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Growing Old: Is Retirement at Age 62 Still Possible?

Posted by: Lauren Young on June 29, 2009

Does anyone ever really retire?

Not necessarily, according to a new study Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality by the Pew Research Center.

Of the 2,969 adults surveyed, 83% of adults ages 65 and older describe themselves as retired, “but the word means different things to different people,” the data show. Just three-quarters of adults (76%) 65 and older fit “the classic stereotype of the retiree who has completely left the working world behind,” the survey says. Which begs the question: What kind of jobs do the other 24% have? Is it volunteer work or are they employed as a greeter at Wal-Mart (WMT)?

The answer seems to be a mix of different jobs. For example, 8% of the “still-working” respondents say they are retired but working part time. Another 11% of the 65-and-older population describe themselves as still in the labor force, though not all of them have jobs.

We’ve been thinking the impact of the recession on retirement a lot lately. We are putting the finishing touches on our summer retirement issue, which will be out in early July. What’s encouraging for people who dream of spending their golden years at the golf course or on a porch sipping lemonade is that only 2% of the “still-working group” in the “Growing Old in America” survey they are retired but working full time while just 3% say they are retired but looking for work. Considering the economic downturn, those numbers seem surprisingly low. (Interviews were conducted from Feb. 23 to March 23, 2009.)

Whatever the fuzziness around these definitions, one trend is crystal clear from government data: After falling steadily for decades, the labor force participation rate of older adults began to trend back upward about 10 years ago. In the Pew Research survey, the average retiree is 75 years old and retired at age 62. (In 2002, it was 92.)

The Growing Old in America report is chock-full of data on other topics impacting the elderly, such as living arrangements, family relationships, and end-of-life wishes. Two data points that caught my eye: Respondents think old age begins at 68 while the ideal age to die is 89.

What do you think? Do you think you will be retired by age 62? If not, at what age do you plan to retire?

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Reader Comments

Ricardo Barbosa

June 29, 2009 02:38 PM

I plan to retire at 69 (to get full benefits/pension)(I am 60).
My wife the same: she is 61, plans to retire as late as possible (stopping work is the beginning of dying, I think).


June 29, 2009 05:56 PM

I do not have enough money to retire, nor will I unless I win the lottery.

Reality, I could be working my whole life.


June 29, 2009 07:53 PM

We have seen the evaporation of our lifestyle. We've lost it to our sense of entitlement, and we'll continue to do so. The height of America was right after WWII, since then the income tax has exploded, eating what we had after taxes, then in 1972 we left the gold standard, which allows for uncontrolled inflation, which eats our savings. Our fiscal policy is now to tax our kids and grand-kids to enjoy our excesses. We have more debt and less assets than ever. We're falling on the wrong side of the fence.


June 30, 2009 01:21 PM

I'm 71, I'm working part-time, and I have no plan to retire at any particular time.

Jonathan Edelfelt

July 4, 2009 06:12 PM

True, the economy is going through a rough patch right now. But this doesn't mean that you should give up on retirement. You CAN still retire. How? First, by downsizing (or perhaps rightsizing) your expectations with respect to your retirement. Reject the dream retirement that the retirement business is trying to sell. Most people can’t afford these high-priced fantasies anyway. Second, you'll need to get off the live-to-work consumption-driven “hamster wheel” that many people call a “lifestyle” and learn to live on less, perhaps a lot less. Maybe you'll need to retire to another state (or country) with a lower cost of living or work part time during some portion of your retirement. While money is important, planning for retirement isn't all about money.

Jonathan Edelfelt
Author of Who Said You Need Millions? Retirement Strategies for the Rest of Us

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