illness or chronic unemployment. “They are not retiring early because they want to,” the article asserts, but because they have no choice.
Loss of Identity
Studies have repeatedly shown that men unable to find work typically face deep psychological pain. In researching the linkage between job loss and early death, we found this article on the Healthline website that specifically warned about the frequency of depression among those forced out of their employment. “For many people,” said Healthline, “losing a job not only means the loss of income and benefits, but also the loss of one’s identity. A recession can exacerbate unemployment as more and more people experience downward mobility and income volatility. Job loss for people in the United States — a country where many people’s work and self-worth are interchangeable — can be an extremely traumatic experience, often leading many to despair and depression.” The effects are especially traumatic for men. “Men who are without work sometimes view themselves as expendable,” Healthline reported, “and often describe the loss of a job using terms such as ‘catastrophic’ and ‘devastating.’”
The higher premature death rate, these articles infer, may be due in part to the psychological effects of forced retirement caused by job loss. But there are also behavioral issues involved. As Forbes reports, “Those forced out of decent-paying jobs may also be engaging in unhealthy behaviors and succumb to opioid addiction, alcoholism, traffic accidents and lifestyle-related diseases such as lung cancer, the study suggests.” Older, single men lacking the purpose that a good job can bring (and also lacking the education and training to change jobs relatively late in their work lives) appear to be facing a perfect storm of economic, emotional and behavioral circumstances that are causing their lives to be cut short at an alarming rate.
Is there a solution? Forbes has a few proposals. “Certainly,” the article says, “offering more education and retraining to men losing gainful employment will help.” The Forbes article also suggests that allowing people to buy into Medicare at an earlier age – 60 or even 55 – would help make good medical care more readily available at affordable rates. But there’s one recommendation that all of us can be part of, and that’s to provide the vulnerable men we know with a better, more supportive social environment. If there’s a brother, uncle, friend or neighbor in your circle of acquaintances that might be facing the unexpected early loss of a job, you can reach out with a friendly smile, an invitation to coffee or a note of encouragement, letting them know you care about their well-being. Don’t let isolation drive these unemployed men further into the darkness of depression. Make a plan to connect with an unemployed friend this week.
Speaking of plans, are you looking ahead to your own retirement future? Have you taken the possibility of job loss, housing change or medical emergency into account? Have you made certain that your family understands your wishes and will honor them? A solid, comprehensive retirement plan can help you face all of life’s uncertainties with a calm sense of confidence, knowing that all the key facets of your retirement – financial, housing, medical, legal and family – are fully incorporated into your plan. We call this an AgingOptions LifePlan, and there’s nothing else like it. But don’t take our word for it: instead, bring your questions and come join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar. You’ll find several dates, times and locations to choose from when you visit our Live Events page, where you can register for the seminar of your choice.
The storms of life can definitely knock you off course. But you can weather any storm and reach your retirement destination safely with the guidance of an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.forbes.com)