By Harry S. Margolis
We've talked before about the financial benefits of working longer. They're pretty straightforward: the longer you work, the more money you can set aside for retirement and the fewer years you'll be drawing down your retirement income.
By way of example, for someone who can expect to live to age 85, if she retires at age 65 she'll be living off of her retirement savings for 20 years; if she retires at age 70, she'll have five more years to sock away money and will be drawing down her savings for just 15 years. (Of perhaps of even more importance, especially if she lives to 95 instead of 85, is the substantial increase in her Social Security benefit if she begins receiving it at age 70 instead of 65.)
Now comes a study that suggests that continued work can also enhance longevity. This has always been hard to establish because of the link between health and work. People who are healthier are both likely to work longer and live longer. It's impossible in the real world to do a standard research study of randomly assigning people to two groups, one group that retires early and one that retires late, and then study their health outcomes.
Real World Social Science Experiment
But sometimes the real world offers opportunities for researchers that they can't create on their own. This recently happened in the Netherlands which from 2009 to 2013 offered a tax credit to encourage citizens between the ages of 62 and 65 to keep working. This made it possible for social scientists to compare the work rates of people and longevity of Dutch men in this age cohort both before the tax incentive was offered and afterwards.