When Does ‘Go-Go’ Become ‘Slow-Go’?

The writers at Kiplinger’s sometimes talk about retirement in three phases: the ‘go-go’ years, the ‘slow-go’ years, and the ‘no-go’ years. The phases relate to how capable people are to travel, take on new hobbies, and lead an active lifestyle.

They break out the ages like this:

⁃ Go-Go Years: Ages 65-75

⁃ Slow-Go Years: Ages 76-85

⁃ No-Go Years: 86-100

It makes sense when you see it conceptually, and the Kiplinger’s framework is frequently cited in other articles. In fact, the concept was recently the focus of a long thread on a forum post on EarlyRetirement.org. Someone asked “are you still active now?” and “at what age did you move from go-go to slow-go?”

I did a quick tally of the qualitative responses (non-scientific) and believe that Kiplinger’s is probably being a bit optimistic in how long people typically stay active. Even though the members of these online forums are generally a positive & active bunch, their ‘slow-down’ moment came a bit earlier than I expected.

The tally of 52 people suggests the average age of folks that say they are still in their ‘go-go’ years was 67. The age at which people reported slowing down averaged to 71. That’s a pretty sudden and marked change. (Both groups largely ranged +/- 10 years from these averages).

Keep in mind too that there is an obvious bias in the responses – no one is posting to these forums that has had a serious health issue that killed them. Health issues were the biggest thing that slowed people down, and I’m sure some people that were happily ‘go-going’ suffered strokes, heart attacks, or cancer that actually killed them.

The reason I wanted to write about this is that if people believe that have a longer, active ‘runway’ in retirement than they actually have, they many not be planning effectively. Retiring at 65 may not bring you 20 years of relatively strong activity. These folks might want to plan their FIRE journey (financially independent & retired early) more aggressively and consider reaching a retirement that starts at 50 or 55.

At the same time, they also may need to factor in reduced spending on discretionary activities at a certain age. We put a gradual 15% spending decline in our plan between age 75-85, partly to offset more significant health care spending.

Related: Spending More In Your ‘Go-Go’ Years

As I said, the forum tally I did isn’t scientific, but it does provide some real-life evidence on a thinly-researched issue. In my ‘Googling’ of the topic, I didn’t turn up any actual studies on the ages people start slowing down. It is consistent with research I shared a few years ago that people spend less as they age. Better to plan for the worst, than the best, I guess.

What expectations have you put in your plans relating to slowing down in retirement?

Image Credit: Pixabay

9 thoughts on “When Does ‘Go-Go’ Become ‘Slow-Go’?

  1. Good Morning Mr. FS,

    That’s an interesting observation. Thanks for sharing. I’m currently modeling a 15% drop starting at age 70 but there’s nothing scientific with my numbers. Starting cost baseline and family health history are also huge factors. The backside of Rona is really tough to model. I keep thinking there is some inflation out there somewhere but I’ve guessed that wrong multiple times already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I’m expecting we are due for inflation, too. But, interest rates / treasury yields don’t suggest other investors are too worried. We’ll see.


  2. I’m an eternal optimist and planning to live until 100 years old. Both parents made it to 90, so with improvements in medicine, who knows, I may have a decent shot at 100. I’m sure I will slow down, as both parents were going pretty strong through their mid eighties, but health issues rapidly slowed them in the back half of their eighties. I’ll likely be similar. I’m a conservative type by nature, so I’m planning for a continued high level of spending late in life just in case. Our go-go spending will likely just become healthcare spending at some point. (Im gonna try and make it as late as possible!) I am willing to trade off some current marginal spending to insure that things go comfortably as planned later in life. I think your numbers are pretty accurate for the majority of people in the U.S. and Kiplinger’s are slightly optimistic for most. It’s a shame given the routinely poor retirement preparation of our general population.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to have those terrific genes in your family. My Dad is almost 88 and my Mom turns 82 soon. It has been a few years since they’ve taken a big trip though. My Dad’s goal is to make it to 90 – that’s how old his great grandfather lived and our current ‘family record’.


      1. Sound like they are doing great and you have some good longevity on your side as well. I hope they both score 90 and we’ll beyond!


  3. Great post! I’m 67 now. I’m in the process of looking for a new used car. My current car is a 2002 Highlander. While looking at cars, I realized in 20 years I’m going to be 87! Will I even still be driving then? I already don’t drive at night anymore. How long am I going to need a car? Now the most important thing I’m looking for in a car are the safety features which my current car has none except for front airbags! I’ve bought 3 new cars since I started driving and not once did I EVER consider my age or how long I’ll be driving!!! The good news is that it’s also the first time I’ll be paying cash, and not needing to finance! There is a whole new set of things to consider as you move closer to the slow-go years!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the same thing when I change a bulb to LED and the package says it lasts 25 years! With a car, I’m not sure you can think that long given how quickly the technology is changing. With driving becoming more autonomous, the cars we drive when we are in our 80s will likely be very different.


    1. Yes – the pandemic has changed everything! FYI, I’m fine with you posting a link to your own posts here. My ‘rule’ is it’s OK as long as it’s relevant to the topic and not commercialized. Good article!


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