Only 4% of retirees actually retire at age 70.
- There is no “one size fits all” retirement age.
- Deciding when to retire isn’t just about age — personal choice, forced retirements, and financial situations are also factors.
- It’s also important to remember that retirement could last up to 20 years.
In a recent column for MONEY, personal finance guru Suze Orman laid down the law about when we ought to retire: “Seventy is the new retirement age,” she let us know us in no uncertain terms. “Not a month or year before.”
Apparently she realized that such a pronouncement might be hard for some people to swallow because immediately afterward she added, “Don’t ‘Oh, Suze’ me just yet. Please hear me out.”
Well, I did — but my reaction after doing so is: “Oh, Suze, telling people not to retire before 70 has serious shortcomings as practical advice for real people living in the real world.”
Hear me out.
I’m totally on board when you alert people that their retirement stash may have to last into their 90s. And I agree 100% that by giving people more time to save — and more time for their savings to grow — that working longer can enhance their retirement security.
I’ve not only made those points many times myself, I’ve also gone on to outline specific strategies to reduce the risk of outliving one’s savings and provide concrete examples of just how much a few extra years on the job can fatten one’s nest egg.
But it’s a huge leap from that sensible advice to claiming that we all need to stay in harness until we hit 70.
That sort of one-size-fits-all recommendation is too rigid; it simply doesn’t allow for the wide variety of circumstances different people may face as they approach the later stages of their career.
For example, it may be fine for someone who has a job he or she finds challenging, rewarding, and not too physically exhausting (like, say, doling out financial advice) to continue working full or part-time to 70 or beyond.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, nearly half (48%) of retirees leave the workforce earlier than planned, citing reasons ranging from health problems to downsizing at their company to having to care for a spouse or other family member. No doubt that’s at least partly why EBRI finds that, despite 38% of workers saying they intend to retire at 70 or older, only 4% of retirees have actually done so.
The bigger point, though, is that deciding when to retire isn’t just about age. It’s a decision that requires addressing a variety of questions:
- Do you have enough saved to fund an acceptable lifestyle the rest of your life?
- Are you emotionally ready to make the transition from career to retirement?
- Do you have any health issues that might affect your longevity?
- Have you given serious thought to what you’ll do after you retire so your post-career life will be fulfilling and meaningful and not just a period of marking time?
Some people, after weighing these issues, may decide it makes the most sense for them to exit the workforce before age 70 — in some cases well before — and start enjoying retirement right away.
Others may prefer to wait a few years to improve their shot at a secure retirement, even if that means sticking with a job they don’t really like.