How did age 67 become the universal retirement target age?

When I started as a financial planner in the mid-80s, I distinctly remember using age 62 as the prime target age for retirement. We only used age 65 as a “back up,” since that was when full Social Security benefits kicked in.

Now it seems like every retirement calculator out there starts at age 67. Try the AARP calculator—age 67 is the default. Have we suddenly fallen in love with working so much that we, as a society, choose to work five years longer? I don’t think that’s the case.

In 1983, a Social Security amendment (H.R. 1900, Public Law 98-21) was passed to extend the age when you can collect the full amount of Social Security retirement benefits. This affected all Americans born in 1938 or after. No one paid too much attention at the time because the provision didn’t go into effect for 17 years until the year 2000. When it did, it seems like we all changed with it. The earliest age to start drawing Social Security benefits (unless it is a death or disability benefit) is still 62. But for anyone born in 1960 or later, the age to draw full Social Security benefits is age 67.

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