What Is the Best Age to Retire for Longevity and Health?

By Caroline Banton · March 23, 2023 · 7 minute read

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What Is the Best Age to Retire for Longevity and Health?

Most people would like to retire when they are still healthy and active but financially secure enough to continue an energetic lifestyle. The younger the better, for most of us. However, the best age to retire for longevity is different for everyone. It depends on many factors, such as your finances, your health, and what you want to do in retirement. Some workers may want to continue in their careers for as long as they can.

Here’s a look at how age affects your retirement — and things to consider when planning your retirement timeline.

How Your Age at Retirement Affects Retirement Savings Income

So you’re looking ahead to retirement and expect to have a significant nest egg. If you retire at 65, your retirement could last 25 years or more. But what if you retire earlier — say, at 55? Your savings will have to last that much longer, but you’ll also have less time to save up. Unless you plan ahead, even a decent sized nest egg might not stretch 35 years.

The age at which you decide to retire also affects your Social Security benefit. If you retire at 62, the earliest possible Social Security retirement age, your benefit will be significantly lower than if you wait: 30% lower than if you claim benefits at your full retirement age of 67.

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The Average Retirement Age in America

The original rules for Social Security benefits assumed 65 as the common age for retirement. In 2022, the full retirement age was raised to 66 for those born between 1943 and 1959, and 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

The actual average age for retirement for men is 64.6, and for women 62.3. Sixty-two is the earliest someone can receive Social Security, but the longer you wait, the greater your benefit will be (more on that below).

Recommended: Is $1 Million Enough to Retire at 55?

Factors Involved in the Ideal Retirement Age

The best time to stop working depends on your retirement savings, health benefits, and Social Security — factors that vary with age.

Savings

The best way to save for retirement is with a diversified portfolio that can average out your risk over time. Your strategy will depend on your risk tolerance, how long you have to save, and how much of your income you can afford to put away. A budgeting and spending app can help you monitor your income and expenses each month so that you know how much you should set aside.

The goal is to have enough saved up so you can stop working at your desired retirement age and have enough of a nest egg to fund the lifestyle you desire.

One rule of thumb recommends saving around 10 times your pre-retirement salary and living on 80 percent of your pre-retirement income. So if you earn $150,000 before you retire, you will need $120,000 a year to cover typical retirement expenses once you leave the workforce.

Most people have a pension plan or IRA as part of their portfolio. Here’s how age affects these savings vehicles.

Pension Plans and IRAs

Most pension plans impose an IRS penalty for withdrawing retirement funds “early,” which means before age 59 ½. You can delay your retirement as long as you like, but you must start required minimum distributions (RMDs) from retirement plans at a certain age as mandated by law, whether or not you’re retired.

In 2023, the starting age for RMDs was raised to 73 years. The exception is Roth IRAs: In 2024, holders of designated Roth 401(k) accounts will no longer be required to take RMDs during their lifetime.

Social Security

Social Security is another vital source of income for retirees. You can start to claim benefits at age 62, but at a reduced amount. People who retire at age 66 or 67 will receive full Social Security benefits. If you delay until age 70, you’ll receive even more.

A lot rides on your definition of retirement, too. You can semi-retire at age 65 (or earlier), work part-time, and collect Social Security benefits. However, if you earn more than the yearly earnings limit, your benefits will be reduced. If you are under full retirement age, the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. That limit was $21,240 in 2023.

Medicare

Individuals are eligible for Medicare, a government-sponsored health plan, at age 65. If you retire earlier, you will have to factor in the cost of out-of-pocket health insurance, which is expensive. The average national cost of health insurance is $456 per month, whereas the Medicare Part B premium is around $165 per month.

Health Benefits

The best age to retire for health is debatable. Going to work provides us with social connections, and mental and physical stimulation, all of which keep us healthy. Many people feel they lose their purpose and identity when they retire and even fall into depression. A recent paper published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization found that early retirement may even accelerate cognitive decline in late adulthood.

What Is the Best Age to Retire?

Considering these factors, the ideal age to retire is different for everyone. It depends on your health, your finances, whether your home state taxes retirement income, and what you want to do in your retirement. Also, as people age, the decision of when to retire can change with their circumstances.

For now, choose a retirement date and start saving. The earlier you start, the more options and bigger nest egg you will have when the time comes.

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What If You Don’t Have Enough Money by the Ideal Retirement Age?

Some guidelines recommend having 10 times your annual salary saved by age 67, the age at which people born after 1960 can retire with full Social Security benefits. But what if you fall behind these savings benchmarks?

If your savings fall short, you’ll have to play catch up. Make sure you are maximizing your 401(k) contributions and your employer match. Contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA, too. And if you receive any windfalls, such as tax refunds or bonuses, put those funds toward your retirement.

Another strategy is to free up more cash for retirement savings by examining your budget and reducing expenses. Can you eat out less? Downsize your home, or sell other assets?

You could also continue working for a few additional years to increase your Social Security benefits. You may work part-time, accept a less demanding position with less pay, or do some consulting work.

The Takeaway

Just about everyone wants to retire when they are still healthy so they can enjoy their later years. When deciding what age to retire, consider what it will take to maintain the lifestyle that you want. Possible income streams include withdrawals from a health savings plan and retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, and revenue from investment assets, such as rental property. Working part-time might be an option until you are ready to fully retire.

The decision of when to retire can change with your circumstances. The best plan is to set goals as soon as you can and start saving for retirement early. That way, you will have more options and a bigger nest egg when the time comes.

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FAQ

What is the best age to retire for your health?

Some people thrive in retirement, and some people find themselves at a loss. Work provides social interaction and mental and physical stimulation, so retiring early may not be healthier if the result is a more sedentary and lonely lifestyle.

What is the best age to retire for Social Security benefits?

Retiring at age 70 would give you maximum Social Security benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, if you retire in 2023 at full retirement age, your maximum monthly benefit is about $3,627. However, if you retire early at age 62, your maximum benefit is just $2,572. And if you put off retirement until age 70, your maximum benefit rises to $4,555.

What is the most popular age to take Social Security?

According to U.S. News & World Report, full retirement age has become the most popular age to claim payments. For many people, that is age 66. Those with a full retirement age of 67 will get a 6.7% pay cut if they sign up for payments at age 66.


Photo credit: iStock/Vladimir Vladimirov

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