Most Americans aged 40-69 expect work to play an important role in their early years of retirement, the Vanguard Group reports.

Nearly 2 in 3 respondents age 55-69 have reduced their work hours already or plan to do so in the future, according to a study by Vanguard, Valley Forge, Pa.

The company calls the practice “downshifting.”

Three-quarters of older Americans found themselves on one of 3 main paths.

Vanguard found 35% left full-time work in their 60s yet continued with some type of self-employment or part-time job thereafter. An important reason cited by many: financial necessity.

Nearly 30% left full-time work in their 50s and did not work again. This group fit the conventional view of retirement but retired much earlier than is typical. Adequate financial resources in pensions, 401(k)s and personal savings accounts were key to this outcome.

Some 12% of respondents retired from full-time work in their 50s but quickly took on high levels of part-time work or self-employment. Generally, this group resumed working to enjoy themselves, to stay active or to earn discretionary income. The ability to retire in their 50s was also made possible by more generous financial resources.

One-quarter of Americans follow 3 other paths: 10% said they never plan to stop working; 5% retired early but then returned to work for financial and psychological reasons; and 9% had lower participation in full-time work in their 40s and 50s and pegged their retirement to that of their spouses.