Working longer – adding to quality of life?

I spent close to an hour with a Statistics Canada economist on  Friday trying to frame how we could assess the economic impact of a specific industry in the province.  It’s fun interacting with the hard core practitioners of the dismal science.  I am a pretender to the role (MBA only) but I have probably analyzed more economic and demographic trends in New Brunswick that just about anyone.  Interestingly enough, this obsession with data started when I came back to NB and joined the team trying to attract multinational companies to set up in the province.  It was fascinating to see VPs of big companies looking at our ‘business case’ for their specific company in New Brunswick.  That data intensive, targeted approach was central to convincing firms that an NB facility could be successful.

I took this concept to a larger audience through the blog and columns but the public at large seems to be less persuaded by data.  They find it interesting but form opinions on a softer set of criteria compared to those VPs from big companies.    We soldier on.

We have been talking on these pages about the role of older workers helping to addressing emerging labour market challenges.  I see Statistics Canada is now estimating that the average 50 year old can expect to work 3.5 years more now than back in the mid 1990s.

Again I don’t see this as a problem.  I interact with a number of post 60 year old, already retired once workers.  They have more flexibility in their work but seem to enjoy it even more than before retirement.

The next step will be to assess the quality of life of those who eschew Freedom 55 and work into their 70s.  The conventional (and current – watch the Sun Life advertisements) wisdom has been that work is dreary and people can’t wait to retire (I used to know someone who was in their late 40s and had their retirement date posted on their office wall).  I wonder if that is true.  My father-in-law is 76 and expects to work in his full time job until 80 (and then do part time work).  When I asked him why he told me he would ‘drop dead’ within six months if he retired.

I guess my point is there must be enough data out there to assess this.  Are people that work longer happier (on average) or less happy compared to those who retire at 50, 55 or 60 (I put the caveat in here to state I mean retirement as fully stop working – many people retire and go into another job, part time/part year/some passion they enjoy)?

Even the actuaries at Sun Life would end up wanting people to work longer.  They are having to build into their models the fact that people can live these days – if they take care of themselves – well into their 90s.   If you need to extract monthly income from Sun Life for 30 years – someone will have to pay for it.

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