Almost Half of Workers Retire Earlier Than Planned

Health problems and layoffs are the most common reasons for early retirement

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Many baby boomers say they plan to work longer to allow investments time to grow and to tuck more money into retirement accounts. But almost half of current retirees didn’t retire at the age they originally intended to. Some 47 percent of retirees left the workforce earlier than planned, according to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

There’s a large disconnect between the age workers plan to quit working and when they actually retire. Almost a quarter of current employees (23 percent) aim to work until age 65, but only 12 percent of retirees left the workforce at that age. About the same name number of current workers (21 percent) say they will work until age 70 or longer, but just 5 percent of retirees managed to continue working into their 7th decade. Involuntary early retirement is somewhat more common. While only 3 percent of people plan to retire before age 55, 18 percent of current retirees left their jobs in their early 50s. Workers planning to retire later typically don’t have a traditional pension that pays out benefit for life and are less likely to have significant retirement savings. Employees over age 35 also generally plan to work longer than younger employees.

Most of the retirees cited negative reasons for retiring earlier than planned. A health problem or disability was the most common reason the leave the workforce (42 percent). Some people also quit their jobs to care for a spouse or another family member (18 percent). Over a third of the retirees surveyed (34 percent) became unexpectedly retired due to a downsizing or business closure. Other Americans say they became retired for work-related reasons (22 percent) or due to outdated skills (13 percent). Many retirees cited both positive and negative reasons for early retirement, but only 10 percent of the retirees offered only positive reasons for permanently leaving their jobs.