How Paul McCartney, Betty White And Ruth Bader Ginsburg Are Changing The Face Of Retirement
On a daily basis, the average American is inundated with information on how each generation is less and less prepared for retirement. In fact, the recent Employee Benefits Research Institute’s (EBRI) 28th Annual Retirement Confidence Survey found that only 17% of workers surveyed were very confident in having enough for a comfortable retirement. For many, retirement appears to be an unattainable goal.
Enter 96-year-old Betty White, who seems to defy all the thinking around retirement planning. While she likely has sufficient financial resources to retire, headlines this week proclaimed that the actress was not planning on retiring any time soon. As she told her biographer, Steve J. Boettcher, “I’m going to be in the saddle forever.”
White isn’t the only one abandoning the traditional ideas of retirement. Seventy-six-year-old Paul McCartney just returned to the Cavern Club for a one-time concert launching his new album. And in a recent interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg indicated that at age 85, she’s hoping to work at least another 5 years.
To some degree these choices about retirement are a result of their outlook. “People who have passion and purpose in life age with more happiness and tend to have better quality of life because they enjoy every moment,” says L.A. physician Jorge E. Rodriguez, M.D., also known as “Dr. Jorge” from The Doctors.
While these celebrities are well-known and at the top of their professions, they are also part of a group that isn’t interested in the retirement stage of life. They are retirement rebels challenging the definition of how we approach life after 70.
Retirement Isn’t One Size Fits All
Modern retirement is a relatively new concept. Historians point to the late 19th century as the advent of modern retirement when the Prussian government decided to provide financial support to individuals over age 70. At the time the average lifespan was 70 years. Retirement really was just a way to bridge an individual from when they couldn’t physically work anymore to when they died.
With an increasing number of people living into their 80s and 90s, these parameters are becoming archaic. If we are living longer, we have to challenge the mindset that retirement is something that occurs in the mid 60s. Not only are people healthier, but they’re able to engage in their work passions for much longer.
Dr. Jorge concurs. “Mindset impacts health tremendously as you age. ‘Dis-ease’ contributes to disease. As you age, your immune system naturally goes down and you are much more likely to be depressed. Young people don’t think about death. Many life choices we make as we age, we can choose acceptance or despair. The people who choose acceptance are the healthiest and the happiest.”
Retirement considerations are different for every person, but the decision falls on a spectrum that incorporates the right mix of wanting to retire and staying passionate about our lives. Elton John expressed it well on his 2016 appearance on Carpool Karaoke: “I’m only looking forward. I don’t look back. Whenever you hear something new that inspires you from the young, it makes you feel ‘I’m gonna do that, I want to do that.’ So, I still have the energy of a 20-year-old, and I want to carry on… Once you stop, you die.”
It’s A Physical Game as Well
People who choose not to retire are typically proactive about physical fitness. In “RBG,” the recent documentary of Justice Ginsburg’s life, we see her regular workouts with her trainer. The image of her planking has gone viral but the important thing is that she views her workouts as a way to keep herself young and able to continue to serve on the Supreme Court.
Staying fit can help mitigate the biological clock of aging. In the 1980s, Stanford University Professor James Fries coined the term “compression of morbidity,” which describes reducing the length of time we spend sick or disabled as we approach the end of life. Using retirement as a way to stay healthy longer can serve a similar purpose.
“It’s almost as if you stop and fall into the inertia of life, and your body interprets that you are fasting or dying. Movement creates essential endorphins and hormones needed to stay alive,” Dr. Jorge says.
No one embodies this philosophy better than Mick Jagger, who recently turned 75. During an average Rolling Stones concert, he covers 12 miles moving around the stage. To stay in shape, he does an intense mix of weight training, Pilates and kickboxing, plus other exercises, six days a week. Clearly, he isn’t planning on retiring anytime soon.
While some people simply do not have the financial resources to allow them to retire, there will be more and more people who choose to continue their career path regardless of age and financial situation. It’s a mix of mindset and physical engagement that enables them to do this. It might not be the choice of all potential retirees, but it is certainly a viable alternative to retiring at the traditional age of 65.