Research Summaries

Get acquainted with the research that busts up the myths of old age.

"Thinking positively about getting older extends one's life by seven-and-one half years -- which is more than the longevity gained from low blood pressure or low cholesterol or by maintaining a healthy weight, abstaining from smoking and exercising regularly -- a study by a Yale researcher has found."

A National Study Exploring How Four Generations Are Rethinking Retirement By Age Wave Conducted By Harris Interactive, March 2009
Today’s pre-retirees say they will need to postpone their retirement 4.2 years on average, which would be the first time in history that retirement age significantly increased in America. The uninsured costs of healthcare are now considered the biggest potential financial wildcard in retirement."

"Across a sample of 123 countries, the study examined the association between the fulfillment of needs and subjective well-being (SWB), including life evaluation, positive feelings, and negative feelings. Need fulfillment was consistently associated with SWB across world regions. Life evaluation was most associated with fulfilling basic needs; positive feelings were most associated with social and respect needs; and negative feelings were most associated with basic, respect, and autonomy needs." 

"As Langer points out ... “any positive results would be meaningful … old age is taken to be a one-way street to incapacitation.” What she found, however, surprised even her own team of researchers. Before and after the experiment, both groups of men took a battery of cognitive and physical tests, and after just one week, there were dramatic positive changes across the board. Both groups were stronger and more flexible. Height, weight, gait, posture, hearing, vision—even their performance on intelligence tests had improved. Their joints were more flexible, their shoulders wider, their fingers not only more agile, but longer and less gnarled by arthritis. But the men who had acted as if they were actually back in 1959 showed significantly more improvement. Those who had impersonated younger men seemed to have bodies that actually were younger."

When the cost of acquiring information is greater than the benefits to be derived from the information, it is rational to be ignorant.

"Because total risk for a portfolio declines, not only with the number of securities included, but with the degree of independence among these securities, substantial risk reduction results from diversifying a portfolio across foreign, as well as domestic, common stocks."

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay is available free on Project Gutenberg website.

Prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac rose by more than 40% in England over the past four years, data obtained by the BBC shows. GPs and charities said they were being contacted increasingly by people struggling with debt and job worries.

"Financial illiteracy is widespread among older Americans: only half of the age 50+ respondents could correctly answer two simple questions regarding interest compounding and inflation, and only one-third correctly answered these two questions and a question about risk diversification. Fewer than one-third of our age 50+ respondents ever tried to devise a retirement plan, and only two-thirds of those who tried actually claim to have succeeded. Overall, fewer than one-fifth of the respondents (19%) believed they engaged in successful retirement planning."

The Importance of Stable Income Sources in Retirement is an exploratory study by Jim Sundali of University of Nevada, Reno, James W. Westerman of Appalachian State University and Yvonne Stedham of University of Nevada, Reno. The researchers asked people whether they worried about not having enough income to get by in retirement. Less than 20% of respondents reported no worry at all.

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