What Factors Affect the Average Retirement Age?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Average retirement age to claim maximum US Social Security benefits is now set for most people at 67, but this is hardly the only factor that contributes to when people will retire. Though most may attempt to reach this age, others may begin claiming benefits without retiring or work longer to earn credits or increase their benefit level. Others may continue to need to work in order to augment skimpy benefits, and clearly the amount of additional money set aside for retirement may affect retirement age.

Average retirement age to claim maximum U.S. Social Security benefits is set for most people at 67.
Average retirement age to claim maximum U.S. Social Security benefits is set for most people at 67.

In a broad-based view, attitudes about retirement have certainly changed average retirement age. People in their 60s are not necessarily viewing themselves as ready to quit work. Age of children may have a lot to do with this. With more women having children into their mid-40s, retirement may seem premature when there are still young adults to raise or college educations to pay for. Costs for sending the average child to college usually can’t be met without continuing to earn money.

The amount of savings and the level of current income relative to expenses will factor into the decision of when to retire.
The amount of savings and the level of current income relative to expenses will factor into the decision of when to retire.

The issue of when to retire to claim Social Security has an important affect on average retirement age. People are penalized for claiming this benefit sooner (as early as 62), and this could definitely forestall age of retirement from work until the age of 67 is reached. Depending on how people have structured their lives, they may put off retirement too if they haven’t yet earned enough credits for Social Security. Some people haven’t, or want to add to their total social security benefit. The woman who spent most of her life as a stay at home mom is just one example that may fall into this category, or any person who has perhaps worked as an independent contractor and made very little.

Another part of the equation is the inadequacy of payments though Social Security alone. When people live solely on this amount, even if it is at the maximum level, it may frequently reduce quality of living or cause financial difficulty. In the financial crash of the late 2000s, many people who were close to retirement saw huge losses in their investments too, meaning they would have to continue to work because they no longer had the extra cushion they planned on for retirement. Things like declining home values also didn’t help, since many people had invested in real estate, or suddenly found themselves with mortgage levels that exceeded the value of their homes. When such financial difficulties occur nationwide, average retirement age tends to increase and though people may claim social security at the appropriate time, they also may plan to work.

Certainly in the late 2000s, the response for many was to resolutely forgo retirement and keep trying to work on saving adequate funds for the day when work could no longer be found or performed. There are many younger people who are already struggling with rising costs, and wonder if there will be such a thing as retirement: if ultimately, people will simply need to work until they can no longer do so. This thinking, if accurate, could correspond with a sharp increase in average retirement age. It is certainly obvious to most people, even 20-30 years away from potential retirement that an average retirement age may well become a relic of the past, unless people are able to save money now that will help meet the expenses of the future.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@Oasis11 - I think that is a great point. There is so much value from working because if you don’t plan what you are going to do in retirement you might get bored.

Talking to others in a fun part time job could bring in income and allow you to have a little fun. I always thought it would be great to be a tour guide and travel abroad.

I know that some people choose to live abroad because the cost of living is so much lower than in the United States and many feel that they can get more bang for their buck. I know that Panama and Costa Rica are becoming popular retirement destinations because not only is the cost of living lower, but they both have warm tropical climates year round.

This can also allow someone that may not be able to retire in the United States at the age they would like continue with their retirement plans but in another country.


@SauteePan - I have to say that I think that some people that retire early find that they miss working and talking to their coworkers and might go back to work part time.

I know that the Social Security retirement age is set so if you decide to retire early you won’t get the full retirement benefits. Also, if you are under 59 ½ you will also be penalized for any withdrawals.

I think that the best thing to do is to find a hobby that you can turn into a small business or job so that you are doing what you love and still earning income.

My father in law is almost 80 and he loves working at his company. He says that it keeps him alive and he is in great shape. I think that things that challenge your mind really keep you feeling vibrant and young and keep your money growing.


I think that a lot of people would like to retire early but many people may not have enough retirement money to do so.

I think that if you look at a retirement calculator it can tell you more or less how your earnings will grow and tell you if you have a chance of reaching your target retirement age.

I know that some people when they are getting close to retirement age look to an annuity in order to have additional income in retirement.

An annuity is an investment with an insurance company that offers a monthly income payment for the term of the annuity. I looked into one once, but because I was really far away from retirement and I would not be able to take my money out of the annuity once the term was up because I would be faced with a penalty. I would have to roll it over into another annuity and I really did not want to do that.

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