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What Is the Best Age to Retire?

Category: Retirement Planning

March 9, 2021 — It is a perennial question that affects just about everyone – when is the best time to retire? Sometimes one has no choice in the matter, such as airline pilots or military personnel who reach a maximum age or length of service. Others are laid off from a job in one’s late 50’s or 60’s, before they wanted to stop working. Fortunately many of us get to choose when we retire. But answering that question is never easy.

Our friend Robert Powell just wrote a fabulous article on “What Is the Right Age to Retire“. He outlines the major questions that need to be answered, which we will touch on here and add a few of our own.

Are you ready to FIRE?

The FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early) has many adherents. They are mainly people who want to quit working as soon as they can, and they take amazing steps to save enough money to do that. It has its pitfalls and its triumphs, but it is clearly not for everyone. Certainly amassing enough money to be able to retire is a comfortable place to be. Whether you believe in FIRE or not, if you won’t have enough money to live on comfortably, you are not at the right age to retire.

Tired of working

Some people are burnt out and ready to retire or do something else. Leaving a physically demanding job or one that is especially stressful can be very good reasons to retire. That assumes that they have the resources to live comfortably without a paycheck coming in. Or, the ability to find a new job that can bridge the economic gap.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Hitting Social Security Age
The earliest one can get a Social Security retirement benefit is age 62. Of course if one takes it that early there is a significant reduction; the benefit is only 75% of what it would be at Full Retirement Age. Compared to waiting until age 70 when benefits are maxed, the lifetime income given up from taking them early is even greater. The situation for married couples can be more complex. For example, if one spouse is either still working or getting a higher benefit based on age, retiring at 62 or thereabouts might be an attractive option for the other. In our opinion, retiring at age 62 solely because that is when one is first eligible is not a compelling reason to do so. Many other factors might be more important. A compelling reason for claiming early is when one has no alternative way to put food on the table and a roof overhead.

Medicare Eligible

Becoming eligible for Medicare at age 65 is a strong incentive to retire for many. That is particularly true for folks whose employers do not provide health care insurance. Medicare Part A is free and premiums for Part B, C, or D are much more reasonable that paying for them on one’s own.

Do you have a pension?

Lucky you, this benefit has gone the way of the horse and buggy for most people. But for folks with a pension the decision on when to retire usually comes down to the numbers. For example, there is usually a magic number of years of service, possibly with an age component as well. If one is not at that number, then it would be very costly to retire. Some plans pay more for years beyond the minimum, others don’t change past the minimum. The decision can be complex enough that a financial advisor might be a good idea.

Then there are buyouts. Employers are often eager to get higher paid, older workers off the payroll, so they offer buyouts for early retirement. Then it becomes a complicated problem to figure out if the offer makes sense for the employee, or guessing if a better offer will come along.

One of our friends is a college professor and was offered a buyout. Financially it made sense, he could go to emeritus status and start taking his pension. But he would no longer be the head of his department. He might not be responsible for the research projects he loves, nor get to teach some of his favorite classes. So he turned down the buyout, and is very happy with the decision.

Do you have a Plan B?

Retiring just because you can doesn’t always makes sense. If you don’t know how you are going to fill your days you might regret losing the income, prestige, social connections, and routine of having a job. But if you know what you want to do (volunteer, start a business, live abroad, pursue favorite pastimes, etc.), and you have the financial resources to live comfortably, then retirement is often the right decision.

Phased retirement

This is often the happiest way into retirement. If you own your own business or your job allows it, starting to take more time off while keeping your hand in can be very rewarding. We know many people who have turned the operations of their businesses over to a partner or child while they maintain responsibility for some piece of it, on their own terms. Or, they reduce their workload so they can go south for most of the winter, or go back and forth from a summer place. Not everyone can do this, but it works great for the many who can.


Maybe never

Some people will never retire, or at least they will work for the foreseeable future. Look at Dr. Anthony Fauci, still doing his job at 80. If you love what you are doing, why would you want to quit and risk boredom? Everyone has to answer that question on their own, everybody is different.

A personal note

Your editor has enjoyed a partial retirement for the last 14 years. I retired from my real job at age 58 to start Topretirements.com. At the time my company was changing and I was ready for something different after 25 years. Fortunately, this site has worked out better than I ever imagined, and provides the perfect combination of challenges along with rewards. But best of all it gives me something interesting and fun to do every day, while allowing 70% of my time for sports and fun. And, I get to interact with an amazing group of Members and visitors!

Your story

When do you think is the best time to retire? Have you done it already, or are you waiting. Please share your brief stories in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on March 8th, 2021

30 Comments »

  1. 70; I liked what I was doing. Definitely earlier if I didn’t. Did have a Plan B called J.I.C.
    Did consider myself fortunate as did like my work, worked for a great Company, had a great Leader & a Lifestyle that was affordable with some left over for Plan B.
    So Woke up every Morning with a Smile.
    As Best of All had a fit that suited my Purpose in Life!!

    by BillyBogey — March 9, 2021

  2. Please check this sentence: “If one can wait until age 70 when benefits are maxed,”. I think it needs revision.

    Otherwise this is an excellent, succinct article on a difficult subject. As a former career counselor and later having responsibility to help employees with their career options, I could not state it better. We both retired at 55, three years earlier than anticipated, and I can read our situations clearly in your words. It was a tough decision with a great deal of risk, but it worked well for us and we have never regretted the move. Life really became much more satisfactory for us despite having to work consistently to maintain our rolling budget over the years.

    And big congrats on having a similar outcome for yourself Admin (whose name escapes me right now :<).

    by RichPB — March 9, 2021

  3. John Brady– right there in front of me.

    by RichPB — March 9, 2021

  4. I retired at 65 1/2 when the pandemic started. I had a stressful job and was glad to retire. I probably would have retired earlier but I wanted to have medicare when I retired. My husband waited until he was 70 to collect SS so I am also waiting until age 70 to collect mine.

    by Beebs — March 10, 2021

  5. I retired at 67.5. I loved my job and the salary, but I left because my father needed help (he died 6 months after I retired). I have enough income from my IRA and my Social Security monthly benefit to live a comfortable, simple life. My house has no mortgage. I didn’t take Social Security until I was 68.5, based on a recommendation from the Social Security Administration. I’m glad I waited, as my benefit increased enough to make it worthwhile. I planned to work until age 70, if I had not left for my dad’s sake, but I have no regrets. I’m looking forward to travel in the future.

    by Elaine C. — March 10, 2021

  6. Retired at 62+. They didn’t want me anymore and I didn’t want them. We agreed to go our separate ways. Didn’t want to retire, but I had started working at 8 with a paper route. HS worked for grocery store. College worked at auto parts store. Grad school worked evenings for a luxury hotel driving/picking up customers at the airport (tips were great) and finally as a university professor/administrator for 30 years. So at 62 I had worked for 50+ years. ENOUGH! Had savings, had pension, had a young wife who loved teaching kindergarten.
    But the biggest “gift” was our daughter at 14. Social Security gave me a check every month for her until she turned 18! So I got a “reduced” check, but with her check I made as much as if I retired at 70. Who knew? Wonderful lady at SocSec, that’s who. I was elated.
    Received that money for the next 4 years. Used half, saved half. After 4 years she had enough money put away to attend her prestigious, preferred, first choice university. With money saved, plus some scholarships she was able to graduate debt free. Love SS!
    Is America a great country or what!?

    by Hjack — March 10, 2021

  7. I am still trying to pick the “right” time. I will be eligible for Medicare next year, but I will have a high deduction in my Social Security payments since I will have a small County pension. I want to teach part time, which I enjoy, and give up my full time, (stressful) job, which I do not enjoy, but it is a big step, since I still have a mortgage. I enjoy reading everyone’s success stories, though, since it gives me hope. Hoping to take the big step in 2022. Life is much too short!

    by Joanne S. — March 10, 2021

  8. I am a College Professor, loved my job and worked Full-Time until I was 71. I turned 71 in April/2020, just in time for Covid to strike. My cold northern College moved to remote instruction for the foreseeable future. It was not the world I was familiar, competent or interested in. I decided it was time to reset my goals and retired from full time teaching. I do, however, continue to stay relevant by teaching adjunct (remote; go figure). But hey, I am teaching from the beach at Boca Raton. Deciding when to retire is one of the most agonizing decisions I have ever made.

    by frank — March 10, 2021

  9. There is no one “best” age to retire. There isn’t even a “right” age to retire. Stuff happens. You can plan all you want but you may find retirement thrust upon you before you thought you would retire. I retired at 60 not because I planned to but because our circumstances changed and I was sick of my job. We could afford it so I chucked it. Was that the “right” age to retire? Who knows? My wife was planning to retire at 65 then suddenly her company gave her an early retirement offer she couldn’t refuse at age 63. Was that the “right” age to retire? Maybe. All I know is that she is loving retirement and despite going on Social Security two years earlier than planned we are doing just fine. (As a side note, her department is getting laid off in April so she would not have made it to 65 in her company and the severance package is worse then the retirement package she got).

    My advice? Don’t even think about what the “best” time to retire is or how you might maximize your Social Security income. None of us know when the Grim Reaper is going to tap us on the shoulder and tell us it’s time. It you like working, then work. If you want to get off the work treadmill and you think there is a good chance you can keep your lifestyle then retire. But only YOU know if that’s the case. If we had fretted about getting a few extra bucks out of Social Security we’d be in worse shape by not getting out when given the opportunity. Were we 100% sure it was the right thing to do? No. But we were sure enough.

    by JD — March 10, 2021

  10. I retired at 57 to take a 66-day Grand South America cruise. I was one of the lucky ones with pensions. Retired Air Force, Civil Service, and had a Veteran’s disability. Since our house was paid off and pensions covered living expenses decided to take the plunge. Just started collecting social security on my wife and will wait 2 more years to draw mine. Wife has a couple of small pensions coming in in a few years. Biggest contributer to our retirement was having medical through the military. We’ve been able to travel the world before this pandemic and so glad we did. No regrets what so ever.

    by Jim Allen — March 10, 2021

  11. When is the best time to retire – there is absolutely no “one fits all answer” – everyone’s situation is different. As a Federal law enforcement employee I was faced with mandatory retirement at age 57. If it had been my choice I would have continued to work for my agency until at least 62, as I liked my work a great deal – but that decision was out of my hands. I have continued to work since then but to be candid, finding the “right” position in your late 50’s or early 60’s can be a real struggle, unless you have the right connections – friend or relative. My feeling about Social Security – don’t let it be a determining factor unless you have few other resources in retirement. SS comes out of the same pot – take it early and you receive a lesser amount per month – take it later and you receive a greater amount per month. If you are lucky enough to have other retirement income Social Security may only serve as something extra, although it is certainly something earned. I tell people this story – I had a cousin who passed away at 68 – he collected virtually nothing from Social Security. My point being there is no guarantee we are going to live to the max SS age of 70 or beyond. If you want, or need to take Social Security benefits by all means take them. I also want to point out there are many resources available to help you make a sound decision that fits your situation – don’t hesitate to seek them out.

    by Michael C. Ince — March 10, 2021

  12. I am lucky in that mandatory retirement awaited me on the day I turned 57, so I decided to retire on my terms instead of waiting until the end. I retired a year earlier and my wife followed me a couple of months later as she was getting her 20 years in as a teacher. (She stayed home with the kids when they were small). And we have not regretted it all. We have gone to Antarctica, cruised to many locations and helped with the care of our grandchildren. I have worked part-time gigs for a little extra money, but mostly to earn money for a new adventure. So my recommendation is retire as early as you can, while you are able to enjoy adventures/family. As a wise person once said, “No one ever said at their deathbed, ‘I should have worked more.'”

    by Mark S — March 10, 2021

  13. Like most of the above, we “planned” for husband to work until, at least FRA at 66 &3 mos.- give or take. HOWEVER, the universe had other plans. I hadn’t been able to find work since 2008 and he was diagnosed with Parkinsons at age 58. He worked for 3 more years (and his company made every effort to assist him) then came home one day to say he couldn’t do it any more. He was able to apply, and receive, Disability. Fortunately he had paid into Long Term Disability Insurance (LTDI) and they made sure he got SSDI in 4 months. So with both checks, we’ve been able to move from TN to ME in 2017 and live very comfortably on that. I just applied for my FRA for June and when he hits his FRA, he will apply. Haven’t had to dig into the IRAs yet – yay. I highly recommend you advise your children and younger friends to pay for the LTDI (its usually an inexpensive deduction) – WELL WORTH IT!

    by HEF — March 11, 2021

  14. My spouse and I are “FIREd up” at 62. Our plan B is traveling America, getting involved in church outreach and neighborhood clubs, hiking and biking, and (me) finishing an on-line masters towards qualifying for an undergrad teaching position.

    We’re both taking SS up-front per our IFA’s advice contra conventional wisdom. Besides SS, our retirement is totally IRA-based, so SS conserves our primary assets. NOTE: SSA benefits should not be regarded as “investments,” as they are subject to changes in law, not market forces. The writing is on the wall re reduction of benefits: official SSA benefits statements now include a warning that actual benefits may less than projected due to anticipated shortfalls. Better to get 75% of current benefits than 100% of benefits substantially reduced by ages 66-70 (assuming they don’t move the finish line!).

    by Fred S — March 11, 2021

  15. One of the impediments to retiring early has been the inability to find health insurance before eligibility for Medicare at age 65. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA – also called Obamacare), those under 65 and especially those with preexisting conditions could obtain health insurance, albeit often at a relatively high cost. However, many in the middle class and below are eligible for ACA subsidies.

    With the passage this week of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), ACA subsidies will increase fairly substantially for 2021 and 2022. If you’re currently on an ACA plan, and have a subsidy, you should see an automatic reduction in your monthly premium soon. The Biden administration has also reopened ACA enrollment through May 15, if you want to switch plans. Some may want to consider enrolling in a more comprehensive ACA plan with a better subsidy.

    by Clyde — March 12, 2021

  16. Fred S, two good points about SS. Part of the reason we took SS at 62 was because our IRA investments were doing better (and have continued to do so) allowing us to preserve our higher drawing investments — roughly. The second point on potential changes for those not yet on SS is very relevant and actually seldom discussed.

    by RichPB — March 12, 2021

  17. I retired at 65. I was just getting up at 4 am to go to work, spending 10-12 hours in my office (or business travel with people I didn’t like to sit in a conference room for 10-12 hour days). I knew that the budget guys would eventually gun for me since I was earning so much money. I was very tired and burned out, and felt like the job was shortening my life. I did all of the retirement budget calculations (incl. Medicare eligibility vs. having to pay for private insurance). I had reached my target number in my 401K.

    Meanwhile, I really wanted to be able to babysit for my newborn 1st grandkid. I was working in a different state. My own parents were too far away to ever help out, and my own kids never got to know their grandparents or have grandparent memories. I’m my grandkid’s only grandparent, and it means a lot to me to be an important part of his life. (News flash: having 2nd grandkid in a few months, so my help will be even more important LOL.)

    So…everything came together for me at 65. I had the money to retire, along with the motivation.

    by Kate — March 13, 2021

  18. I am always amazed by people’s constant worry of finding the best time to do things, best place to live, the best college, best spouse, best job, the best stock to own, and “The Best Age to Retire.”

    I was going to write the “best” comment until I I read JD’s and Michael Ince’s comments above. You folks hit the nail on the head. I too had friends and colleagues that had all these “best” plans when they retire at the “best” age. Unfortunately, they never got the chance to retire.

    Enjoy life and family everyday or whenever possible. Everything is the BEST until it is NOT.

    by Roland — March 13, 2021

  19. Yep, my sister was looking forward to retirement—she died at 57 after contributing to social security for 40 years. That same year an article by a financial planner about social security in our local paper suggested at age 62 you “take the money and run.”
    We had always lived beneath our means, socked away the rest and had no debt. Time was now the precious commodity. Seven years later both glad we chose to retire early, and are healthier now retired than when working.

    by Daryl — March 14, 2021

  20. Well, there is certainly a diverse set of answers here about when to retire. I think that this reflects personal values. It may be hard for some people to understand those of us who choose to live a purpose driven life through their work, but I can tell you that there are many of us who find great meaning in our vocations. Somebody above repeated the oft quoted line that” No one ever said at their death bed that “I should have worked more”, but that just is not true. I can tell you that as a person who has been battling cancer, what keeps me going is the desire to accomplish more. For some of us, what we want to say at the end of our lives is that we made a difference. Many of us would find no satisfaction in 20-30 years of spare time. I am looking forward to resuming my work asap and plan to do so until I can serve no useful purpose through my work. Our choices in retirement reflect the way we have lived our lives.

    by Maimi — March 14, 2021

  21. Our choices in retirement do not necessarily reflect how we have lived our lives. My spouse and I have been working since the age of 12, and have both frequently been complimented on our work ethic. Now we provide daycare for our grandson so our daughter can work like a dog and help provide for her family. We have no need to validate our existence, and have admirably “served our time” in the workforce. Unlike the prevailing attitude in some camps, we are not “eaters,” slackers or freeloaders. I didn’t buy into the “mommy wars” back then and I won’t feel guilty or “less than” now. As long as someone else isn’t financing my existence, it’s not their concern. Social security and Medicare are earned.

    by Daryl — March 14, 2021

  22. (I don’t think)… for a person to have “a purpose driven life” that it can only happen through their work (job). Many retirees (I know) have “a purpose driven life” that involve many aspects of activities that make “a difference” without making money 9-5 M-F. It is sad to read that think that retirement is “20-30 years of spare time” (see Daryl’s comment about having a fulfilling retirement). I wish I had “spare time” so I can help others more.

    To use your last statement in a different way: When people retire and have nothing to do, it is a choice that reflects the way they lived their lives.

    by Roland — March 15, 2021

  23. Daryl, I concur!

    I was forced into semi-retirement via a job elimination at 63.5 years of age several years ago. I now work three days per week. (I could not find full-time work with the benefits and salary I had). This job will end, probably this Spring–as the doctor who owns the practice is very ill and cannot come back to work. Soon, I will look for some fun (to me) job or gig to do two days per week. I was forced to take my SS earlier than I planned. With the SS and the part-time work, I am able to survive and add to my savings. I want to feel vital and keep my computer skills current which I enjoy. I feel no need to justify my choices and I hope I have made the best of my situation. I earned the SS benefits that I now take and am grateful that I now qualify for Medicare. These are benefits I earned during my working life.

    by Jennifer — March 15, 2021

  24. My husband retired at age 63 and stared collecting SS right away. I waited to collect SS at age 62 1/2. No regrets. Did the math and break even point was around age 78. I am okay with that and hope I live that long and longer, if it is meant to be. We chose to let our nest egg grow and collect SS early. It has worked out very well for us. Our SS is above average so it provides a decent monthly income when added to our yearly allotment we pull out of our IRA’s. We are fairly frugal but not purposely. It is just our livestyle of enjoying our home, preparing gourmet foods at home and not buying new vehicles as of yet. Since retirement, I have not felt we have even changed our livestyle when it comes to money. We spend pretty much the same.

    There are no rules written in stone to tell us when to retire, how to retire or even to retire. It is an individual choice. If someone wants to retire and sit in front of the tv all day, that is their business. If someone retires and wants to build houses for habitat for humanity, that is their choice. There are many choices, taking care of grandchildren, seeing the world, growing a garden, volunteering or work till the last day of your life. We all have choices and my lifestyle may be totally uncompatible with yours. My need of less money by tapping SS early may be thought of as unwise but in my world, it was a very wise decision. The money in our retirement savings is growing in leaps and bounds. We all need to judge our own choices and others should not point fingers and tell you how wrong you are to retire early. The bean counters can run all kinds of reports and quote statistics to tell us we are foolish to start SS early. Not everyone’s SS is the same either. If your SS is only $300 a month, then maybe you should keep working. Or maybe that person would be happy living on a beach. Who is to say? Not everyone lives till age 66 FRA or to age 70 to get the maximum amount of of SS. Many never collect one check after a lifetime of working.

    by Louise — March 15, 2021

  25. It is interesting that the comments tagged to this article really have little to do with one’s age. From what I gather, I see that working careers come to an end as a result of one of three events: You decided, someone else decided, or Devine intervention.

    If the first two happens, find something to do that makes you and/or others happy until the third event closes the books for you.

    by Roland — March 15, 2021

  26. Louise, well said! My husband retired early due to health issues, I retired couple years later after high end house repairs that ‘might’ happen were done such as new roof, new deck. We wanted no bills after retiring except our monthly ones such as food, insurances etc. We celebrated retirement with my husband’s sister & hubby taking a cruise to Alaska we’d all recently retired. We are fortunate in that we waited on SS, we both got an excellent retirement with insurance from a government job. We are able to save money every month in a special ‘vacation/fun’ acct that has enabled us to go on many vacations. We enjoyed every day doing whatever, some days it was only sitting on deck reading watching natures beauty. We had several years of this until my husband got cancer & passed away couple yrs. ago. I continue to enjoy life, am fortunate in that I live each day pretty much as I want, hopefully soon that will include travel again. Both my husband & I worked hard to enjoy the life we had/have with very little worries. There really is no right time to retire for all, we each make that decision based on the info we have & hopefully it is rewarding for years. Stay safe, enjoy the day you are in, there is no promise of tomorrow.

    by VTRetiree — March 16, 2021

  27. I agree with Roland; it is interesting that a discussion supposed to be about the ideal age at which to retire has devolved into a discussion about Social Security. We take the program and its extraordinary benefits for granted. Yet no piece of legislation has had a greater direct impact on our Baby Boomer generation. But we should not forget that Social Security and other “safety net” legislation were forged during a time of Depression, when most of the wealth in the nation was held by a relative few and the rest were pretty much on bread lines. FDR and Congress in the mid-1930s saw that schism as unsustainable; thus the legislation which has benefited our lives so significantly. It will be interesting to note in the coming months and years if we Baby Boomers will support or ignore the attempts to save Social Security for our children and their children. More significant: How will we react to attempts to expand the safety net to include those at the bottom of the economic chain — as many of our parents were? Interesting times ahead.

    by Larry — March 17, 2021

  28. What I am about to write is just an observation of what happened 100 years ago (before my time). As we have heard to a certain extent: History has a way of repeating itself.

    One hundred years ago there was a global pandemic that killed millions. Then came the Roaring ’20s. Stock market euphoria. And then, what happened at the end of the Roaring ’20s decade? Hmmmm!

    I am not saying that all the events will totally repeat, but, if we are not careful and stop doing stupid things, then ….

    Just saying!!!

    by Roland — March 17, 2021

  29. I am 57. I have a pension and a substantial 401k. As a lineman my body is getting really beat up. I am a very active volunteer and for the past several months I have been recovering from a torn rotator cuff. The time off has allowed me to become much more involved in the administration functions of several charity groups I belong to. I have come to realize that this work is what really fulfills me and I am able to avoid further injuries to my aging bones. I just have to convince my financial advisor that the numbers work and then I think I will be moving on to the next chapter of my life.

    by Jeff — March 17, 2021

  30. I am 67 and still working full time as a psych nurse. I like my job but now have three grands and want to be with them everyday. They live almost 1000 miles away so trying to stick it out for another year or 2 to increase my SS which is greatly impacted by a state pension. Husband is still working full time and his SS will also be impacted by a state pension. We have no reason to have financial insecurity but I do. We have 401Ks, own our home outright, kids are successful. Luckily, since being vaccinated in December, I travel to see my grands 5 days a month at least. We will trying to hold out until 2023 but will retire sooner if my kids need us for the grands. They are ages 2 months, 2 and 3 years. They are everything to us! My kids know I do not want to be their live in nanny, which they have already, but I would be a daily part time caretaker if needed.

    by Jo — March 31, 2021

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