Member of National Council of
Chinese Institute of Engineers ¨C USA /Greater New York Chapter, and
Member of Board of Director of
National Taiwan University Alumni Association ¨C Greater New York
Longevity vs. Retirement Age
The pension funds in many large corporations ( e.g., Boeing, Lockheed
Martin, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, etc.) have been “Over Funded”
because many “late retirees” who keep-on working into their old age
and retire late after the age of 65 tend to die within two years after
their retirements. In other words, many of these late retirees do not
live long enough to collect all their fair shares of pension money
such that they leave a lot of extra-unused money in the pension funds
resulting in the over-funded pension funds.
Dr. Ephrem (Siao Chung) Cheng provided the important results in the
following Table 1 and the associated chart from an actuarial study of
life span vs. age at retirement. The study was based on the number of
pension checks sent to retirees of Boeing Aerospace.
Table 1 ¨C Actuarial Study of life span vs. age at retirement.
Retirement Average Age
Table 1 indicates that for people retired at the age of 50, their
average life span is 86; whereas for people retired at the age of 65,
their average life span is only 66.8. An important conclusion from
this study is that for every year one works beyond age 55, one loses 2
years of life span on average.
The Boeing experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive
pension checks for only 18 months, on average, prior to death.
Similarly, the Lockheed experience is that employees retiring at age
of 65 receive pension checks for only 17 months, on average, prior to
death. Dr. David T. Chai indicated that the Bell Labs experience is
similar to those of Boeing and Lockheed based on the casual
observation from the Newsletters of Bell Lab retirees. A retiree from
Ford Motor told Dr. Paul Tien-Lin Ho that the experience from Ford
Motor is also similar to those in Boeing and Lockheed.
The statistics shown in the Pre-Retirement Seminar in Telcordia
(Bellcore) indicates that the average age that Telcordia (Bellcore)
employees start retirement is 57. Therefore, people who retire at the
age of 65 or older are minority as compared to the number of early
The hard-working late retirees probably put too much stress on their
aging body-and-mind such that they are so stressed out to develop
various serious health problems that forced them to quit and retire.
With such long-term stress-induced serious health problems, they die
within two years after they quit and retire.
On the other hand, people who take early retirements at the age of 55
tend to live long and well into their 80s and beyond. These earlier
retirees probably are either wealthier or more able to plan and manage
their various aspects of their life, health and career well such that
they can afford to retire early and comfortably.
These early retirees are not really idling after their early
retirements to get old. They still continue doing some work. But they
do the work on the part-time basis at a more leisure pace so that they
do not get too stressed out. Furthermore, they have the luxury to pick
and choose the types of part-time work of real interest to them so
that they can enjoy and love doing that “fun” work at a more leisure
The late retirees are small in number, tend to die quickly after
retirement and disappear from the population of old people beyond the
age of 70. Late retirees, therefore, have very little weight on the
statistical average life expectancy of the population of “old people”
dominated by the early retirees.
Several years ago, a Japanese friend of mine told me that most
Japanese people retire at the age of 60 or earlier. This may be one of
the factors contributing to the long average life span of Japanese