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Retirement Tips

Why Americans Aren’t Retiring at 65 Anymore

When will you retire? Age 65? Older? Never?

If your answer is either of the latter two choices, you’re not alone. A majority of Americans age 50 and older plan to work past 65 or already have stayed in the workforce past this typical retirement age, according to a study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The study also found that a quarter of those who haven’t retired say they never will, and a majority of these older workers will continue to pursue new opportunities in the later stages of their careers.

Why are so many Americans no longer retiring or retiring later? Here are five possible answers.

Retirement age word cloud

They Need the Paycheck or Benefits

A majority of older Americans surveyed  by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies said having an income and having benefits were the main reasons they delayed retirement.

Here are the specific financial concerns individuals had:

-36% needed the income.
-23% needed the health benefits.
-22% hadn’t saved enough for retirement.
-10% had anxiety over their financial situation.
-9% found that Social Security and government benefits were less than expected.
-8% were recovering from financial setbacks.
-6% discovered that employer retirement or pension benefits were less than anticipated.

If you can’t retire by 65 because you need a paycheck or benefits, start preparing for retirement as soon as possible. Set aside money for a nest egg and avoid common early retirement mistakes like rolling over your IRA, taking Social Security too quickly and not planning for expenses like medical costs.

Older construction site foreman, to illustrate retirement age

People Enjoy Their Jobs and Daily Routines

Money isn’t the only motivation to keep working past the usual retirement age. In fact, 44% of those surveyed by the Transamerica Center said they retired later than planned for the enjoyment and to stay active.

“Most of my contemporaries in law school, or a lot of them, have retired,” Paul Hyman, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post at age 74. “A lot of them were sort of happy to stop doing what they were doing. I kind of like what I’m doing.”

People Are Healthier and Living Longer

Approximately one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, according to the Social Security Administration.

Because life expectancy for Americans continues to rise, retirement doesn’t have to happen once someone reaches 65. Older Americans may have plenty of years to enjoy retirement, even after working later in life.

Be aware, however, that there are conflicting reports on the health effects of working later. One study found that those who continued to work prolonged their lives, while another study claimed that working later in life contributed to health declines.

Older woman with iPad in coffeeshop, to illustrate retirement age

Jobs Are More Flexible

Thanks to advances in technology, there has been a steady increase in work-at-home jobs. Whether because commuting to work every day isn’t possible due to health concerns or because you relocated to a warmer climate, working remotely can help you stay in the job market past the average retirement age.

Retirement Just Isn’t Fun

In 1998, about 61 percent of survey respondents reported “very satisfying” retirements. In 2012, that response dropped to about 49 percent. Meanwhile, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, those reporting “not at all satisfying” retirements climbed from about 8 percent to about 11 percent.

Whether today’s retirees are bored or feel peer pressure to continue working, they’re not enjoying retirement as much as their counterparts from the past.

What do you think? Why have or will you work past the typical retirement age of 65? If you have retired, are you enjoying it? Why or why not? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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  • About Mark Edelen:

    Welcome to the Senior Living Blog. I direct and edit the blog for the best senior-housing and senior-living insight and advice, while also conducting search-engine optimization for the site as a whole. Follow me on Twitter @MarkEdelen.


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