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Compuserve had an interesting little snigglet on its home page the other day stating that people who retire later live longer. A new study from the health services division of the Shell Oil Company in Houston, Texas, found the longevity of those who pack it in early is no better than those who continue to work.

The pertinent nugget was as follows:

”Led by Shan P. Tsai, the team analyzed data over a 26-year period on more than 3,500 former employees of Shell Oil who retired at ages 55, 60 or 65. Of these retirees, about 11 percent were women. They found that even after adjusting for gender and income level, those who retired at 55 had a significantly increased mortality, compared with those who retired at 65. Reuters reports that the death rate was nearly two times higher in the first 10 years after early retirement at age 55, compared with those who kept working. Those who retired at 60 and 65 have similar survival rates.”

This made my day. Up until about eight years ago I had planned on retiring at age 55 and looked to have the finances to pull it off without having to dine regularly on Alpo to make it happen. Eight years ago, however, I learned my wife and I would be having a late-in-life baby, which blew that plan all to hell. Delay my wife’s re-entry into the workforce by six years and tack on what will likely be about $300,000 in college tuition expenses 10 years from now, and I had a million-dollar baby of my very own with which to contend.

Beyond me, however, the study does beg a number of questions.

Why do those who retire at 55 have higher mortality rates? Is it because they still have their faculties and can revert to recreational ways left behind in college and before children? Are elder boomers trying to party like it’s 1968 and going to flame out like their heroes Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Mama Cass? Perhaps drug dealers need to start marketing their illicit wares in geezer-friendly pill bottles to appeal to a new, emerging market.

Is it the adjustment to staring your spouse in the face all day? As the T-shirt I wear proudly says, “Behind every great man is a woman who thinks he is an [expletive].” Could it be the spouses, considering the prospects of having this person under foot for a good 20 to 30 years, slowly start to poison their food or replace 80-proof booze with something stronger? Or could it be that the retiree, confronted by the ugly prospect of facing that spouse for another 20 to 30 years without the diversion of work, may fulfill their wish to die? Or are young retirees brooming their spouses for younger gold-diggers and fornicating themselves to death? Is Viagra the culprit?

The president of the chamber of commerce, in discussing social security reform, said that when the social security retirement age was enacted in the 1930s, people retired, went to Florida, and died within 18 months. By living longer, he said, we were not living up to our end of the bargain. Maybe our politicians, once again, have it all wrong. Maybe we should be considering lowering rather than raising the age for social security eligibility. Having to punch a clock means we have to take care of ourselves. Let us retire early and we can take the governor off of our destructive habits sooner and go out in a blaze of glory rather than fighting over shuffleboard scores in striped shirts, plaid shorts, black socks and sandals in some cement-encrusted gated condominium community conveniently located off of alligator alley in central Florida between a shopping mall and a crematorium.

So fear not, middle-aged people wincing at your finances. Your miserable situation means you will be able to live longer while your wealthy friends will likely flame out early.

Me? Yeah that million-dollar baby was expensive, but she was worth every penny. I look forward to sticking around as long as I can to enjoy as much time as possible with someone who will always be my little girl.

Assuming I can survive her teenage years, of course.

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