Monday, January 14, 2008

Retirement Means Death or Rejuvenation

I was influenced by two contrasting opinions on Retirement. One by Lee Kwan Yew and other a response by an American reader of Strait Times, to LKY's proclaimation 'Retirement Means Death'. Lee Kwan Yew is a remarkable person and like many foreigners , I too look at him in awe and respect. However in Asian countries, a section of domestic population is always more critical of their leaders . Singapore too is no exception. Y’day at Suntec Convention center, when Lew Kwan Yew talked about Retirement. ‘With nothing to do, no purpose in life, you'll just degrade, go to seed '. No sooner he proclaimed ' Retirement Means Death', scores of messages started pouring in the local newspaper - Strait Times. Majority of them were critical of him and his views.

What LKW said was echoed a while ago in British Medical Journal. The study mentioned that those people who retire at age 55 and live to be at least 65 die sooner than people who retire at 65. That's not all. People who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the 10 years after retirement than those who retire at 65. This study was taken for all retirees at Shell company.

Although Singapore or Shell group survey cover socio-economic group that is vastly different from India and other struggling Asian countries, I reckon, the result may not be all that different. Since economic liberalization, India offered a choice of voluntary retirement but I did hear few of these people who opted for early retirement developed physical problems immediately after the retirement that were not apparent earlier. Perhaps Idle mind invited host of physical problems.

Lee Kwan Yew is 85 and pursues active life, does regular exercise and undertake frequent travel . He considers these are his secrets of graceful longevity . He started jogging in his 50s and now also keeps fit by swimming and cycling. He maintains a packed schedule of international travel, including at least one official trip a year to regional powerhouses China and India. He proclaimed “The biggest punishment a man can receive, he said, is 'total isolation', which he defined as 'if you're not interested in the world and if the world is not interested in you'. 'If the mindset is that I'll reach retirement at age 62, I'm old, I can't work anymore, I don't have to work, I just sit back, now is the time I enjoy life, I think you're making the biggest mistake of your life, “he said.

The response fro the the american reader was equally compelling " The pension funds in many large U.S. companies such as AT & T, Boeing, Lockheed etc. have seldom been fully drawn out by retirees who work till the age of 65 years, as these workers usually die within 2 years after finally retirement. Many of these late retirees do not stay alive long enough to pick up all their pension money. As a result, they leave a lot of unused money in their pension funds, resulting in the under drawn funds. A study of life span v/s age at retirement, based on the number of pension cheques sent to retirees of Boeing Aerospace, found that for staff who retire at the age of 50, their average life span is 86. For people who retire at the age of 65, their average life span is only 66.8.This study concludes that for every year a person works beyond the age of 55, he/she loses an average of 2 years of his/her life span. Boeing employees who retire at the age of 65, receive pension cheques for only 18 months, on average, before dying. Lockheed, Ford Motors & Bell Labs, both found that employees retiring at the age of 65, take only an average of 17 months of pension, prior to death."

So what do I do ? Should I retire at 58 or carry on ?

Being an Indian working abroad , I have no choice. I have no social security, no pension, no gratuity, no provident fund. I must fend for myself till I breathe last. When I look at the Indians who are living beyond 80’s. One things that is strikingly different. They all have zeal to live life and passion to look forward to something new. It would be interesting to see if people who have immersed themselves spiritually too have converted that peace of mind into a longevity.

But even I were to have all the comforts and security of pension fund, I doubt if I would ever retire. My agitated mind would unlikley to let my body do nothing. Despite various convincing comments by readers, I would still agree with LKY that ‘ Retirement for me is indeed a Death’

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2 Comments:

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4:52 PM  
Anonymous zuby said...

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Zuby.

10:46 AM  

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