Investing So You Can Work In Retirement

The number one retirement financial plan for the next generation of retirees is not simply saving or investing, but rather to work longer and through many of the years we used to call retirement. While money alone is the appeal for many to continue working past traditional retirement age, others see work as providing a sense of purpose, personal meaning, as well as a vital connection to the social network of people they spend more waking hours with than their family.


But proposing a plan to work longer to yourself, your family, your financial advisor or even to your friends comes along with a number of assumptions. Our research at the MIT AgeLab suggests that new thinking about working in old age requires us to consider at least three of those assumptions.

First, have you asked yourself how is your health? Being able to work well into retirement assumes that you are physically, emotionally and cognitively able to perform on the job. The aging baby boomers are not just the leading wave of the next generation of retirees, but an epidemiological explosion of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and all the related complications that those conditions often bring. While health may be at the top of everyone's agenda, painfully few are actually pursuing a health, fitness or disease management program that manages their illness, enhances their energy and strength, and enables them to perform their daily jobs without making work a daily slog.

Can you make a business case for yourself to stay in the workplace? Technology is moving faster than ever before. You can teach an old dog new tricks if the dog is willing to learn. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, Thomas L. Friedman highlighted how Google views one’s ability to learn and “process on the fly” as one of the most important attributes in candidates. Staying in the workplace longer does not mean doing what you've always done how you have always done it, instead it demands that you stay on the cutting edge of new technologies and processes to get the job done as efficiently as was expected in your younger years. Part of the new retirement may actually be investing in learning technology, taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) or an in person workshop to keep up-to-date, or even obtaining a midlife degree to maintain your own personal competitive advantage.

Eventually all of us will transition away from the workplace. How will you leave? Few people, particularly ‘knowledge workers’, say that they want a full stop on a given Friday at 5 o’clock.  How smooth the transition is may depend on how you have worked and mentored your younger colleagues. Mentorship is more than just about taking leadership in your organization, it entails working with younger colleagues to share your knowledge and experience. This may be the key which enables you to scale back from five to three days a week during the transition to retirement. The relationship and transfer of knowledge isn’t a one-way street – take the opportunity to learn from them.  

We typically think about investing monetarily so that we can afford to retire, however, it may be time to think about how we are investing in both ourselves and others to ensure that we can continue to work in what our parents used to call ‘retirement’.

Dana Ellis of the MIT AgeLab contributed to this article.

Image by Shutterstock

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.