The Complete Guide to the Best Retirement Age

Figure out the best time to retire — for you.

Forty-one percent of Americans predict they will retire at age 66, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. The same poll showed that the percentage of people who want to retire sooner — i.e., before 60 — has dropped. A retirement age of 65 was once considered manageable by the government, but the current trend shows people are retiring later in life. The main reason for this is maximizing retirement benefits; withdrawing them at a later age means you can withdraw more than you would at an earlier retirement age. Other people are working later, but should you?

Figuring out when to stop working requires considering a number of factors; here’s what you should think about in order to best decide when to retire.

In This Guide:

The Best Age to Retire: When You Can Collect 100% of Social Security Benefits

The best age to retire for most would be the age at which you can collect full Social Security benefits, which the Social Security Administration calls full retirement age. However, this Social Security benefits age isn’t a fixed number, depending instead on your birthdate. Furthermore, you can also begin collecting benefits at age 62, although doing so means receiving less benefits than if you started collecting them at full retirement age. As of February 2019, the SSA lists the oldest age to collect full benefits as 67 for those born in 1960 or later. The lowest age is 65, for those born in 1937 or earlier.

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If You Were Born Before 1938

If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your full retirement age is 65. Although retiring at age 62 is permitted, if you do start drawing retirement benefits at 62, it will cost you a 20 percent reduction in your benefits. Spousal benefits are reduced by 25 percent if you collect benefits at age 62.

If You Were Born Between 1938 and 1942

The full retirement age for anyone born between 1938 and 1942 is 65 plus a certain number of months — the number of months depends on the year you were born. Reference the following chart to find out how much your benefits will be reduced if you retire early, according to the SSA.

How Benefits Are Reduced by Early Retirement
for Workers Born 1938 to 1942
Birth Year Full Retirement Age Reduction in Benefits If Received Beginning at 62 Reduction in Spousal Benefits If Received Beginning at 62
1938 65 and 2 months 20.8% 25.8%
1939 65 and 4 months 21.7% 26.7%
1940 65 and 6 months 22.5% 27.5%
1941 65 and 8 months 23.3% 28.3%
1942 65 and 10 months 24.2% 29.2%
Information accurate as of Feb. 5, 2019.

If You Were Born Between 1943 and 1954

The full Social Security retirement age for men and women born between 1943 and 1954 is 66. If you begin collecting at 62, your benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. If you hold out until you turn 65, you’ll get 93.3 percent of your benefits. Spousal benefits are 50 percent if you wait until 66 to receive them, but if you start collecting benefits at 62, you’ll receive only 35 percent of those benefits.

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If You Were Born Between 1955 and 1959

You must retire at 66 and several months if you were born between 1955 and 1959 and want to get full benefits. Again, your exact birthdate determines how many additional months you’ll have to wait.

How Benefits Are Reduced by Early Retirement
for Workers Born 1955 to 1959
Birth Year Full Retirement Age Reduction in Benefits If Received Beginning at 62 Reduction in Spousal Benefits If Received Beginning at 62
1955 66 and 2 months 25.8% 30.8%
1956 66 and 4 months 26.7% 31.7%
1957 66 and 6 months 27.5% 32.5%
1958 66 and 8 months 28.3% 33.3%
1959 66 and 10 months 29.2% 34.2%
Information accurate as of Feb. 5, 2019

Retirement for Individuals Born 1960 and Later

Those born during or after 1960 will receive their full retirement benefits at 67. If you fall into this category, you can still collect Social Security at 62, but your benefits will be reduced by 30 percent. If you wait until you’re 65, your benefits will be reduced by 13.3 percent.

As for spousal benefits, if you wait until your full age, you can collect 50 percent. If you begin collecting at at 65, you’ll receive 41.7 percent of the benefits, and if you begin collecting at 62, you’ll get 32.5 percent.

Learn: The Best Time of Year to Retire (to Maximize Your Benefits)

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What Is the Ideal Age to Retire?

For many workers, the ideal time to retire is probably now, no matter what their age is. But most Americans are more realistic and pretty aligned on when the ideal age of retirement is. GOBankingRates conducted a survey asking Americans about their ideal retirement age, with most people going for the mid-to-late 50s. Check out when each generation thinks it’d be a good time to call it quits on the rat race.

Ideal Age to Retire, by Generation
Generation Age Range Average of Ideal Age to Retire
Generation Z 13 to 17 54.3
Post-Millennial/Generation Z 18 to 24 55.8
Millennials 25 to 34 55.9
Younger Gen Xers 35 to 44 54.0
Older Gen Xers 45 to 54 57.4
Younger Baby Boomers 55 to 64 61.5
Older Baby Boomers 65 and over 65.9
Information compiled October 2018

Most people ages 44 and younger like to envision themselves retiring in their mid-50s. However, the ideal age begins going up once you reach the older portion of Generation X respondents. Curiously, only older baby boomers think the ideal retirement age is 65, but this could be the mindset of people who have both lived a while — and who grew up with a markedly different view on work — and are old enough to collect their full retirement benefits. Younger generations might want to retire earlier to spend the time they have left in leisure. The average human life expectancy for Americans is just under 79 years (and has declined in recent years), so, in theory, the earlier you retire, the better.

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Boomers vs. Millennials: A Look at the Financial Gap Between Generations

Ideal Retirement Age by Gender

Breaking down the ideal age for retirement by gender reveals an older average ideal, but one with less of a differential gap.

Ideal Age to Retire, by Gender
Gender Average of Ideal Age to Retire
Female 58.88
Male 58.16
Information compiled October 2018

Men and women seem to be pretty aligned when it comes to the ideal retirement age. But women might have the upper hand here: Not only do they live longer, they retire earlier, according to the New York Times.

Although this information reveals aspirations for retirement, it doesn’t indicate whether those ideal ages are as beneficial as people might think. Furthermore, most Americans don’t even have a clear idea of how much they’d have to save up to retire.

A December 2018 GOBankingRates survey asked respondents how much they ideally would like to have saved for retirement by the time they retired. Nearly 40 percent said between $100,000 to $250,000. However, the same survey also revealed that one of the big determining factors in your retirement, at any age, was the state you live in. Some states were dramatically cheaper than others — Hawaii requires the largest nest egg at $2,307,419 — but in all cases, retirees needed at least $1 million to live comfortably.

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Find Out: How Long $1 Million in Retirement Will Last in Every State

All the Factors You Need to Consider Before You Actually Retire

Where am I going to be at 65? Will I have a family? Medical issues? Will I be in debt?

Planning for retirement means planning for the unknown. Questions like the ones posed above can be anxiety-inducing, but it’s right to ask them to help you decide at what age you can retire. So much can happen between now and your eventual retirement, and even workers planning to retire by 40 should note the changing U.S. economy (and climate). Abrupt changes to your finances could wind up setting back your retirement — or advancing it. Following are some factors to consider when asking the big question: When can I retire?

Social Security

It’s not an unfounded fear to think you might not be able to tap into your Social Security benefits once you retire. Just over half of non-retirees doubt they’ll receive Social Security benefits, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. And the Social Security Board of Trustees has said the trust funds that augment the system will run out of money by 2034, so you’d be forgiven for taking a cynical view on your future entitlements.

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However, this fear is mostly unfounded. Social Security’s primary source of funding is the payroll tax, and although benefits could theoretically be slashed by a conservative Congress in the future, as long as people keep working, Social Security will remain funded.

Here’s a breakdown of what each group can expect to receive in Social Security, based off earnings of $51,900 in 2018 dollars. Note that the data is taken from the Urban Institute, which used age 65 as a baseline.

Groups That Can Expect to Receive Social Security
Group Year Born Year Group Turns 65 Social Security Expected to Receive During Retirement
Baby Boomers 1955 2020 Male: $547,000
Female: $619,000
Baby Boomers 1960 2025 Male: $587,000
Female: $662,000
Gen X 1965 2030 Male: $657,000
Female: $738,000
Gen X 1970 2035 Male: $724,000
Female: $811,000
Gen X 1975 2040

Male: $795,000
Female: $889,000

Millennials 1980 2045 Male: $869,000
Female: $968,000
Millennials 1985 2050 Male: $947,000
Female: $1,054,000
Millennials 1990 2055 Male: $1,032,000
Female: $1,145,000
Millennials 1995 2060 Male: $1,125,000
Female: $1,246,000

Debt and Loans

Americans carried an average debt of $38,000 in 2018, a full $1,000 more than in 2017, according to Northwestern Mutual’s “Planning & Progress Study 2018.” And 50 percent of retirees age 75 and up have loans outstanding, an increase of 25 percent only a generation ago. Debt can severely impact your retirement plans both because it can be a drain on your finances and it can harm your credit. When planning for retirement, give yourself limitations on what you need versus what you want. Also plan on taking steps to eliminate any debt you accrue before retirement. For older folks, that usually means mortgage debt.

Don’t Miss: 5 Debts You Need to Tackle Before You Retire

Taking Care of Children

Family is a lifetime commitment that doesn’t stop once you retire. The average cost of raising a child currently stands at more than $233,610, according to a 2017 report by the Department of Agriculture. If you’ve offspring, you need to factor that into how that’ll affect your savings. Plus, almost a third of kids move back in with their parents during periods of financial turmoil. Your retirement benefits might end up supporting more than just you. There’s even conversation that the long-term advantages of saving for your own retirement outweigh saving for your child’s education.

“I’m not suggesting that you don’t save at all for your kid’s college and only save for retirement or vice versa; this is not all or nothing,” said Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, in an interview with NBC News. “It’s about prioritizing and that means putting the majority of your money towards retirement, while still saving for college.”

Desire to Spend Time with Aging Parents

If you don’t have the best relationship with your parents, or if they’ve already passed by the time you retire, obviously this isn’t a hugely important factor. Others should consider how they want to prioritize their time with immediate family. Plus, once you and your parents have retired, you can combine your free time and benefits to go on vacations. Some cruises, for example, offer senior discounts, which further slashes the price tag on a family vacation.

Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs generally rise with age, which means you might want to consider healthy living as part of your retirement plan. Healthcare costs themselves are rising. Employer-sponsored premiums have jumped from $5,791 in 1999 to $18,142 in 2016, according to an October report by the Economic Policy Institute. The same report also revealed that out-of-pocket expenses have increased by a dramatic 53.5 percent. Because this trend shows no sign of abating, you’ll want to factor it in to your retirement plans.

Consider: 15 Best Places to Retire for Lower Healthcare Costs

Income Sources

You could still technically work past retirement age, but isn’t the whole point to relax? Plus, there are no shortage of ways to earn passive income. You’re never too old to stop — or start — investing, as billionaire market wizard Warren Buffett could tell you. You should also consider investing in real estate, as you could potentially rent out the property during your retirement. Dedicated Airbnb hosts stand to make tens of thousands of dollars annually renting out properties, although it bears mentioning that location is a key factor.

Retirement can also afford you the time to pursue side-gigs, such as freelancing, consulting or even simply selling belongings you already own for a bit of extra spending money.

Job Satisfaction

Sometimes it’s worth holding off on retirement for the simple fact that you love your job. Although retirement can provide reprieve from a demanding work life, for others their job is a source of happiness, contentedness or just soothing familiarity. Even the already rich and famous have trouble retiring. Jay-Z, for example, has released multiple albums into the modern day despite announcing his retirement all the way back in 2003. Right now job satisfaction is at an all-time high, with just over half of U.S. workers conveying satisfaction with their jobs.

Overall Health

Health might well be the biggest factor in determining when you retire. Your health can deteriorate to such a point you need to retire earlier, or you might continue working a few more years just to take advantage of your employer’s health plan. However, there could also be an association between retiring early and living longer. To be sure, retiring early doesn’t magically revitalize you; what you do in retirement, where you’re afforded more free time and freedom, might help you add some years. You’ll have more time for exercise, to experiment with healthier diets, to get more sleep, etc.

And also remember, another way to save for retirement and to safeguard your health is to contribute to a health savings account. An HSA comes with some tax advantages, such as tax-deductible contributions and tax-free interest, which would come in handy for use during a period in your life when medical costs generally increase.

Life Expectancy

It’s not the funnest thing to consider, but how long you have left to live is also important to factor into your retirement plans. The current life expectancy for the average American is around 79, with the main factors driving down life expectancy being substance abuse and despair. Your relationship to retirement will change depending on how long you think you’ll live for.

How Much You Have Saved

Obviously your savings will play a huge role in whether you can fulfill your retirement goals. A recent GOBankingRates survey found that more than 40 percent of Americans will retire “broke” — that is, with less than $10,000 in savings to their name. This isn’t even necessarily the fault of the individual. Skyrocketing student debt and living costs are both key factors in Americans’ lack of savings. Plus, in the same survey, around 40 percent of Americans said they simply did not make enough money to save.

Saving can be a pain, particularly when you are strapped for resources. However, there are techniques you can use to minimize your expenditures, such as eliminating non essential buys or using a budgeting app to help you prioritize bills while tracking spending habits.

Learn: How to Save If You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Your Retirement Accounts and Withdrawal Rules

Planning for retirement involves building up your retirement account, the most common types being individual retirement accounts and 401ks. Most retirement accounts carry specific rules involving contribution limits and rules on withdrawals. For example, although both regular IRAs and Roth IRAs have the same contribution limits — $6,000 per year, or $7,000 if you’re over age 50 — only a regular IRA contribution is tax-deductible. On the other hand, a Roth IRA is not taxed as income once you begin withdrawing from it, unlike a regular IRA. Furthermore, Roth IRAs don’t require minimum distributions, which themselves carry a tax penalty if not taken.

A 401k is an employer-sponsored retirement plan with a much higher contribution limit: $19,000, including the total of all employer contributions, employee elective deferrals. However, these are also taxable as income.

7 Tips for Choosing the Best Retirement Plan: IRA vs. 401k

Cost of Living in Where You Want to Retire

You’ll need to be realistic about where you can retire. Some places will be a huge drain on your savings, thus affecting your standard of living. On the other hand, you can really stretch a dollar in, say, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Based on a recent GOBankingRates study, these are some of the cheapest places to retire:

  • Columbus, Ga.
  • Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Montgomery, Ala.
  • Cleveland
  • Augusta, Ga.
  • Memphis, Tenn.
  • Jackson, Miss.
  • Detroit
  • Birmingham, Ala.

See Why: The Best Places to Retire in America Are All College Towns

If You Want to Retire Young, Consider Moving

This might be the (literal) $1 million question: Where do you want to retire?

Maintaining a standard of living during retirement is itself fairly expensive, but your nest egg will probably stretch further in Alabama than Alaska. But then, at what age do you plan to retire? Generally speaking, early retirement likely means you’ll need more money. As you can see in the following table, retiring at 35 and 45 requires the most money. However, your targeted savings decrease the older you get, likely due to both proximity to retirement age and your salary increasing as you age.

GOBankingRates research shows when you can retire, based on how much money you have and where you plan to live:

How Much Money You Need to Retire at Every Age
State You Can Retire by 35 If You Saved You Can Retire by 45 If You Saved You Can Retire by 55 If You Saved You Can Retire by 65 If You Saved
Alabama $1,546,362 $1,655,472 $1,455,373 $1,109,741
Alaska $2,252,234 $2,411,151 $2,119,712 $1,616,308
Arizona $1,689,607 $1,808,825 $1,590,190 $1,212,540
Arkansas $1,527,377 $1,635,148 $1,437,506 $1,096,117
California $2,367,866 $2,534,942 $2,228,540 $1,699,291
Colorado $1,851,837 $1,982,502 $1,742,874 $1,328,964
Connecticut $2,295,381 $2,457,341 $2,160,319 $1,647,272
Delaware $1,806,965 $1,934,463 $1,700,642 $1,296,762
Florida $1,710,317 $1,830,996 $1,609,681 $1,227,403
Georgia $1,580,879 $1,692,425 $1,487,859 $1,134,512
Hawaii $3,260,131 $3,490,164 $3,068,303 $2,339,621
Idaho $1,622,299 $1,736,768 $1,526,842 $1,164,237
Illinois $1,651,638 $1,768,177 $1,554,455 $1,185,292
Indiana $1,553,265 $1,662,863 $1,461,870 $1,114,695
Iowa $1,579,153 $1,690,577 $1,486,235 $1,133,273
Kansas $1,551,539 $1,661,015 $1,460,246 $1,113,456
Kentucky $1,639,558 $1,755,244 $1,543,085 $1,176,623
Louisiana $1,606,766 $1,720,139 $1,512,223 $1,153,090
Maine $2,000,260 $2,141,397 $1,882,564 $1,435,479
Maryland $2,231,524 $2,388,979 $2,100,220 $1,601,445
Massachusetts $2,229,798 $2,387,132 $2,098,596 $1,600,207
Michigan $1,556,717 $1,666,558 $1,465,119 $1,117,172
Minnesota $1,781,077 $1,906,749 $1,676,278 $1,278,184
Mississippi $1,491,134 $1,596,348 $1,403,395 $1,070,107
Missouri $1,529,103 $1,636,996 $1,439,130 $1,097,355
Montana $1,827,675 $1,956,635 $1,720,134 $1,311,624
Nebraska $1,636,106 $1,751,549 $1,539,836 $1,174,145
Nevada $1,877,725 $2,010,216 $1,767,238 $1,347,542
New Hampshire $1,839,756 $1,969,568 $1,731,504 $1,320,294
New Jersey $2,110,715 $2,259,645 $1,986,519 $1,514,747
New Mexico $1,579,153 $1,690,577 $1,486,235 $1,133,273
New York $2,312,639 $2,475,818 $2,176,562 $1,659,657
North Carolina $1,630,928 $1,746,006 $1,534,964 $1,170,430
North Dakota $1,718,947 $1,840,235 $1,617,803 $1,233,596
Ohio $1,605,041 $1,718,291 $1,510,599 $1,151,852
Oklahoma $1,503,215 $1,609,281 $1,414,765 $1,078,777
Oregon $2,233,250 $2,390,827 $2,101,844 $1,602,684
Pennsylvania $1,698,236 $1,818,063 $1,598,311 $1,218,733
Rhode Island $2,084,827 $2,231,931 $1,962,154 $1,496,168
South Carolina $1,687,881 $1,806,977 $1,588,565 $1,211,302
South Dakota $1,691,333 $1,810,673 $1,591,814 $1,213,779
Tennessee $1,542,910 $1,651,777 $1,452,124 $1,107,264
Texas $1,577,427 $1,688,729 $1,484,610 $1,132,035
Utah $1,725,850 $1,847,625 $1,624,300 $1,238,550
Vermont $2,022,696 $2,165,417 $1,903,680 $1,451,581
Virginia $1,744,834 $1,867,949 $1,642,167 $1,252,174
Washington $1,886,354 $2,019,454 $1,775,360 $1,353,735
West Virginia $1,596,411 $1,709,053 $1,502,478 $1,145,659
Wisconsin $1,670,623 $1,788,501 $1,572,322 $1,198,916
Wyoming $1,537,732 $1,646,234 $1,447,251 $1,103,548

More on Retirement

Methodology: GOBankingRates conducted a four-part study in order to determine the “best age to retire.” 1) The survey asked 1,019 Americans what their dream retirement age is, broken down by gender and age group; 2) percentage of each age group still in the labor force and the age are people actually retiring these days, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and SmartAsset; 3) expected Social Security benefits for five-year age cohorts when they turn 65, sourced from; 4) amount a person required to save for retirement in each state based on annual expenditures for a person age 35, 45, 55 and 65, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 5) overall cost of living, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places.

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About the Author

Sean Dennison

Sean joined the GOBankingRates team in 2018, bringing with him several years of experience with both military and collegiate writing and editing experience. Sean’s first foray into writing happened when he enlisted in the Marines, with the occupational specialty of combat correspondent. He covered military affairs both in garrison and internationally when he deployed to Afghanistan. After finishing his enlistment, he completed his BA in English at UC Berkeley, eventually moving to Southern California.

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The Complete Guide to the Best Retirement Age
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