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What’s the Best Retirement Age?

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Although retirement age by the government’s standards falls somewhere in your mid-60s, some people will opt to retire earlier or later in life. For example, right now, there are more people planning to retire early than there were pre-pandemic, according to a survey from market research firm Hearts and Wallets, as reported by Fox News. The survey estimates around 11 million U.S. households younger than 55 have plans to retire by 55. However, approximately 40 million households under 55 believe they will work longer and retire between the ages of 62 and 70 — more than 3.5 times the amount of households that believe they will retire in their mid-50s.

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The main reason for retiring later rather than earlier is to maximize retirement benefits; withdrawing them at a later age means you can withdraw more than you would at earlier retirement age. But what retirement age is right for 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.

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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. The Social Security Administration lists full retirement age as between 66 and 67, depending 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 your full retirement age.

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%. If you hold out until you turn 65, you’ll get 93.3% of your benefits. Spousal benefits are 50% if you wait until 66 to receive them, but if you start collecting benefits at 62, you’ll receive only 35% 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 June 7, 2021

Retirement for Individuals Born 1960 and Later

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

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

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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 completely off the wall to think you might not be able to tap into your Social Security benefits once you retire. One-third of Americans don’t believe they’ll receive Social Security benefits once they become eligible, according to a 2019 Quinnipiac 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 $56,000 in 2020 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 1960 2025 Male: $332,000
Female: $367,000
Gen X 1965 2030 Male: $363,000
Female: $401,000
Gen X 1970 2035 Male: $394,000
Female: $433,000
Gen X 1975 2040

Male: $424,000
Female: $465,000

Millennials 1980 2045 Male: $454,000
Female: $497,000
Millennials 1985 2050 Male: $485,000
Female: $528,000
Millennials 1990 2055 Male: $517,000
Female: $562,000
Millennials 1995 2060 Male: $552,000
Female: $599,000

Debt and Loans

Americans carried an average debt of $26,621 in 2020, down from an average of $29,800 in 2019, according to Northwestern Mutual’s “Planning & Progress Study 2020.” 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.

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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. 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.

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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 for single coverage jumped to $7,470 in 2020 — an increase of 4% from the year before. Because this trend shows no sign of abating, you’ll want to factor it in to your retirement plans.

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 lucrative 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. And right now job satisfaction is back to prepandemic levels, with the ability to work from home as the reason, according to a GOBankingRates study.

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 78,  with the main factors driving down life expectancy being heart disease and cancer. 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 2019 GOBankingRates survey found that more than 40% 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% 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 nonessential 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: $19,500, including the total of all employer contributions, employee elective deferrals. However, these are also taxable as income.

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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:

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. According to a GOBankingRates study, you won’t have to have nearly as much money to retire in Southeastern and Southwestern states: Mississippi, Oklahoma and Arkansas require less than $700,000 in savings to retire. However, to retire in the most expensive places, you’ll need much more. For example, in Hawaii, you’ll need over $2.1 million in savings, and in California, Oregon and New York, you’ll need to have around $1.3 million put away. The bottom line is if you want your savings to last longer after you stop working, your retirement destination matters.

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Sean Dennison contributed to the reporting for this article.

Last updated: June 15, 2021