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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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    • When analysts “do the numbers,” they tend to conclude Boomers don’t have enough money to retiree (on average), so they will work significantly longer (on average). Real people change basic decision patters slowly, often only when forced.

      I suspect most near-retirees will continue to retire at traditional times, with small changes at the margins of their lives. They may live a little smaller (stay home instead of moving to a new retirement community, taking care of grandchildren rather than touring distant lands, joining low-cost, hometown recreational groups at churches or senior centers, etc.), may ask for help from family, and may hope for better investment returns. Some will return to part-time employment. They will make millions of different minor adjustments in life rather than continue working full time for years past their planned retirement age.

      Study seems to confirm that large populations make big changes only gradually.

    • I am happy to hear that some individuals are moving on to their golden years. I sincerely hope you enjoy retirement after working for 40 years to make this country what it is. I am not being sarcastic here at all.

      That being said, after reviewing the statistics above and a few of the comments there are some things that need to be addressed.

      First, those complaining that houses are more expensive and the dow has risen significantly are not taking into consideration inflation. Prices will rise over time, that is just how our system works. Those who share my situation and are just starting their careers are benefiting from a higher wage rate due to inflation as well.

      Second, many of you recognize that social security has a very real risk of failure in the near future. If it fails, it will probably be late into your retirement years. I believe the statistics above stated that only 6% of people retired because they had made enough money to retire on. If you run out of money your golden years might not look so golden. It will fall to either the taxpayers or your loved ones to make up the shortfall. Working a few more years will help to alleviate this problem by postponing your retirement withdrawals and allowing for additional compounding of your investment returns. Even working part time can make a significant difference. I don’t think you should give any thought to the taxpayers, this isn’t socialism, but you might want to think about which of your loved ones you might potentially burden. For those of you who retired because you can’t find work, I am sorry. If you are still looking goodluck.

      Remember, I am 25 years old and will be graduating from school next year. It is not in my interest to have you stick around in the work place. If you postpone retirement my promotions may be postponed in the future since there will be a ripple effect throughout an organization.

    • life is very short

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.