What's Your Real Retirement Age?

The age you can expect to retire depends on your financial resources and lifestyle choices.

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In general, the normal retirement age for people born between 1943 and 1954 is 66 years old. But after you take this questionnaire and pinpoint your particular situation, you will be able to figure out the age you will be able to retire.

The answer does depend on certain assumptions including a standard 4 percent withdrawal rate on your savings. There are also too many unknowns for this questionnaire to be valid for everyone. But the answers to these questions should give you an idea of how old you will be when you can actually afford to quit your job forever.

Start with age 66.

1. Since the federal government is slowly increasing the retirement age, you must add two months to the expected retirement age of 66 for each year you were born after 1954. If you were born in 1960 or later, your normal retirement age is 67. Therefore, you should add one full year to age 66. If you were born after 1970, consider adding two years to account for the possibility of increases in the Social Security retirement age in the future.

2. If you have a contractually protected pension plan through a union with a company contract or your own personal employment contract, subtract one year from your retirement age for each five years of service. If you work for yourself, add two years to your retirement age.

3. Aside from any pension, project at what age you will have $500,000 in your IRA or 401(k) plan. Subtract one year from your retirement age for each five-year period ahead of age 66 you will have $500,000. For example, if you project you will have $500,000 at age 61, subtract one year from your normal retirement age. If you will have $500,000 at age 56, subtract two years from your expected retirement age.

4. Subtract one year from your retirement age for each $100,000 over $500,000 that you have already saved, in addition to the funds in your retirement account. If a rich uncle left you $1 million, do you think you can afford to retire? It’s not likely, unless you're an expert money manager. But you can subtract five to ten years from your expected retirement age.

5. If you're single, add one year to your retirement age. If you're single with no children, add another year to your retirement age.

6. If you're married and both you and your spouse are currently working, subtract one year from your retirement age.

7. Will all your children be out of college by the time you're 55? If yes, subtract one year from your retirement age. If not, add one year to your retirement age for each child who will still be in college, or planning to go to college, when you're 55.

8. Will you own your own home, mortgage free, by the time you're 60? If so, subtract one year from your retirement age.

9. Will you have an adult child working in a helping profession (medical, teaching, or social services) by the time you're 60? If so, subtract one year from your retirement age.

10. How's your health? If it's very good, subtract one year from your retirement age (to account for lower medical costs). If your health is poor, subtract one year from your retirement age (on the possibility of qualifying for disability). If, like most of us, you do not have medical insurance that will continue after your employment ends, add one year to your retirement age.

Now do the arithmetic. The resulting number is a prediction of how old you will be when you can afford to retire. The number will, of course, be more accurate for some people than others, but it can give you a target. And, perhaps more importantly, your answers should provide some guidelines on how to improve your retirement planning.

Tom Sightings is a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement, and other concerns of baby boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.