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Survey flags 5-year gap between planned, actual retirement ages

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Thirty-one percent of non-retired U.S. adults predict they will retire after age 67, the current minimum age for receiving full Social Security retirement benefits.

Another 38 percent expect to retire between the ages of 62 and 67, spanning the existing Social Security age thresholds for benefits eligibility, while 23 percent expect to stop working before they turn 62 — that is, before becoming eligible for any Social Security retirement benefits.

These findings are from Gallup’s 2016 Economy and Personal Finance Poll, conducted April 6-10. The average age at which U.S. workers predict they will retire is 66, consistent with the 65 to 67 age range found since the 2007-2009 recession ended.

The expected retirement age is up slightly from about 64 years of age spanning 2004 to 2008, and is up from 60 in 1995.

In contrast with current workers’ expectations about retirement, retired Americans report they stopped working at an average 61 years of age, significantly lower than the average 66 years at which today’s non-retired Americans intend to stop working. More specifically, 42 percent of retirees say they stopped working before age 62, while just 13 percent continued working until they were 67 or older.

Current retirees span an age range of more than 40 years, meaning that some retired decades ago. Others may have retired the day before they were interviewed, and their age at retirement reflects societal and economic patterns in force at that time.

Approximately one in seven seniors (defined for this analysis as those aged 67 and older) are still in the workforce — working full time, working part time or unemployed, the survey reports. When these are factored in, 26 percent of adults 67 and older are either still in the workforce (14 percent) or worked until they were 67 or older before retiring (12 percent).

That is less than the 31 percent of today’s non-retirees who intend to work past 67. However, the greater discrepancy is in the percentage retiring before age 62: 36 percent of today’s seniors say they did this, while just 23 percent of current workers intend to.

Myriad factors go into determining the best time to retire, not all of which are within workers’ control. Financial troubles, poor health, family needs or being let go at work can all disrupt the best-laid plans

The age at which today’s workers expect to retire is significantly older, on average, than the age current retirees say they already did retire: 66 vs. 61, respectively, the survey reports. Some of that difference reflects the gradual increase, which Congress mandated in 1983, in the Social Security system’s age threshold for receiving full benefits — from 65 to 67.

However, that does not explain the higher percentage of non-retirees who plan to work beyond age 67 compared with current retirees who report having worked this long — 31 percent vs. 26 percent, respectively.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 6-10, 2016, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

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