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    Retiring early sounds like the dream — but not achieving FIRE could actually help you live longer

    Bianca Bagnarelli for BI

    Members of the FIRE movement grow their wealth so they can retire early.But research suggests working can provide health benefits, depending on your job. An expert on work and aging shared the pros and cons of retiring early with Business Insider.

    Being part of the financially independent / retire early movement sounds like the dream. But if it’s realistically unlikely that you’ll achieve it, you may find comfort in the fact that working for most of your life could at least boost your longevity.

    Members of the “FIRE” movement prioritize living frugally to save and invest as much of their income as possible, creating a huge nest egg that enables them to retire early. As BI has reported, some have retired as early as 29 and enjoy traveling, writing books, and spending time with their children instead of working.

    FIRE has grown in popularity as millennials and Gen Z reject traditional work culture, and look to grind hard now to live well later, instead of living to work their whole lives.

    Longevity is also a buzzy topic, and research suggests that people who live longer tend to have a strong sense of purpose. As many people get this purpose from work and their careers, could retiring early be detrimental to our health?

    Karen Glaser, professor of gerontology at Kings College London and lead researcher in a study on work, health, and life expectancy called WHERL, told Business Insider that data on the pros and cons of retiring early specifically is skewed because people only retire early for two reasons: either they are wealthy enough to retire or their health is too poor for them to work.

    But she said that evidence suggests the potential benefits of working or retiring vary from person to person. It’s easy to see why it’s better to spend retirement finally doing the things you didn’t have time for while working, instead of vegetating in front of the TV.

    Work can be source of fulfillment

    Retiring tends to give our mental and physical health a short-term boost, because it removes stress, meaning people may in turn smoke or drink less, and have more time to rekindle friendships and for healthier habits such as exercising, Glaser said.

    For instance, a 2020 study by WHERL found that women who worked high-strain, manual jobs late into life were much more likely to feel depressed, partly because of the toll it can take on the body.

    On the other hand, people can lose their main source of social connection when they leave work, which could have “a huge impact” on longevity, Glaser said. A 2023 study by researchers at the University of Glasgow found that people who were socially isolated had a 77% higher risk of dying of any cause.

    Having a source of connection is thought to be important for longevity.

    Drazen Zigic/Getty Images

    A job that you’re happy in can also provide satisfaction and improve self-worth, so it can be better to keep working if you don’t have anything outside work that bolsters your identity, she said.

    “Working at older ages does seem to have some kind of protective effect on your cognition,” Glaser added. Studies suggest that retirement can be followed by a drop in cognitive function, especially memory skills, although this depends on the person’s job, how long they’ve been retired, and how they spend their retirement.

    For example, a retired office worker’s cognitive abilities may decline if their work was their main source of intellectual stimulation, according to a 2022 paper published in The Journal of the Economics of Ageing.

    A hybrid FIRE model could be best

    However, what we lose from work could be made up with the right hobbies, such as classes, going back to university, or reading, Glaser said. And of course, many members of the FIRE movement spend their time traveling, pursuing passion projects, or continuing to work on things they enjoy without financial pressures.

    One 2021 study published in Psychology and Aging suggested that people who keep up mentally stimulating activities can maintain their cognition in retirement.

    A hybrid model may be best for those on the way to FIRE — if you’re financially stable, working part time or volunteering could provide the benefits of working and retiring.

    Meanwhile, there are benefits to be reaped for those who have control over what they do at work, have jobs that aren’t too stressful, and derive satisfaction from their job, Glaser said.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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