Retirement Shift: Waiting to Exhale

Americans expect to retire later than ever — and are retiring even later than they expect.

Age 62 — it’s the new 57.

Or so finds a new Gallup poll that surveys Americans’ average expected age of retirement.

The latest results represent a sharp increase since 1991, when Gallup first crunched the numbers — and found the average to be just 57 years old.

Of course, expectations and reality often don’t quite line up when it comes to retirement age. Though the poll found that 62 years was the time of expected retirement, the actual age at which Americans are now leaving the workforce has inched up closer to 66, Gallup found.

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So just why are older Americans increasingly reluctant to call it quits? Some social factors are likely contributing to the delay: Older employees, enjoying the prime of their careers, may simply have no desire to throw in the towel just yet. Increasing life spans, as well as an upped Social Security age, are also likely influences. (Those born after 1960 now won’t be eligible for full benefits until age 67.)

Of course, Gallup points out that some significant financial considerations are also at play. Many 401(k)s likely took a hit during the recession, so boomers may be eager to rebuild their accounts before checking out. And even those who weren’t affected much by the downturn may still have concerns that they haven’t yet socked away enough cash.

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One telling trend in Gallup’s results: Expected age of retirement increases as Americans age. In other words, financial reality tends to set in as we creep closer to our golden years. 15% of Americans 18 to 29 think they’ll retire before age 60, while only 10% of those 30 to 49 and 6% of those 50 to 64 think the same—even though the youngest generation is likely to live longer.

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No matter what milestone you’d like to reach before kicking back into retirement—whether that’s 31 like this man, or well into your 70s—you’ll need a hefty nest egg to get you there. Take the first steps by diving into our retirement 101 guide—and keep making progress with these top tips for tricking yourself into saving more.

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