The New Ideal Retirement Age

Americans have significantly delayed when they expect to retire.

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A decade ago many people strived to retire young. Now most people are nudging back their retirement date and wondering if they will be able to retire at all. The age workers expect to retire has increased from an average of 60 in 1995 to 66 today, according to a new Gallup poll of 1,077 adults.

[See Why the Retirement Age Is Increasing.]

Most Americans now expect to retire at age 65 or later. Over a third (37 percent) of workers plan to retire after age 65, up from just 15 percent in 1995. Retirement at exactly age 65 also remains a popular choice. A quarter of employees plan to retire at age 65, down only slightly from 29 percent in 1995.

Early retirement is no longer a goal for most workers. The proportion of employees aiming to retire before age 65 has steadily declined from half of workers in 1995 to about a quarter (28 percent) in 2011. Just 5 percent of workers are striving to retire before age 55, down from 15 percent in 1995.

[See 10 Key Retirement Ages to Plan For.]

Workers have a variety of reasons for delaying their ideal retirement age. “This could reflect nonretirees' increasingly pessimistic attitudes about having enough money when they do quit working, as well as changes that increase the age at which a worker can collect full Social Security benefits,” writes Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief. The age workers can claim the full amount of Social Security they are entitled to has increased from 65 for those born in 1937 or earlier to 66 or 67 for most people born after that. The dominate form of employer-sponsored retirement benefits has also shifted from traditional pensions that guaranteed payments for life to 401(k)s that employees must largely fund themselves.

[See When Does Old Age Begin?]

Half of workers (53 percent) do not think they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, up from a third of workers (32 percent) in 2002, Gallup found. In 2009, for the first time, more Americans began to fear outliving their savings than felt comfortable about supporting themselves in retirement. Young workers under 30 are the most optimistic about having enough money to live comfortably when they retire (57 percent). But a majority of workers between ages 50 and 64 (54 percent) and especially those between 30 and 49 (62 percent) say they are unlikely to be able to maintain their current standard of living in retirement.

Twitter: @aiming2retire