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Interesting WSJ Article
Old 05-02-2010, 11:13 AM   #1
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Interesting WSJ Article

Hum, I wonder if there is really something to this article Americans Retire Later, but Keep Sharp Longer - Real Time Economics - WSJ
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:27 AM   #2
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I think it's just more fluff to persuade those who can't retire that they are better off working.

The article makes a good point that there is "convincing evidence that by exercising the mind, people can stave off cognitive decline", but I believe they are nuts if they think that by confining one's mind to the mundane world of work they are exercising it.

If being told to do a routine task is a mental challenge for someone, then maybe. IMO most jobs are pretty repetitive and boring compared with what one can come up with as a retiree.
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:01 PM   #3
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Hum, I wonder if there is really something to this article Americans Retire Later, but Keep Sharp Longer - Real Time Economics - WSJ
Quote:
Researchers have long suspected that to be true, because people who read, play bridge and do crosswords tend to stay more mentally acute as the age than people who do not. But there’s a problem figuring out what causes what. Is it engaging in intellectually stimulating activities that leads to better cognitive performance in old age? Or is it that people with better cognitive skills are drawn to read, play bridge and do crosswords?
I'm not sure why "work" is considered to be a better cognitively-stimulating activity than just about anything else offering fulfillment, autonomy, and complexity.

Assuming, of course, that your work offers fulfillment, autonomy, and complexity in the first place.

This article could be another link in the conspiracy to keep Americans employed longer (to help buttress my Social Security & Medicare benefits). It could be a cognitive competition against the Germans and the French, although they might have problems finding tee-totaling control groups.

But I think that this article is a confirmation bias selected by academic researchers who have no reason, let alone motivation, to ever retire!

Assuming, of course, that their work offers fulfillment, autonomy, and complexity.
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:29 PM   #4
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Ah, this article may be true; ...is probably true. But, alas, It's too late, I'm out, retired at 60.

Refresh me, what did the article say??
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Old 05-02-2010, 10:26 PM   #5
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So we have reseach that "shows" that working longer keeps you mentally sharper and research that "shows" that retiring early leads to longer life expectancy. I'm not sure if i like the tradeoff - retire at 50 and spend 40 years in a state of mental decline?

I agree with comments made above - keeping the mind mentally active is no different from keeping the body active - regular exercise is important. But saying that you have to go to work to get the necessary mental stimulation is the equivalent of saying you have to dig ditches to get the necessary physical exercise - you may get the necessary but there have to be better ways of doing so.
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:02 PM   #6
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Ah, this article may be true; ...is probably true. But, alas, It's too late, I'm out, retired at 60.

Refresh me, what did the article say??
It says that Germans retire earlier than Americans and the French retire earlier than the Germans. It goes on to say that researching these populations show that faculties decline after retiring. (I was going to say something else, but I am feeling nice tonight and I don't need any more bad karma..)
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:33 PM   #7
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W*rking longer can keep you sharper, new research suggests.

Hmmm...I wonder if what I do is w*rk.

Keeping up with my budget and investments, deciding if I want a frosty coffee drink or beer in the afternoon can make my brain twirl.....

Hmmmm....
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Old 05-03-2010, 08:22 AM   #8
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Does anyone else see any irony of the picture of a Wal Mart greeter used in an article telling us how working longer in life is supposed to keep us sharper and happier?


So, I become an expert on unsticking wheels on shopping carts and directing people to the customer service desk? Oh joy, the mental challenge of it all!
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Keeping up with my budget and investments, deciding if I want a frosty coffee drink or beer in the afternoon can make my brain twirl.....
I'm much happier solving problems and challenges that benefit me directly, as opposed to the outside motivation of the boss dropping by with a thorny problem that he doesn't understand, but I'm supposed to solve for him by COB.

So, today I'll figure out some issues on the equilibria of weak acids and bases (a chem tutoring challenge with the youngest kid), the intricacies of converting deceased father-in-law's 401K and IRA into an inherited IRA (helping the wife), and then I think I may go out to the park and run for a while (benefiting me).

Not that I'm not grateful for the past bosses who were demanding and forced helped me become more adept at facing challenges and developing the skills to overcome them, but I just don't need them anymore. And I'm so much happier doing it because I want to.

So, today I will learn some new things and stay sharp - all without a boss demanding the completion of the tasks to make them happen.

Just like that run this afternoon - not that I didn't appreciate Staff Sergeant Hicks' efforts in helping me understand that pain is just a sign of weakness leaving the body - but I don't need him anymore. Besides, running without the man screaming in my ear, "if you're not dying, you better keep running" is much more enjoyable.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:36 AM   #9
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I will, as usual, defend work as a worthwhile part of life and preferable to leisure. I'd say that the best choices for mental stimulation/health in order would be:

1) Reach FI from a career, and then move on to a second career chosen for enjoyment/personal satisfaction first and income as a distant secondary factor.
2) Reach FI, and retire completely from work, spending remaining days engaged entirely in non-work activities of one's own choosing and/or leisure.
3) Reach FI, and keep working in a career you don't like for whatever reasons because you don't know what else to do.

For those who have argued that their non-work activities are more engaging than a second career I'd offer this. Work (especially from a second career) is going to force us to deal with new challenges of all sorts, which I'd expect to be more mentally stimulating. Learning new skills, mastering new tasks, dealing with personal relationships other than those we choose is mentally challenging and should more often than not keep the mental works healthy. It's a difference between busy for busy's sake and doing only what we're already comfortable with - and staying (mentally) active.

Retirees can certainly keep themselves busy with other activities, but it's all too easy to avoid mental challenges, which I'd expect to be significantly less mentally stimulating. And I seriously doubt most of these busy retirees would ever be able to objectively recognize whether they are mentally challenged in themselves. My parents have been retired for 28 years and they keep themselves very busy, but they won't do anything they don't want to do, and they aren't mentally challenged as a result. It shows in their behavior.

We will all reach 2) at some point, but I don't know that getting there as quickly as possible is the ideal from a mental, physical or financial POV.

Feel free to disagree...
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:47 AM   #10
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For those who have argued that their non-work activities are more engaging than a second career I'd offer this. Work (especially from a second career) is going to force us to deal with new challenges of all sorts, which I'd expect to be more mentally stimulating. It's a difference between busy for busy's sake - and staying (mentally) active.

Retirees can certainly keep themselves busy with other activities, but it's all too easy to avoid mental challenges, which I'd expect to be significantly less mentally stimulating. My parents have been retired for 28 years and they keep themselves very busy, but they won't do anything they don't want to do, and they aren't mentally challenged as a result. It shows in their behavior.

Feel free to disagree...
I do disagree!

I think that there is a big assumption in your argument, that it is human nature to avoid mental challenges. I think that that is true for some people, but by no means for all. And I think for some folks, mental stimulation is the main driver of their activities. I have observed that there are folks who are intellectually curious, and folks who are not. Those who are seem to be naturally motivated to learn continually.

As an engineer and engineering manager, I had a very intellectually challenging career with lots of learning to keep up with technology - and frankly that was the best thing about it. Just like I thoroughly enjoyed getting engineering degrees, just for the fun of it! Really that was the primary driver for me.

But the intense mental activity did not stop when I retired. My brain is very self motivated and seems to seek out mental challenges on it's own. After retiring I got to chose my own challenges and expand my world far beyond what was available with work. After retiring, I immediately moved to studying areas that I couldn't peruse at work. I cracked several texts in biology and natural history (even organic chemistry!), and took a 2 year home study ornithology course from Cornell (top in this field). I studied languages and took classes to improve. I finally had time to learn to draw and took art classes. I learned several new computer tools for graphics design and learned photography and video and video editing. Created several graphic design projects as well as several nature DVDs. Retirement has meant climbing new learning curve after learning curve.

I've also had to study investment and keep up the self-education. Then there were several changes in our lifestyle each that required major adaptations - these are ongoing.

Travel is very mentally stimulating - talk about constantly having to meet new challenges and deal with a lot of different people! Sometimes travel challenges can be overwhelming. You are often thrown in to new and unfamiliar situations and have to think a lot on your feet.

Bird watching and nature observation are also very mentally stimulating and challenging because you constantly have to learn new things to understand what you are observing, and just the act of noticing and tracking things is very engaging.

So if you look at my list of what I have after retiring, you'll see mental challenge after challenge and lots of requirements to learn, adapt and stretch my boundaries.

I suspect many, many careers (especially in the later, experienced years) are much less mentally stimulating than my retirement has been!

Some people get in a rut and stay stuck. But that is not true for everyone.

OK - I gotta get back to my new landscape design project where I am learning as much as I can about the local native plants so we can have a world class butterfly garden in the back yard.......

[Oh - did I mention that having a new house built has required a lot of new learning, decision making and other mental challenges......]

Audrey
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:59 AM   #11
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I do disagree!

I think that there is a big assumption in your argument, that it is human nature to avoid mental challenges. I think that that is true for some people, but by no means for all. And I think for some folks, mental stimulation is the main driver of their activities. I have observed that there are folks who are intellectually curious, and folks who are not. Those who are seem to be naturally motivated to learn continually.

Audrey
Not to patronize you, but I think you're very much the exception based on reading your posts over the years. And not to pander to this audience, but this audience is probably not representative of the mainstream either. So many in this audience can do well with either 1) or 2).

However in the mainstream population that we're all (hopefully) still engaged, intellectual laziness (avoiding mental challenges) is not uncommon IMO. Those who think mindlessly watching television to keep up with celebrity gossip most of the day is living, are but one example. And for them, I believe 1) is the better choice. Ironically, most of them would choose 2).

I guess my post targets those who seem to promote that all work is something to escape from as soon as possible. Anyone who believes there is no work that can provide enjoyment/fulfillment/personal satisfaction, is avoiding their own role in the bad work experience IMO. Stated more directly, as long as you can do it, enjoyable work is healthier than outright leisure for most people, FI or not. Most people don't find their calling, many don't even try, they just want to escape to retirement.

I humbly stand by my position for the population at large. And there are some posters here who seem to relish in having no schedule, no challenges, etc. - entirely their right, but maybe not good for their long term mental health.
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:10 AM   #12
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Letting yourself go (physically and/or mentally) leads to problems.. whether you are retired or not. There are plenty of jobs out there that offer no or limited intellectual stimulations. I find it hard to believe that being a grocery bagger or walmart greeter keeps you sharper than watching TV all day... I am a scientist and even I get bored with the repetitiveness of my job and the lack of intellectual stimulation sometimes.
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:18 AM   #13
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Not to patronize you, but I think you're very much the exception based on reading your posts over the years. And not to pander to this audience, but this audience is probably not representative of the mainstream either. So many in this audience can do well with either 1) or 2).

However in the mainstream population that we're all (hopefully) still engaged, intellectual laziness (avoiding mental challenges) is not uncommon IMO. Those who think mindlessly watching television to keep up with celebrity gossip most of the day is living, are but one example. And for them, I believe 1) is the better choice. Ironically, most of them would choose 2).

I guess my post targets those who seem to promote that all work is something to escape from as soon as possible. Anyone who believes there is no work that can provide enjoyment/fulfillment/personal satisfaction, is avoiding their own role in the bad work experience IMO. Stated more directly, as long as you can do it, enjoyable work is healthier than outright leisure for most people, FI or not. Most people don't find their calling, many don't even try, they just want to escape to retirement.

I humbly stand by my position for the population at large. And there are some posters here who seem to relish in having no schedule, no challenges, etc. - entirely their right, but maybe not good for their long term mental health.
Well, I do agree that this board is exceptional - the fact is there just aren't that many ERs! If there were, I would meet more day-to-day as I spend a lot of time around retirees, and the early ones are very rare.

As for what is true for the population at large, it's difficult for me to say. Because I spend time with people who are like me! Creative people, intellectually curious people, active people, people who like to travel, explore, have adventures. So I just don't see these people who are "in a rut".

And one thing being around a lot of retirees has taught me is that the intellectual drive knows no age bias, as I get to interact with people well into their 80s still going great guns mentally even if they have to walk a bit slower!

Audrey
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:32 AM   #14
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Work (especially from a second career) is going to force us to deal with new challenges of all sorts, which I'd expect to be more mentally stimulating. Learning new skills, mastering new tasks, dealing with personal relationships other than those we choose is mentally challenging and should more often than not keep the mental works healthy. It's a difference between busy for busy's sake and doing only what we're already comfortable with - and staying (mentally) active.
Retirees can certainly keep themselves busy with other activities, but it's all too easy to avoid mental challenges, which I'd expect to be significantly less mentally stimulating. And I seriously doubt most of these busy retirees would ever be able to objectively recognize whether they are mentally challenged in themselves. My parents have been retired for 28 years and they keep themselves very busy, but they won't do anything they don't want to do, and they aren't mentally challenged as a result. It shows in their behavior.
If we're going to compare our retirements to our parents' lives then I'm just going to surrender myself right now to the Soylent Green Recycling, Inc. customer-service desk.

I appreciate that work affords plenty of opportunities for non-optional interactions which should offer many varied mental challenges. The only problem is that someone else is dictating what I'm going to learn, not me. I'd rather be responsible for my own entertainment educational experiences.

Besides I think work offers just as much anecdotal evidence for avoidance of educational opportunities. Or do you scamper gleefully into those department meetings, enthused by the educational vistas that abound?

While I was working I never made time for surfing, and what a smart decision that turned out to be. If I'd learned to surf while I was on active duty then I would have retired with a negative leave balance.

I feel plenty mentally challenged by surfing, taekwondo, and writing. These were opportunities that I never had the time/energy to pursue during my working years. (Except for the parts where my XO said "Hey, Nords, we need a point paper on _____ before you go home today.") They all offer plenty of personal relationships that I can't choose among, and plenty of unavoidable mental stimulation. Even if it's just at the wrong end of a hook kick.

In ER I've also learned far more about businesses & investments than I ever would have learned during my career of killing people and breaking things. It simply couldn't have been done during my "working hours", either. Again there have been plenty of opportunities for mandatory personal relationships and mental stimulation.

I could have just paid a bunch of contractors to remodel our master bathroom & kitchen, replace all our ceiling fans, install a water-conditioning system, design/install photovoltaic and solar-water-heating arrays, install an attic-storage system, build an exercise room, and relandscape our property. Where's the mental challenge in that? At least I knew when to seek professional help with last year's stamped concrete, although keeping up with the irrigation-piping repairs turned out to be pretty mentally stimulating. Especially the parts where everyone's staring down over your shoulders and asking "Can we take a shower and make dinner yet?"

Volunteering, optimizing personal finances, researching eBay sales, learning about hybrid vehicles, Oahu's "Tours de Trash", traveling the world... these activities are largely incompatible with spending 40-50 hours/week at work... especially the part where you're deployed to the Western Pacific.

I think I make plenty of my own mentally-stimulating challenges without subjecting myself to someone else's entertainment. I've also learned enough about entrepreneurship to know that I have than enough money (or at least low-enough expenses) to never want to work that hard.

And if I want to exhaust myself in the pursuit of improving the lives of the human race then I'll find plenty of opportunities at many fine volunteer agencies.
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Old 05-03-2010, 12:05 PM   #15
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It's always interesting how many people ask me "but... what will you do with your time when you stop working?" For those people, work is a good idea - because apparently they have no other interests!

Right now - still employed - I'm trying to calculate my future taxes so I can figure out whether to take SS at 62 or 66, and how much more (if anything) to convert to a roth ira. It feels like a full-time job and it's amazingly complicated..... so I guess I'm really OVER-stimulated!

I saw a financial planner who wanted to take all my money, charge me 1.25%, and free me from all that. Of course they weren't going to make as much as I do on the money - and they WERE going to charge me for the privilege.

Interesting article - so do the NY Times crossword...

I did love that they had a Wal-Mart greeter in the picture. What a stimulating career move THAT would be
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