It’s a well-established fact that the retirement expectations of many Americans went up in smoke in the Great Recession, though it’s never been clear precisely how many were forced to work longer than they anticipated. 

A new study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute sheds light on that question, finding that prior to September of 2008 — the onset of the recession — 72.4 percent of workers retired either before the date they’d planned to retire, or no more than a year after that date. 

After September of 2008, however, it was a different story. Only 49.6 percent of people retired before or shortly after their planned retirement date, the EBRI said, a nearly 23-percent drop. 

“Various studies have shown that there is a trend which precedes the Great Recession that people are staying longer in the labor force,” said Sudipto Banerjee, EBRI research associate and author of the report.

“But this shows that there has been a big increase in later-than-expected retirements following the recession.” 

The analysis relied on longitudinal data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study that compared the expected and actual retirement dates for the same group of people, rather than a cross-section of people still active in the workforce compared with retirees — two different groups of people. 

The report said that while studies often cite cross-sectional data to indicate that “there is a large gap between expected and actual retirement,” suggesting that “workers are overly optimistic about working longer than what the retiree experiences suggest,” that’s not really the case. 

Instead, the report said, “Longitudinal findings show that more people actually retired (35.9 percent) after 65 than expected (18.9 percent), and actual retirement is more evenly distributed between pre- and post-years of expected retirement than what the cross-sectional findings suggest. Longitudinally, 38 percent retired before they planned, 48 percent retired after they planned, and 14 percent retired the year they planned.” 

The data also show that 55.2 percent of the group retired within three years — either before or after — their planned retirement date. 

And when it comes to retiring after age 65, while 18.9 percent of the studied group expected to do that, a considerably larger percentage — 35.9 percent — actually did. Among those who said they expected to retire after 65, 56.6 percent did so.

See also:

Don’t let catastrophe ruin your financial life

Assets or income: What do retirees need?

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