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Nearly Half of Boomers Fully Retired By 65

The advice – and, in many cases, the warning – has become a given: Most Americans entering their 50s and 60s will have to keep working well past their planned retirement dates to make up for shortfalls in savings.

Well, some baby boomers, apparently, didn’t get the memo.

A new report from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, “Transitioning into Retirement,” looks at the oldest boomers, those who turned 65 in 2011. Among the key findings: Almost twice as many 65-year-olds told researchers that they were fully retired as were working full time: 45% and 24%, respectively.

“Despite the conventional wisdom that boomers are ready to ‘work forever’ and significantly extend their formal working career, many of the oldest boomers are already well into the retirement phase,” the report states.

Indeed, the average age at retirement for those surveyed was 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women. What’s more, a “large majority of those who have transitioned into their retirement,” the study notes, “also report that they are well satisfied with this new stage of their lives.”

The findings, of course, involve a relatively small slice of the baby-boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964. And the reasons why many 65-year-olds are retired may give younger workers pause.

Only 6% of those who identified themselves as fully retired said they walked away from the office because “they could afford to” or “had enough money.” Fully 36% – the biggest percentage – said they retired simply because they had reached their retirement age and “wanted to.”

Almost one in five – 18% – said they retired because of health reasons, and 6% said they were laid off and couldn’t find work. Fourteen percent said they “needed” to retire, or were “tired of working.”

On a more positive note, almost half of leading-edge boomers – 43% – are optimistic about the future in the long-term. That compares with fewer than one in five who are pessimistic. And 85% of those surveyed described themselves as being in excellent, very good or good health.


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.