The magical age 65 that signaled retirement time for our parents might not hold true for the baby boomer generation. Sure the idea is appealing to call it quits before we are too old to appreciate and enjoy our second act. But the reality may be that 65 is just too young to retire. Some 76 percent of employees say they will continue working past retirement age, with 40 percent working because they want to and 35 percent because they will have to, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Here’s when it might make sense to delay retirement past age 65:
When you still have a job. If you are currently employed, still able to effectively perform your duties and the job itself is not driving you crazy, it can make sense to stay at it for a while more. The longer you can delay taking Social Security, the more your monthly checks will ultimately be. For each year beyond your full retirement age that you delay collecting Social Security benefits up to a maximum of age 70, you will receive an additional 8 percent. You can also delay the time when you will become 100 percent responsible for your own health insurance premiums as long as your employer is picking up part of the tab. Finally, should you leave your job beyond the age of 50 either by choice or for reasons beyond your control, there is no guarantee you will quickly find another. Since 2007, job seekers over 55 have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers. For many people it makes sense not to give up a decent job before it is absolutely necessary.
When you are not yet financially prepared. If you retire at age 65, chances are you will live another 20 or more years in retirement. If you have worked and contributed to Social Security over the years, you will receive monthly benefits. However, these benefits were never intended to provide all or even most of your retirement income. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in August 2013 was $1,270, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age (age 66) in 2013 is $2,533. Some bills will disappear in retirement, especially if the kids are done with their educations, the mortgage is paid off and the cars payments are done. But other expenses may quickly take their place, and health care costs will need to be an increasing consideration. Plus, when you retire, you don’t want to just get by. You want to enjoy yourself. You finally have the time to do what you want to, but if you lack the necessary funds you may find yourself unable to partake. Financial preparation for retirement should not be about just making it, but making it memorable.
When you have few other interests. If you have worked the last 30 plus years, your daily activities have to a large extent been defined by your job. Hours are filled with projects, deadlines, meetings and strategy sessions as you do what you were hired to do. When you retire you effectively flip the switch and become individually responsible for filling your time. Although the new freedom you will have is exciting and allows you to explore what you never could while tied to work, the hours can drag on if you do not have enough interests. It helps to prepare before you retire rather than suddenly go from a busy 40-hour work week to an empty calendar.
When you enjoy your current situation. There are some fortunate people who look forward to each day and the challenges it offers. They thrive on interactions with fellow workers and the camaraderie felt working toward a shared purpose. Even if a boss does not regularly offer recognition for a job well done, the steady paycheck does. If your job itself is interesting, why look for a way out? Various studies have found that one of the main things people miss when they quit working is the interaction with those they worked beside over the years. Some of our best friendships may start on the job. Retirement should be about having a choice in how you spend your time. If work is what you want to do in your second act, go for it.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.