Why You Perhaps Should Not Retire at Age 65

Consider the changes in retirement between you and your grandparents. When the national retirement age of 65 was established for the Social Security Act in 1935 (82 years ago!), the average American lifespan was 61.7 years. The age of 65 was chosen at that time because it was beyond the average life expectancy for Americans. While there certainly were exceptions, most Americans of 1935 aged 65 or more were in poor physical condition and were unable to earn a living. In fact, the average 65-year-old American of those days was… DEAD!

Again, I am talking about averages. We all know of exceptions, but financial planning by the actuaries at the Social Security Administration is based on averages.

NOTE: Actuaries are the individuals who determine the rate of accidents, sickness, death and other events, according to probabilities that are based on statistical records. Actuaries then use trend information to predict future averages.

Today, we still think of retirement age as 65, but the average lifespan of Americans is now 78.74 years — 17 years more than it was when Social Security started. The impact is enormous.

Most Americans now expect to draw Social Security payments for years, something our grandparents never expected. That alone may explain a lot when thinking about the present and future financial problems of Social Security!

Is it reasonable for you to expect government payments at so young an age? Our grandparents didn’t expect retirement checks until several years after they reached the average life expectancy. If we use the same philosophy today with an average life expectancy of 78 years, we shouldn’t expect retirement until age 80 or beyond! After all, that’s effectively what our grandparents expected.

In fact, many Americans are already postponing retirement until several years after age 65. The news media is full of information about various studies that show many Americans switching careers in their senior years and remaining productive in the workforce until into their seventies and beyond.

Here are some articles that might interest you:

3 Reasons Not to Retire Before Age 66 in USA Today at: https://usat.ly/2x0x8kq

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Retire at 65 in The Motley Fool at: http://bit.ly/2x05UdM

8 Reasons You Won’t Retire at 65 in GoBankingRates at: http://bit.ly/2wmxz4r

6 Reasons to Work Past Retirement Age in Kiplinger at: http://bit.ly/2fupXpw

The average age for retirement is different in other countries, according to Aperion Care at: https://aperioncare.com/blog/retirement-age-around-world. The average age for retirement is:

China: 56.25 years of age

Norway: 67 years of age

What are your plans? Are you planning to retire to a rocking chair at age 65? Or will you switch to a second career and keep busy earning an income for several more years?

21 Comments

It all depends on your career path. Not sure if I’d want a 75 year old as an airline captain, given slowed reflexes and reaction. Some of us may want to work in later life, but corporate America prefers Millennials over Boomers right now, especially in IT.

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It is often suggested that fixing the fiscal problem of Social Security involves raising the retirement age. People really hate that, of course. But no one ever suggests raising retirement age but not having to contribute to Social Security during those extra years. That should make it palatable to reasonable people.

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We are looking at retirement based on managed savings, not so much on social security. I don’t have a second paying career, but volunteer my services with two organizations. Don’t discount the need or effectiveness of volunteer work. My husband will be retiring at age 67; I’m not so sure of his plans. I am busy, productive and not bored!

Steve F is correct about a general bias against hiring people my age. It’s one reason that I’m doing volunteer work.

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Actually, the “full retirement age” for Social Security will be 66 yrs soon (if not already), and is gradually creeping up. They did make a slight adjustment to ‘encourage’ people to wait longer to collect it. But certainly nowhere near the actual average life expectancy. At this point, there would be an uproar if they tried that. Most people can’t afford taking SS any earlier since so few have enough savings to live on without it.

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Full retirement age is now 66,and climbing in the future. That gradual increase should make it easier fro people to accept. However, those in physically difficult jobs may have a hard time with it. That said, don’t dismiss retirees as “retiring to the rocking chair”! My experience, and that of many I know,has been the opposite. Many of us are busy with volunteer activities,grandchildren,travel,and hobbies we didn’t have time for before! I rarely go near the rocking chair!!

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I am 80 years young. In good health and still working part time. Enjoy the interaction with people and the ‘extra’ money.

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No problem for me to stop earlier. In fact, I stopped more than 2 years ago, when I was almost 64. Still very busy with all kind of things, mostly garden, computers and photography, but I have to add that I get a monthly pension payment that makes life quite easy to live… And I know, not everybody, unfortunately, is in that position.
BTW, I worked in the Netherlands and Germany, now live in Austria.

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I think the people living in the thirties were in better shape than the people of the same age now. They did not spend 4- 6 hours sitting on the sofa in front of the boob tube. Or every spare minute on their phones. Riding around in cars not able to walk six blocks. My grandparents died in the late 40s, in their 90s. My husbands grandfather died at age 94 in the sixties. They did hard physical work and ate simple foods.
Alice Paige

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I’m now 77. I worked until age 72, part time for the last 5 years. Most important factor was low returns on my savings unless I took unhealthy risks; remember 2008. Also, I liked working. The main con on people working longer falls on the younger people who can’t find good jobs; older people are keeping them. Businesses used to kicked you out of a job; laws keep them from doing that. when you got older. Today’s kids – I’m generalizing – don’t have a good work ethic and are not as well educated – I take tests every day -so older people are valuable to a business.

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On the other hand, is it fair to take jobs away from young people just starting out in their career, who may have young families to support? If you can afford to stop working, I would say it is the socially responsible thing to do to let someone else have your job.

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That’s assuming that everyone lives to the ripe old age of 80 or even 90 – read the obituary pages – it’s not a sure thing. I had cancer at 59 and retired at 65 feeling lucky to get there with a big lifestyle change when I couldn’t work.

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I read all the comments so far, and none of the writers seem to have done manual labor. If you have a hard physical job as your “career,” is it realistic to expect that person to continue laboring into old age? I would rather not see great-grandma or grandpa doing hard labor because it pleases bean counters.
Other than that, retirement really depends upon the condition of one’s wallet, health, the realistic availability of jobs, and personal lifestyle choices. Judge for yourself, not others.

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It’s not everyone’s choice when they retire. I was downsized from an IT career that was being squeezed out for workers in India. I consider myself lucky to have worked for 35 of the best years for that field in the USA. My good fortune allowed me to pay into Social Security, pension, 401k, IRA, etc. until I was cut off at 55. After that, it was great to have all the time I wanted to travel, research and get to know many new cousins while my heath was good.

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When to retire is an issue that gets a lot of occasional heat and very little light. Financial and other publications are replete with formulas that have in common only that they claim to be universally applicable. That is clearly nonsense! No financial formula and no set of criteria can ever be relevant for all. Much depends on factors that vary widely over the population, (non-comprehensively) including one’s health, marital status (and possibly age differential with partner), potential/probable income after retirement, expected financial need after retirement, interest range (especially outside of current work), financial acumen, geographical location (mainly for cost of living), tolerance for current (and/or potential) jobs.
My wife and I are in our mid-70’s. We have been retired for over 19 years. At the time we decided to leave the work force we (for various reasons) were not enamored with our jobs and the futures of same. We had other (family) reasons to want more time available away from work responsibilities. We had a reasonable, but not excessive, ‘nest egg’ of money and complete confidence in our investment abilities. We recognized that by retiring at relatively young ages we were in some sense ‘leaving money on the table’ but felt (justifiably as it happens) that we could live well enough on what we had and could reasonably expect from our investments. OTOH, we had a LOT of interests – and friends – outside of our work careers. Today our calendar is always fairly full. We do some volunteering, some travel (though not as much as we had expected as the impetus to ‘get away for a bit’ is not as strong, have the time to devote to grandchildren, and generally enjoy life. We are fortunate that (although surely not perfect) our health is not a great impediment for us – and are glad we got out of the work force before it became even a small one.
We are and have been fortunate and recognize that. Probably the only advice I would give to any young person reading this is to learn about investing NOW and start accumulating your ‘nest egg’ – since the availability of pensions and government programs are not guaranteed and the earlier you start the sooner you can choose your optimal age for retirement. This does not mean you need to retire as young as we did, but it will give you much better ability to control your own direction.

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I worked as a case manager with seriously mentally ill clients. This was basically rather a difficult job in regard to running up & down stairs, taking clients out to grocery shop, and so on. I began to have pain in varied parts of my body, & finally decided I’d better stop working so hard. So, I retired at 66.5 years, & now am 77 yrs old. My father lived to be nearly 91, & my grandmother, his mom, lived to 90. so, I maintain my own home here in condo, & remain pretty much very active. I work one day a week at an animal rescue & adoption foundation, mainly with the cats, & working on front desk. Associate with other volunteers of various ages there. I would say that I live a much “leaner” life in comparison with my adult children, when one considers my purse. Recently returned from a 12 day trip to Ireland with my oldest son & wife. Also work on my genealogy, & have a few friends with whom I commiserate about “getting older”!! HA!!

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Worked in an OR 42 years,retired at 64 1/2. Just could not do the physical demands of moving and lifting anymore. If I had a career that did not require that I would still be working.

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Ok I have to jump in on this one. This average thing is a bee in my bonnet. First of all average means average of all including highs and lows. Yes, Dick, you mentioned it but I don t think people really get how many of our ancestors lived into their late 80s and 90s. Go look in the graveyards. If you survived infancy, childbirth, war and pestilence, and were say on a farm rather than starving, your chances weren t so bad at all. Which I find fascinating as we re about to face a world where antibiotics no longer work. How did they do it? Anyway, the vast majority of us in North America qualify as among those old lucky ones, although in some places the gap is widening again. God help the people in earthquake and hurricane zones especially. No one seems too interested in saving and rebuilding.
I spent some 40 years working, including while I was getting an education and still retired before 60, after 2 burn outs working in the social welfare field. There was never an end to the need and I made it my passion to try to fix things anyway and keep fingers in all the dikes I could. I simply could not mentally handle the stress any more and if I had to work to survive I d be in big trouble. Although I continue to do volunteer work at things I can control and pace.
Other considerations are as Bob Emnett said, many factors. Including that people who keep working for the fun of it may well be keeping younger folks from jobs they need.
Personally I wish that some of us would start to look at ways to enrich and organize the lives we have post retirement. We may well have physical and mental limitations now, but there are still contributions that society needs and we could help meet. But I find one of the biggest features of retirement is loneliness. And getting help with household and other tasks. I moved to be close to the sea which I craved all my life and it is as beautiful as I imagined. but harsh. The eyes start to go, the hips, hearing, dexterity, and the world is changing very very fast right now. Family and friends you count on die or move or get mad at you and suddenly all you took for granted is changed. Nobody tells us or really prepares us for them; we always think that will come later.
Aging is a huge challenge and one our society has not really addressed. I hope that starts to change. There are an awful lot of us boomers and subsequent generations have their own challenges today. We have an opportunity while we re still here…..

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I’m 63 and currently work two jobs, as a tax preparer and as an accountant and Medicare counselor for the local senior center. I would like to work less when I turn 65 or 66. Enjoy counseling a lot, but senior center funding shrinks a little every year, and we struggle to pay the bills. Having my own accounting office has a lot of overhead. Always said I would cut back when I got on Medicare, but how to do it is a problem.

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There is a problem with your stats. Yes the “average” for everyone was 61.7, but mostly due to a higher infant mortality rate. In 1930, the “average” 45 year old was expected to live to 70.8 years old collecting almost 7 years of retirement; whereas in 2009 the “average” was 10 years more.

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My father retired in 1980 at the age of 60 and died in 2013 at the age of 92. Up until his mid-80s he was very active (walked 3 miles several times a week), volunteering and traveling. He thoroughly enjoyed retirement, especially since he was not a “morning person”. I’m not a “morning person” either and hope to get out of the 8 to 5 grind before it wears me to a nub.

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Yes, this social security has become a real conundrum. I just turned 65, but had ‘retired’ 10 years ago due to workplace stress. I will not be collecting any SS until I turn 70. Neither will my hubby who wants to work in his field until he is 70. He works in a very specific field where he is in demand due to his ‘corporate’ or ‘collective’ memory of how things were, as well as are now, and the services of the company he works for are helping many. He also loves what he does, and he is good at training the new millennials that come to the company. He read something where if you worked until age 70 you got more money from SS than if you retired and collected earlier. Neither of us ever expected to get any money from SS with all the past prognostications of ‘no money’ in the close future, we will see when we get there. Otherwise with that outlook of ‘no money’ we have socked money away in our retirement venues over the past jobs/years and unless the stock market takes a dive, we should be OK. By the time we are 70, if there is SS money to be had, it will come in handy just in case the market does or has gone sideways and leaves us with less from that area to draw from. So…we’ll see when we get there what the scenario is, but my guess is that changing the retirement age to 66 as well as dangling that ‘work to age 70’ carrot is a definite look into what the future will bring as far as extending the age you are able to retire and claim SS money. I was not happy with hubby’s decision to work until 70, as this FL girl was more than ready to get the heck out of the winter snow of the mid-Atlantic and move back home to somewhere in central FL area – preferably on a big lake! Oh, well. In a few more years maybe.

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