Many U.S. residents say they were forced into retirement long before they were ready.

A survey commissioned by the Wellesley Hills, Mass.-based U.S. arm of Sun Life Financial Inc., Toronto, found that 22% of retirees were forced into retirement an average of 7.7 years before they had expected. About 55% of the involuntary retirees said they were ineligible for Social Security benefits when they were forced to leave the workforce.

In addition, 69% had to modify their retirement plans.

About 77% of the survey participants forced to retire before age 55 said their retirement plans were affected “a great deal” (57%) or “somewhat” (20%).

Participants with assets of less than $250,000 also said forced retirement affected their plans “a great deal” (42%) or “somewhat” (34%).

Among those saying they had to make lifestyle and financial adjustments because of early retirement, 61% reduced overall expenses, 47% cut down on vacations and social activities, 43% collected Social Security before they wanted to, and 30% used money in an individual retirement account, researchers report.

The top expense reported, beyond normal living expenses, was health care, with 53% of respondents ages 65 and older naming this obligation as the most pressing.

The leading causes of forced retirement were layoffs or downsizing (44%), personal illness (32%) and injury (14%).

About 10% of the women cited family obligations as the main reason, compared with just 2% of men.

On average, those who believed they were financially prepared for retirement when they had to leave work said they had expected to work for another 4.9 years, while those who were financially unprepared for retirement had planned to work for another 11.4 years.

The average respondent had planned to save about $1 million for retirement but had accumulated only about half that amount when forced to leave work.

The gap was most prevalent among those under age 55, who expected to retire with an average of $1.4 million in savings but had only $314,000 when forced into retirement, Sun Life reports.