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Boomer Bytes #36: The Lure of Leisure

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

The Lure of Leisure

By Steve Canipe

Sept. 19, 2014. Who has not seen the commercials of active and vibrant looking boomers playing golf, eating at swanky on-site restaurants, and basically enjoying themselves? Maybe a Shell Oil Company study from 2005 will have us rethinking retirement, at least early retirement for the younger boomers.

The Shell Oil study looked at death statistics of those who retired early at age 55 and found that those who retired early and live until 65 have a 37% greater risk of death in the next 10 years than those who waited until 65 to retire. These data were corrected for sex, socioeconomic status, and calendar year of the study. What was even more interesting and also reported in the study was that “People who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the 10 years after retirement than those who retire at 65.”


These are pretty heady numbers given the high percentages. Given these numbers, do you really desire to retire early? For those of you interested in knowing a little more of the mathematics behind the study, a report on MedPage reports that “Overall, 137 workers who retired by age 55 died by age 65, while 98 workers who retired at age 60 died by age 65, the researchers reported. After adjusting for sex, the year the participant entered the study, and socioeconomic status, the researchers concluded that employees who retired at age 55 had almost double the mortality risk of those who continued working into their 60s (hazard ratio 1.89, 95% confidence interval 1.58 to 2.27).”

An English study posited several reasons why retirement – early or otherwise—seemingly has a more negative effect on males. One of the reasons is that males may be more prone to negative behaviors like more drinking and smoking along with a generally less healthy diet and lower rates of exercise. Another reason explored was lower permanent income but the study rejected this hypothesis as being without merit based on the data. The study does not look at insurance as the pensioners in the United Kingdom still have access to quality health care which is much above the American standard even with Medicare and supplements or probably even the new Affordable Care Act.

Maybe it is not the lack of work but the lack of purpose that is the cause of early mortality. Could it be that there seems to be no purpose in life after retirement? While playing golf, fishing, reading, gardening, and other previously leisure time pursuits are fun, perhaps they are not fulfilling in the long term.

My dad took early retirement at age 62 after working in the textile industry most of his adult life. Instead of fishing, which he used to love to do prior to retirement, he bought all sorts of woodworking machinery. I actually thought he was developing dementia. But for the next 20 years he devoted himself to building cabinets and furniture and generally “playing” around in his shop. I think after his retirement he only went fishing less than 10 times. Several of those were when he took his grandkids, including my son, David, to put a line in the water!! He had a purpose and he was doing something that he really enjoyed.

A recent article in AARP Bulletin for September focuses on grandmothers and how these women are rethinking the role. Perhaps many boomers who are grandparents can learn some new ways to be active in different ways with grandchildren other than the more traditional care-giving or babysitting role.

Maybe you want to travel or relocate to a more exotic location – leave Boone and the mountains in the winter perhaps. An estimate from the PolitiFact site is that there are about 1,000 retirees each day moving to Florida. This means 360,000 new residents per year. Several sites report state to state data one of these is called Vizynary and presents the following data. It should be noted that these are not all retiree moves but significant in this data are the retirees. Some key findings are that many migrants are moving to Florida. The largest numbers come from Georgia and then Texas, New York, and North Carolina. Texas has become the second-largest destination for internal migrants. In 2012 more than 500,000 individuals moved into the state. Largest numbers of migrants seem to come from Southeast, Southwest, and the West, the largest single contributor is California where more than 62 thousand moved there in 2012.These migrations are not from illegal or even legal immigration but internal relocations of Americans.

But maybe you are one of the adventuresome who is thinking of going further afield. There was an article, which appeared in the USA Today on 11 June 2014 in the Money Section. It was entitled “Latin America’s la vida Buena lures seniors” [the good life] The thrust of this article is that a number of Americans are considering taking or already have taken their retirement out of the United States completely and gone south of the border. For a number of years Americans have moved from the relatively expensive northern tier of states to the southern United States. One of the most widely known relocation sites on the East Coast is in Florida.

The more widely chosen sites are Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador. Most of the folks who are moving tend to be middle class folks who are living in retirement on small retirement incomes. The reason that these countries are very attractive is that they all have pleasant climates but perhaps more importantly they have very low cost of living. The USA Today article points out that if you have around $25,000 per year in retirement income you can live very well.

To help American retirees there are numerous companies that run tours taking retirement conscious Boomers to these place. One individual from Seattle decided after taking a trip to Costa Rica that this was where he wanted to retire. Having visited there recently, although not on a retirement exploration trip, I can certainly understand the attraction of living in this beautiful place. The cost of living is very low and American retirement incomes, as of this writing, have zero tax liability in Costa Rica. Of course living there does not obviate paying United States taxes.

Because you are still American citizens, your Social Security income is not reduced and you still can vote in American elections. Costa Rica, unlike some of the countries to our south, has no standing army and the water is as safe to drink as is water in the States. Other than being warm and needing to learn Spanish, if you don’t already know it, this move south is a pretty easy switch. Actually not knowing Spanish is not much of a hindrance since most people are conversant in English at least in larger communities.

What can be said of Costa Rica is generally true for other neighboring countries to our south. Some of these countries are not as politically stable and this might cause some concerns. Many Americans are making the move at least for part of the year. One way that many individuals have gotten introduced to these neighboring countries is through something called medical tourism. Individuals go down for dental surgery, cosmetic changes, or other, more involved medical procedures. Often the cost of the procedures plus a vacation is far less than the same procedure in the United States.

Would any of this translocation provide the involvement that older Americans living longer seem to need? Or would the lure of a life of ease in a paradise-type setting lead to an early death? Of course there is no way to know but all the data seem to indicate that if a move is made, something productive needs to be done. It could be something productive in a volunteer mode in an adopted community; writing novels (as my wife has done), or working at a job which allows work from any location (like doing the telecommuting that I do full-time in my university administrative work). Whatever the mode, I would encourage staying busy and not just through leisure activities. This may be about me but I seriously doubt that I would be happy just vegetating and watching television and reading, although I love to do both things. My advice is to know yourself and what you need to help with your longevity.

Let me hear from you concerning your ideas and thoughts about moving somewhere else or if you have moved somewhere else and returned. Do you need to be active in work or even a highly personally rewarding avocation? Consider these things as you consider moving in retirement or just really retiring for the golf course. Send your thoughts, either via email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com or post them at the end of the column. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.