What Is the Average Retirement Age?

Working Americans say they expect to retire at an average age of 66, up from 62 in 2002, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. But most retirees don’t stay on the job nearly that long. The average retirement age is 61 in 2022, up from age 59 in 2002, Gallup found.

For two decades, Americans have told Gallup that they would like to retire at an older age than the age when people actually retire. “The expected retirement age has crept up over the past couple decades,” says Jeff Jones, a Gallup senior editor. “Many people are retiring earlier than they planned, which could be because of unexpected health or family issues or company layoffs as two possibilities.”

[See: 10 Important Ages for Retirement Planning]

A Gap Between Retirement Expectations and Reality

Other surveys have found a similarly significant gap between the age workers anticipate retiring and when they actually leave their jobs. A 2022 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey reports the median expected retirement age for workers is age 65, but the median reported retirement age among retirees is age 62.

Unexpected Early Retirement

Many early retirements are due to unforeseen circumstances. Nearly half of retirees (47%) report that they retired earlier than they expected to, EBRI found. Common reasons to retire early include developing a health issue or disability or to care for a relative.

“Some did report health problems or needing to take care of a spouse or other family member as the driver of earlier than expected retirement,” says Lori Lucas, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

[READ: What Is the Full Retirement Age for Social Security?]

Forced Out of the Workforce

Some people end up in early retirement because they are offered an early retirement incentive package or their skills are out of date for the position. There could also be workplace restructuring such as a downsizing, business closure or reorganization that results in job loss and the former employee eventually calls themselves retired.

“Many people want to retire later, and may feel like that’s their only choice, but we see them retire in their early 60s, not because that was the age that worked best for them, but because they were laid off and didn’t want to or were unable to get another job,” says Matt Rutledge, a research fellow at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “Basically, their employer retired them.”

An older worker may also leave a job they find frustrating, but then have difficulty landing another job. “Older workers also may retire earlier than they had planned for all the reasons that any of us leave a job: a change in management or their own supervisor, the departure of friendly colleagues, changes in responsibility when other co-workers depart, or any sense of stagnation, boredom or being unfulfilled,” Rutledge says. “The risk with older workers is that when they leave a job, they may find it harder to find another one.”

While most workers (70%) say they plan to work for pay in retirement, only about a quarter (27%) of retirees report working in retirement, EBRI found.

A Fortuitous Early Retirement

There can also be positive reasons workers enter retirement early. Perhaps your investments performed better than expected or you inherited a windfall and were able to retire sooner than planned. “Many say they retired earlier than expected because they could afford to or because they just want to do something else,” Lucas says.

[READ: The Financial Perks of Growing Older]

Aiming to Delay Retirement

Many workers say they are hoping to retire at an older age than current retirees left the workforce. There can be valuable incentives to delay retirement, including a few extra years to build up your savings and giving your investments more time to grow. You can also get a bigger monthly Social Security check if you delay claiming until an older age.

“Most people nearing retirement age have to wait until age 66 or 67 for full Social Security benefits, while in the late 1990s and early 2000s many could still get full benefits at age 65,” Jones says. Medicare also doesn’t kick in until age 65, and it can be useful to maintain your employer health insurance coverage until you qualify for Medicare.

But you may not get to choose your retirement date. Many workers (44%) are hoping for a gradual transition into retirement, but a large majority of retirees (73%) abruptly switched into full retirement, EBRI found. Exactly when you retire could be outside of your control.

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What Is the Average Retirement Age? originally appeared on usnews.com

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