Americans across the board want to retire early, but their savings habits are hardly conducive to meeting that goal.
When should I retire? It’s a question that depends on your personal needs and circumstances—not to mention your personality and plans for what you’d do instead.
If you’re like the majority of workers, you’re probably planning to stop working by the time you turn 65: A survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found that 54% of respondents said they expect to retire at age 65 or younger.
It’s one thing to have an idea of when you want to retire. It’s another thing altogether to know whether you’ll actually be able to retire. While leaving the workforce early might sound like paradise, it can be a big mistake if you’re not financially ready to live without a paycheck. Here are the ins-and-outs of quitting your job at every stage.
Americans think the ideal age to retire is 61. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey from financial website Bankrate, which polled 10 certified financial planners from different parts of the country, it may be wise to wait longer.
There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to retire before you’re 65. But if that’s your goal, you’ll need to start working toward it early on. That means saving aggressively during your working years and investing your nest egg in stocks to fuel its growth.
Consider using some of your retirement savings to substitute for the Social Security benefits you’re delaying, assuming you have enough. You can start receiving retirement benefits at age 62. (The full benefit age is 66 years and two months for those born in 1955. That will rise to age 67 for people born in 1960 or later.)
Chances are that you’ll need a large nest egg to supplement your Social Security funds, especially if you hang it up very early. The traditional thinking is that you’ll need 25 times your annual expenses (minus Social Security) in order to avoid outliving your money. And the earlier you retire, the more you’ll need.
Normal retirement age is considered 66 to 70 and is considered the “ideal age”. A report from the Stanford Center on Longevity analyzed 292 retirement strategies and determined that a key component of retiring successfully is delaying Social Security payments until age 70.
For many, this is the golden mean of retirement timing—you’re old enough to have built up a nice financial reserve and young enough to enjoy your job-free years. The fact that you’ll get your full Social Security payment at age 66 can make a huge difference, especially if you’re relatively healthy and likely to have an average, or longer-than-average, retirement.
There’s more good news; some retirement benefits get more attractive with age; annuities and reverse mortgages are two products that, like a fine wine, get better with age. You’ll also need to plan on taking IRA withdrawals as required minimum distributions begin at age 70 1/2. If you miss these there is a hefty penalty, so make sure you start them on time.
If you love what you do for a living, the advantages of working into your 70s are readily apparent. For everyone else, a protracted career might sound like the last thing you’d ever want. However there are many advantages…
- You can save for longer: There are two reasons why a single extra year can matter so much: more compound interest and the chance to take advantage of more tax-free savings.
- You can take Social Security later: Working longer means you can wait to start taking Social Security benefits. This can boost your monthly benefit for the rest of your life.
- You can continue taking advantage of healthcare and other employment benefits: If your employer provides access to group health-insurance coverage, replicating this coverage could be expensive on the open market — if it is even possible for you.
- You may become eligible for more pension money from your employer: If you’re lucky enough to be eligible for a defined-benefit plan, you may be required to work for a certain number of years to claim the full benefit. If you work longer, your benefits will typically increase.
- You’ll stay engaged and keep your mind active: If the financial benefits of working longer aren’t enough to convince you to keep your day job, perhaps the mental benefits will be.
Many older people can’t wait for the day when they finally call it quits on their careers. But unless you receive an inheritance, win the lottery or have some other kind of windfall, for most the best way to retire early is to start planning ahead.
If you need further advice on when is a realistic age for you to retire, consult a retirement income planner who can give you additional insights into whether you have the money you’ll need to retire.
For additional assistance, the Social Security Administration can also help you estimate your retirement benefits. Finally, reach out to representatives from your pension or 401(k) plans to identify your income potential from those sources.