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These workers are retiring earliest, and it might not be who you'd expect: Study

James Leggate

Want a long retirement? Maybe you should look for a job that pays less.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people who worked in “unskilled” jobs retired earlier than other workers and lived the longest after retiring. Meanwhile, “professional” workers had the shortest retirements on average.

Unskilled workers had an average of three more years of retirement than professional workers in poor health, and five more years than professional workers who reported good health and continued working longer, according to the study.

Don’t quit your job just yet.

While those unskilled workers enjoyed a longer retirement, they often retired earlier due to health issues and also had an overall shorter life expectancy, the study found. Their average life expectancy was four years shorter for men and three years for women.

The U.K.-based authors of the study looked at data from 76,485 people in England and Wales who were between 50 and 75 in 2001, and followed them for 10 years. The study divided the participants into six social classes based on their occupations, including professional, managerial/technical, skilled non-manual, skilled manual, partly skilled and unskilled.

Depending on birth year, the age to collect full Social Security benefits in the U.S. ranges from 65 to 67. The U.K.’s “state pension” age has similarly been 65 for men and women since 2011, and is expected to go up to 67 by 2028.

However, the authors of the study said unskilled workers lose out on pension money by retiring earlier.

“This is despite the fact that they are likely to have started work younger and thus paid contributions for just as many years as their better-off peers,” said Emily Murray of University College London, the lead author of the study.

Professor Jenny Head, a co-author and a London college professor, said they believe it would be better to start pensions two years earlier for those who work in manual labor.

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